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Patrick: School Choice A Top Priority In 2017

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick
KERA
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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday vowed to pass a bigger and better tax credit scholarship program — and possibly other school choice legislation — out of the Senate in 2017, saying school choice remains his top policy priority aside from “protecting life.”

Last year, Patrick shepherded legislation through the upper chamber that would’ve provided up to $100 million in tax credits to businesses that donated scholarship money to public school students to help pay tuition at private or parochial schools. But the bill died in the House, which historically has opposed such voucher-like proposals.

Speaking during an education policy panel Thursday that also featured Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, Patrick said the next version of the legislation may be modeled after a multi-part program the Nevada Legislature recently passed that provides financial aid to public school students so they can attend alternative schools. (The program is being challenged in court on multiple fronts.)

“I didn’t come this far to come this far,” Patrick told a luncheon crowd at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation. “We will pass this bill this session. It will be a better bill next time.”

Patrick emphasized he wanted such a program to be available to all students, not just a small percentage, as is true in some states with scholarship programs that target low-income and minority students. And he said he believes there will be enough support in the House for it to pass.

Hutchison told the crowd that 96 percent of public students are eligible to participate under Nevada's program versus 12 percent in states like Florida.

Disclosure: The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/01/07/patrick-school-choice-top-priority-2017/.