Texas' Senate Education Committee on Thursday approved a private school tax credit bill that would allow about 10,000 students in low-performing schools to attend private or religious schools at state expense. The measure by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, was approved on a 5-0 vote of the committee, with four other members who were either opposed or lukewarm to the proposal absent. With just six weeks left in the legislative session, Patrick faces an uphill battle trying to get the measure passed as Senate Democrats are expected to use their numbers to keep the bill off the Senate floor. In addition, the House has voted overwhelmingly not to use state funds for private or religious schools in the new state budget.
Under the bill, businesses that donate money for private school scholarships would be entitled to tax credits of up to 100 percent off their state business taxes. The total amount of credits would be limited to $100 million. “That is .25 percent of what we spend on public schools,” Patrick said. “And public education will get the same amount of money regardless of whether this bill passes or fails.” The bill would be aimed at students in low-performing schools. Last year more than 500 campuses statewide were rated low-performing. In addition, the measure would restrict eligibility to students at risk of dropping out or in families of four with annual income of up to $87,000.