Editorials

Vote is a death knell for school choice

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks during a rally in support of school choice Jan. 24 on the steps of the Texas Capitol in Austin.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks during a rally in support of school choice Jan. 24 on the steps of the Texas Capitol in Austin. AP

If logic prevails, school choice legislation giving public money to parents for sending their kids to private schools is dead again.

Quick! Somebody should drive a stake through its heart. The Texas Legislature is fully capable of defying logic and bringing this monster back to life. It’s been killed many times before.

A decisive House budget amendment vote Thursday should have killed it for this session. House members voted 103-44 to block state money from being spent on private school tuition.

At the end of a marathon session that lasted into the early morning hours Friday, House members eventually adopted a $218 billion budget for 2018-19, including $106.8 billion in general revenue spending.

The Senate adopted its version of the budget, Senate Bill 1, on March 28. A conference committee will attempt to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.

The conference committee is one place where public subsidies for private school tuition could spring back to life. The Senate, led by school choice proponent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, could instruct its conferees to strip the House amendment from the budget bill.

That might shift the spotlight back to the session’s original school choice bill, Senate Bill 3. Senate proponents were forced to relax some of its provisions to gain approval, but it passed the upper chamber March 30 and was received by the House on April 3.

The lopsided budget amendment vote in the House clearly shows strong opposition to school choice. An often-cited reason is that it would drain much-needed money from public schools.

SB 3, the Senate’s school choice bill, has not yet been assigned to a House committee, the first step in the deliberative process. Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, weeks ago declared the idea dead as far as his panel is concerned.

It would be highly unusual for House leaders to force members to vote on the school choice bill after they so clearly opposed the idea in the budget debate.

Logically, Patrick and the Senate should give up.

But 51 days remain in the 140-day session, plenty of time for mischief.

No one should expect Patrick to give up easily on a subject he has been passionate about for years.

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