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The program would give parents the choice to use taxpayer money to pay for their child’s private education

SAN ANTONIO – Texas lawmakers are back in Austin to try and pass a school voucher program — again.

School choice is one of the four priorities Gov. Greg Abbott outlined on the agenda for the special session.

“There’s an easy way to get it done, and there’s a hard way,” Abbott said on a tele-town hall about the issue. “We will take it either way — in a special session or after an election.”

The program would give parents the choice to use taxpayer money to pay for their child’s private education.

It’s a battle Oklahoma state Rep. John Waldron (D-Tulsa) has already fought.

“There was a lot of political bloodletting in the Oklahoma legislature as leadership pushed hard to get this through,” he said.

Waldron is one of the handful of Oklahoma lawmakers who opposed the state’s version of school vouchers, which came in the form of a $7500 tax credit per student.

“Most of the people receiving this tax credit have already enrolled their kids in private schools,” said Waldron. “They’re going to tend to be more affluent than the average Oklahoman, and they were already quite capable of paying private school tuition.”

Michigan State University professor Dr. Josh Cowen has studied school vouchers for nearly two decades.

Besides the tax credit, Cowen said Texas’ school voucher proposal is pretty similar to Oklahoma’s.

”That has the same mathematical effect on state budgets as a direct voucher program,” said Cowen. “Texas’ bill is much more in line with the other states. Sort of a classic voucher program with some additional add-ons.”

Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction believes school choice gives parents power.

“You’ve got to put parents in charge of their kids’ education,” he said. “Taxpayer dollars should follow taxpayers’ children.”

Walters said he’s spoken with some of Texas’ top Republican leaders about how to get it passed.

“With the conservative Republican legislature there, there’s no reason that these bills shouldn’t get across the finish line,” he said.

As the debate over school choice begins again in Austin, Oklahoma politicians say Texans better brace themselves.

“You have got to make sure that you’re protecting parents’ rights, parents freedom to choose the school of their choice,” said Walters. “Go out and let your legislature know you know best for your kids.”

”Buckle up, folks,” warns Waldron. “It’s about to get nasty.”

Gov. Abbott said if school choice doesn’t get passed during this special session, there will be another one.

If that doesn’t work, the governor said voters will decide.

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About the Authors:

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.