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Battle over school vouchers lingers in Lone Star State

© flickrcc - Alan Levine
Roz Brown

(Texas News Service) A top legislative priority for Texas Governor Gregg Abbott did not get across the finish line last Friday, despite a fourth special session called this year to address it.

school voucher bill supported by the governor would have allowed some parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private and religious schools. Critics of the idea opposed the most recent bill and those before it.

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Nicole Hill, communications director for the American Federation of Teachers-Texas, said it was just another attempt to privatize public education.

"No matter what anybody tells you, any money being put aside for these private school vouchers is dollars not going to public schools," Hill asserted.

The measure would have allowed eligible students to receive up to $10,000 a year to attend private school. In the final vote Friday, 21 Republicans -- most of whom represent rural districts -- joined all Democrats in withdrawing vouchers from the education funding bill.

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Hill noted many Texas educators are leaving the profession for a variety of reasons. At the same time, studies have shown Texas is just behind Florida in the number of Americans choosing to relocate there from other states. She stressed newcomers have expectations their kids' schools will have full-time certified teachers, books in the library and adequate funding.

"I think these are all things that people who are moving to Texas -- who live in Texas -- just expect," Hill contended. "It's going to be a rude awakening when you realize that we don't have these things, even though we can afford them."

The bill's failure has not deterred Gov. Abbott, who has promised lawmakers they will be called back for sessions in December, January and February until they approve voucherlike education savings accounts.