School voucher bills off to contentious start in Legislature

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Photoflash bomb. Image courtesy MIT.edu_28572

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Senate is getting its first taste of what should be a long and contentious debate over voucher plans that supporters say promote “school choice.”

Proposals championed by powerful Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick let families get state funding to remove children from struggling public schools and send them to private and religious alternatives.

Democrats, during Thursday’s Senate Education Committee hearing, decried the idea as funneling funding from already cash-strapped public schools. They also worried that private schools won’t be held to state academic accountability standards.

But Sen. Donna Campbell, sponsor of one of the top plans, said making schools adhere to free-market principles of choice will ensure funding is spent more efficiently.

Patrick last session promoted major school voucher bills, but they stalled without passing either chamber.

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