Texas Begins Special Session on Universal Education Freedom
In ALEC’s newly released 2023 Index of State Education Freedom, Texas ranked 21st in the country and earned a “C” letter grade.
Yesterday, the Texas Legislature convened for a special session called by Governor Greg Abbott. The Governor’s call lists several items for lawmakers to consider, including “legislation providing education savings accounts for all Texas schoolchildren.” If passed, a universal Texas education savings account (ESA) program would easily be the largest in the country with an estimated 5,000,000+ children eligible to participate.
In ALEC’s newly released 2023 Index of State Education Freedom, Texas ranked 21st in the country and earned a “C” letter grade. The state earned no points in the funding and financing category as there are currently no programs that provide financial assistance to families looking for alternative educational options for their students. If Texas had a universal ESA in place at the time of the rankings, they would have vaulted from the middle of the pack into the #6 spot.
Senator Brandon Creighton, who chairs the Senate’s Education Committee, filed SB 1 at the beginning of the special session. SB 1 would create the universal ESA program called for by the Governor and provide $8,000 to each student participating in the program. Funds could be used for a wide variety of educational expenses, including tuition and fees at a private school, school uniforms, testing fees, therapies for students with special needs, and more.
Senator Creighton also introduced SB 2, which provides a pay raise for teachers, increases the per-student basic allotment in the state’s public-school funding formula, and provides funds for improving school security. In total, the bill proposed $400 million for school safety purposes and $796,500,000 for teacher pay raises and enhancements to the state’s public school funding formula. The money comes from the state’s general revenue surplus, which is one of the largest in the country thanks to the state’s superior fiscal policies.
If SB 1 is passed into law, Texas would become the 11th state with universal education freedom and the 9th state to pass such a program in 2023 alone. Policymakers looking to keep pace with these states can consult ALEC’s Hope Scholarship Act, which offers a template for creating a universal ESA program.