Two major bills passed out of Senate committees this week. The first is the state budget, Senate Bill 1. The Finance Committee unanimously approved the measure which would spend more than $106 billion in 2018 and 2019 for state services, almost three billion more than the original draft of the bill filed in January. Committee Chair Jane Nelson praised members for their hard work and for finding efficiencies in the way the state pays for many services, including health care and university spending. “We put several issues under a magnifying glass and not only did we come up with efficiencies and savings, in many cases I think we were able to improve the way we deliver services,” she said. Nelson said she intends to present the budget before the full Senate for a vote on Tuesday.
The second bill is the main school choice measure for the Senate this session, SB 3. That bill, authored by Education Committee Chair and Friendswood Senator Larry Taylor and passed out of committee on Thursday, would create two programs to help parents pay for private school tuition. The first would use state money, allowing parents to apply for and receive a portion of the cost of educating their child in a public school for a year, which is around $9000. The exact amount depends on financial aid and disability status, but it ranges from sixty to ninety percent. The second program would be funded by private donations in exchange for tax credits to create scholarships for private school tuition. Those scholarships would be limited to 75 percent of the yearly cost to educate a child in public school, and would be open to certain at-risk student populations, like those in special education or foster care.