Texas Senate addresses school issues

The Texas Senate has been working around the clock to propose and approve new measures related to education including tuition, safety and educational overhauls.

Tuition Rates

The Senate gave preliminary approval to remove a required 15 percent tuition for use as financial aid at universities. This will give schools control over how that money is used, but won’t lower tuition. Texas lawmakers have been looking for ways to cut tuition fees since it deregulated rates in 2003 causing fees to climb nearly 150 percent. Classroom spending has also increased by 65 percent. The Senate is pushing to freeze tuition rates for two years. In order for schools to raise tuition, they must meet a specific level of performance. The bill now goes to the House.

Sexual Assault on Campus

The Texas Senate also approved a new bill that requires school employees and student leaders to report sexual assaults. Concealing this information could result in jail time or expulsion from their university. 

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston. It is in direct response to the assaults that recently took place at Baylor University, which also has a history of mishandling assault reports. 

The fallout resulted in the termination of Baylor football coach Art Briles and the departure of the school’s president, Ken Starr. Baylor is facing multiple lawsuits and is currently undergoing an investigation. 

Private School Choice

The Texas Senate heavily debated how a “private school choice” bill will make private schools liable or help disabled students before voting it a final passage, 18-13. The bill, also known as Senate Bill 3, would allow for thecreation of two public programs that subsidize private school tuition and the costs of home schooling. 

The first program involves education savings accounts that would grant parents access to public funds to cover private school tuition, fees and other expenses. This version of the bill limits the size of an education savings account based on income. For example, a family of three making more than $75,000 would not qualify for the program. The last version would have allowed all families to participate. 

The second program would be for tax credit scholarships. This would allow businesses to credit insurance premium taxes in exchange for donations to scholarship organizations with approval. This program is capped at $25 million into the next fiscal year on the current bill. 

In addition, 75 percent of funding for each program would be dedicated to tuition and the remaining 25 percent dedicated to education expenses, which includes tutoring and special education.