AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education (TCASE) criticized Gov. Greg Abbott’s promotion of state-funded Education Savings Accounts during his State of the State Address Thursday.

During his speech, Abbott continued his endorsement of “school choice” for Texas families. Compared to traditional vouchers, state-funded Education Savings Accounts use public funds for things like tuition to private schools.

Outside of tuition, these ESAs can use the money to pay for other approved educational expenses, like tutoring or online courses.

In 2020, Abbott used some federal coronavirus relief dollars to establish the Supplemental Special Education Services grant program. It was designed to “offset learning disruptions related to COVID-19” for students enrolled in special education programs.

In his address, Abbott said he wanted to expand the existing program that created education savings accounts for students enrolled in special education programs.

However, TCASE condemned the move, saying private schools aren’t held to the same standard for special education resources.

“ESAs will not provide ‘education freedom’ to all students because private schools do not have to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that protect students with disabilities,” TCASE Executive Director Theresa Parsons said in a release.

“The SSES program was originally sold as a way to support students with disabilities. Converting this program to an ESA for all students tells me it was a smoke screen to usher in vouchers,” TCASE Director of Governmental Relations Andrea Chevalier added in the release.