Abbott, a Catholic, has made the school choice provision a legislative priority, saying in a proclamation earlier this month that he had reached an agreement with Texas House leadership to create a $10,400 per year ESA for participating students.
Jennifer Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB), which advocates for policy in the state on behalf of the bishops, said in a statement to CNA that H.B. 1 will now return to committee, making it challenging to pass during the governor’s special session. She noted that this could mean the loss not only of the potential school choice benefits but also other provisions of the bill such as teacher pay raises and school safety upgrades.
The vote against the school choice provision of the bill was disappointing, but “the issue is not over yet,” Allmon said.
“Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will call a fifth special session for parental choice. We don’t know if that will be between Thanksgiving and Christmas or in January, but whenever there is an opportunity to advocate for parental choice in education, we will be ready to stand up for families who need it most,” Allmon said.
“While there were several setbacks this past week, with the approaching holiday, we are reminded our faith calls us to gratitude. Today we are giving thanks for the opportunity to do God’s work on behalf of the common good. We are grateful for our bishops, priests, religious, families, and all Catholics who do so much to spread God’s love across Texas. We are grateful for all of you who made calls, sent emails, and came to the Capitol to advocate with us.”
The bill included several eligibility requirements, including a prioritization for low-income disabled students as well as children from households making less than 185% of the federal poverty level — roughly $55,500 for a family of four. Eligible students include those in private schools as well as children who home-school, TCCB says.