Proposed legislation provides choice for Texas parents

Senator Bettencourt’s SB 542 and Representative Bohac’s HB 1184 honor parents’ right to choose best education for their children

January 19, 2017

[via The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops]

AUSTIN — The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and the Texas Private Schools Association praised the filing of two bills today that will improve the educational opportunities for Texas school children.

SB 542 and HB 1184 provide Texas insurance companies the opportunity to donate a portion of their tax liability to a qualifying nonprofit scholarship granting organization; the nonprofit scholarship organization then distributes scholarships to children who wish to enroll in private school or seek additional educational support services while remaining in public school. The program is means tested for students in lower income families, students with special needs, foster children, and children of active duty military. The scholarships will be distributed to students with the greatest academic and financial need.

The bills were filed by Senator Paul Bettencourt and Rep. Dwayne Bohac, respectively.

“The Texas Private Schools Association is grateful to Senator Bettencourt and Representative Bohac for working for a parent's right to choose the best educational setting for his or her child,” said Laura Colangelo, executive director of the Texas Private Schools Association. “The tax credit scholarship program has been incredibly successful in other states in allowing families to access an education that fits their child's needs, and private schools in Texas are ready to implement this important program as soon as it becomes law and opens up educational opportunity for Texas schoolchildren.”

The bill does not create a voucher program; rather it is a tax credit. There are 17 other states that have been using these popular tax credit programs for more than twenty years, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.

“The time has come for Texas to provide low income families with access to the same type of educational choices that middle and upper income families enjoy” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Where a family lives should not determine the quality of education their children receive. These bills provide hope for the thousands of families on scholarship and charter school wait lists.”

Scholarships funded by the tax credit legislation will give parents a real choice in educational opportunities for their children. “Our goal is simple,” Allmon said. “We want to ensure that every child – regardless of where they live or their family income – has access to the best educational setting for their students to succeed.”

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is the association of the Roman Catholic bishops of Texas. Through the TCCB, the bishops provide a moral and social public policy voice that includes monitoring all legislation pertaining to Catholic moral and social teaching; accredit the state's Catholic schools; and maintain records that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.

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