The Senate Education Committee Thursday approved a bill from Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, that creates a scholarship fund to help low-income students leave failing schools and attend private or religiously-affiliated schools.
The bill offers a 15 percent tax credit to businesses that donate money to the scholarship fund.
Before the Senate approved the bill, Senator Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, proposed an amendment that would stipulate those who qualify for a school voucher must be at risk of dropping out of school, and come from low-income families who qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program.
Previously, the bill said students who were at-risk or came from low-income families qualified.
“I understand the author’s intent with this bill is to give those students who are in the most need of educational choice a voucher,” Sen. Lucio said.” I think this amendment helps the author better realize its intent.”
According to the Texas Education Agency, 51 percent of Texas students qualify for free or reduced lunches, more than 2.5 million students. The TEA also says about 2.2 million students are considered at-risk of dropping out. However, the TEA doesn’t separate that number out into grades.
Under the Texas Education Code, there are a variety of ways in which a student can be considered at-risk of dropping out, including expulsion, pregnancy, limited English proficiency, and an inability to pass assessments or classes.
Whether or not the full Senate approves the bill, it will most likely face fierce opposition from the House. Last week, the House overwhelming approved an amendment to its budget that bans public money from being used to fund private schools.