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Voucher Bills on Senate Education Committee Agenda for Thursday, March 26

03.23.2015 — Several private school voucher bills will be heard by the Texas Senate Education Committee at 8 a.m., Thursday, March 26 in Room E1.028 on the first floor of the Capitol Extension. Click on the provided links to see the texts of the bills:
  • SB 4 by Taylor/Bettencourt/Campbell – would create “Education Tuition Grants.” From appropriated funds, not to exceed $50 million each state fiscal year, the commissioner would be required to establish by rule an education tuition grant program under which grants would be awarded to the parents or guardians of eligible students to be used to pay the costs of attending private school. An eligible student would be a school-age student residing in Texas who meets other criteria: is entering kindergarten or first grade; is in foster care; is in institutional care; or has a household income not greater than 15 percent of the income guidelines to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. A parent or guardian could receive a grant to reimburse the parent or guardian for the tuition paid for the student at private school in an amount that is the lesser of tuition paid or 75 percent of the state average maintenance and operations expenditures per student. Money from the available school fund and federal funds could not be used for a grant. A private school selected by a parent for the child to attend, with or without governmental assistance, could not be required to comply with any state law or rule regarding the school’s educational program that was not in effect on January 1, 2015. The bill would also add Tax Code, Subchapter K, “Tax Credit for Contributions to Certain Educational Assistance Organizations.” The commissioner would be required to establish by rule eligibility requirements for an organization to enter into a contract with TEA to award scholarships as an educational assistance organization. The commissioner would prescribe requirements that a nonpublic school would meet for students enrolled in the school to be eligible to receive scholarships. To be eligible to apply for assistance, a student would be a public or nonpublic school student in Texas and would meet the same requirements as for a tuition grant. A taxable entity could apply for a franchise tax credit for money contributed to an educational assistance organization and designated for scholarships for eligible students. The maximum scholarship amount could not exceed 75 percent of the statewide average amount to which a school district would be entitled under Chapter 42 for a student in average daily attendance. A taxable entity’s credit would equal the lesser of the amount of the entity’s qualifying contributions or the entity’s tax liability after all other applicable credits. The bill would provide a similar credit against an entity’s state premium tax liability under new Insurance Code, Chapter 230, Subchapter A. The total amount of franchise tax credits and credits against premium taxes could not exceed $50 million per state fiscal year.
  • SB 276 by Campbell – would create a “taxpayer savings grant program” that would reimburse a parent or legal guardian for all or part of the cost of private school tuition. Specifically, a parent or legal guardian of an eligible student, as defined in the bill, who agrees to accept reimbursement in an amount that is less than the state average maintenance and operations (M&O) expenditures per student could receive reimbursement from the state for the private school tuition paid for the eligible student in an amount equal to the lesser of the tuition paid or 60 percent of the state average M&O expenditures per student. The comptroller would administer the program. By October 1 each year, the comptroller would notify the commissioner and the Legislative Budget Board of the number of eligible students likely to participate in the program, disaggregated by the school district or open-enrollment charter school the students would otherwise attend. By March 1 of each year, the comptroller would provide final information regarding the number of students participating in the program, disaggregated as in the initial information. The bill would also require the commissioner to adjust enrollment estimates and entitlements for each school district for each school year based on the information provided by the comptroller.
  • SB 642 by Bettencourt – would implement a tax credit against franchise tax liability and state premium tax liability for contributions to certain educational assistance organizations, as defined in the bill. An organization would be required to apply to the comptroller for certification as a certified educational assistance organization. The bill would address a number of issues: the qualification requirements and prohibitions for an organization; requirements for a nonpublic school to receive scholarship funds from an organization; the eligibility requirements for students to qualify for assistance from an organization; and how an entity could claim a credit for its contributions, including a notice requirement of its intent to apply for a tax credit. The bill would establish a maximum scholarship amount an organization could award a student using money contributed by an entity that gives notice of its intent to apply for a tax credit. The bill would also limit the amount of credit a taxable entity could claim and the total amount of tax credits that could be claimed by all entities. A taxable entity would be required to apply for the credit on a form adopted by the comptroller with its tax report for the period for which the credit is claimed. The bill would require the comptroller to adopt rules and procedures to implement and enforce these provisions; these rules and procedures would be binding on any state or local governmental entity, including a political subdivision, as necessary to implement and enforce the provisions.

(SB 1178 was originally on the agenda for this meeting as well, but it was removed on March 25.)

Watch the live broadcast of the meeting.

Action Needed: Contact Your Senator Today to Express Your Opposition to These Bills

TASA has prepared talking points for school leaders to refer to when discussing vouchers and taxpayer savings grants with their legislators. We urge you to contact your senator immediately to oppose these bills, which would take needed taxpayer dollars away from public schools.

Download talking points on vouchers

Download talking points on taxpayer savings grants