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Hundreds Rally In Austin In Support Of Allowing Public School Money To Fund Private Schools

Ryan Poppe

Hundreds of parents, lawmakers and private school choice advocates rallied Tuesday at the state capitol.  They want legislation that would allow public tax dollars to be used to pay for private schools. School choice divides three key leaders who may decide the issue.

On the Capitol steps Gov. Greg Abbott told the crowd he supports Texas lawmakers giving parents an affordable option to a traditional public education.

“I hope and urge that that law reach my desk and when it does I will make the choice to sign it," Abbott said.

Credit Ryan Poppe

  With Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is perhaps the most powerful proponent of school choice, or what some call vouchers. Patrick leads the Senate and has suggested education savings accounts that would allow parents to use state tax dollars to pay for private school tuition and other private education costs.
Two years ago the Senate led by Patrick passed a private school choice bill but it fizzled in the House.  At the rally Patrick sent a message to House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican.
“If you block a bill for a vote on school choice then you are blocking the future of that child, of that American dream.  We want an up or down vote in the Senate and House this session on school choice,” Patrick said.
Straus hasn’t openly said he opposes private school choice but he hinted at it when he told the Texas Tribune that passing it in the House would be a challenge.
“School choice is very popular across the board if you are talking about school choice within a district and I think we aren’t to keep an open mind about all that, but if the focus is on vouchers then I think there could be some trouble in the House," Straus said.
Many public educators oppose school voucher plans saying they would take needed funding from public schools that are already strapped for money.  Voucher supporters claim private school competition will improve education overall, and give children in low performing public schools more options.