SB1 – The Education Savings Account Bill as of 10.12.23 – What’s in it?

by Ashley Bean Thornton

SB 1  was passed by the Texas Senate during special session 3 on October 12.  Next the Texas House will discuss it. The bill outlines an Education Savings Account (ESA) program for the state.  Here’s my summary of the gist of what’s in it…

 Who would be eligible to receive an ESA?  

  • Basically, any child eligible to attend public school is eligible to participate in the ESA program, whether they attended public school, private school, or were homeschooled the previous year.
  • Children of state representatives, state senators and statewide elected officials are not eligible to participate while their parent/guardian is in office.

 How much money would ESA participants receive?

  • $1,000 if homeschooled or
  • $8,000 for approved education provider

This money is not counted toward taxable income.

 Who is prioritized for participation?

If there are more applicants than money to pay for them, the slots may be filled by lottery, according to the following categories…

  • not more than 40% – children from a household with total annual income at or below 185% of federal poverty guidelines (FPG). (FPG for Family of 4, 2023 = $30,000. 185% = $55,500)
  • Not more than 30% – children from a household with a total annual income that is above 185% of the federal poverty guidelines and below 500 % of the federal poverty guidelines (FPG). (FPG for Family of 4, 2023 = $30,000. 500% = $150,000)
  • not more than 20% – children with a disability who are not already counted in the previous category
  • All the rest…

Where would the money come from?  – A fund set up by the comptroller which may include…

  • general revenue transferred to the fund;
  • money appropriated to the fund;
  • gifts, grants, and donations; and
  • any other money available for purposes of the program.

How would people even find out about the program?  

The Comptroller is allowed to hire someone to advertise, market and promote the program.

How would the program be administered?

The Comptroller my certify up to five “education assistance organizations” to support the administration of the program.

 Examples of possible approved providers

  • An accredited private school that administers a nationally norm-referenced assessment instrument annually.
  • A public school that is accredited by TEA and has a way to make sure the ESA child is not counted toward the school’s average daily attendance.
  • a private tutor, therapist, or teaching service, (subject to a list of requirements)
  • An accredited higher education provider

Examples of possible approved expenses

  • tuition and fees for a private school;
  • textbooks or other instructional materials or uniforms;
  • costs related to academic assessments;
  • fees for services provided by a private tutor or teaching service;
  • fees for transportation provided by a fee-for-service transportation provider for the child to travel to and from a preapproved education service provider
  • fees for educational therapies or services provided by a practitioner or provider, if they are not covered by other government programs.

Payment to districts with less than 5,000 students

A school district (not a charter school) with a student enrollment of 5,000 or less that experiences a net decline in student enrollment from the previous school year that is attributable to students participating in the program who would otherwise enroll in the district may receive $10,000 per year for the first three school years during which a child residing in the district participates in the ESA program.

How did our elected folks vote? 

As of this writing (10.14.23 in the morning) the results of the record vote are not posted.   However, since Brian Birdwell was one of the co-authors of the legislation, I think we can assume he voted for it.  I will update when the voting results are posted.

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