The Texas House thought it had killed school vouchers. The Senate is resurrecting them.
A Senate committee last week attached a plan offering vouchers to special education children while approving a $1.6 billion House proposal to begin overhauling Texas' troubled school finance system. House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, a Houston Republican, has championed the school finance fix. Now, his counterpart in the Senate, Republican Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood, may make Huberty choose between accepting vouchers or sacrificing his legislative baby.
Taylor spent months carefully shepherding a separate, sweeping voucher bill through the Senate that the House refused to even consider, instead overwhelmingly passing an amendment saying public funds should stay in public schools. He, and school vouchers' biggest supporter in Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, could now have their revenge.
The provision tacked on by the Senate committee is modest, offering $8,300 in taxpayer funds that some special education students could use to attend private schools. But cracking the door to vouchers could soon throw it wide open. In most states where vouchers started small, they expanded far and wide at breakneck speed.
The committee-revised school finance bill should hit the Senate floor and pass early this week. It'll then go back to the House, which will likely reject the change. A conference committee may have to eventually reconcile both versions, and vouchers could either die (again) or prove a poison pill for Huberty's bill -- meaning Texas gets neither a school finance fix nor vouchers.
But, since vouchers seemed dead and buried mere days ago, their prospects are suddenly brighter.