My name is Jennifer Allmon, and I am the Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops testifying in support of SB 1968. The Texas bishops believe parents are the primary and principal educators of their children and therefore must be free to determine the best educational environment for their children. To ensure quality educational choices for all families, Texas should respect the independence and autonomy of private and religious schools while also fostering strong public-school options. The TCCB supports increasing educational opportunities, especially for the poor and children with special needs, and recognizes the fundamental right of parents to direct their children’s education.

SB 1968 would establish the Family Educational Relief Program to provide children from low-income households with additional educational options in order to achieve a general diffusion of knowledge. The bill would create an insurance premium tax credit for contributions to support the program. Students would be eligible if they are a member of a household with a total annual income that is at or below the income guidelines necessary to qualify for the national free or reduced-lunch program. Approved educational expenses for eligible children include tuition, textbooks, fees for tutoring, educational therapies, among others.

The Texas Bishops stand with Pope Francis, who has advocated for school choice and said, “[P]arents themselves enjoy the right to choose freely the kind of education – accessible and of good quality – which they wish to give their children in accordance with their convictions.” We believe this bill is essential as many students and their families are still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. If the last year has shown us anything, it is that educational disparities have become more pronounced, and many kids are falling behind in schooling. Supporting school choice through the Family Educational Relief Program would promote the civic, moral, and economic benefits for low-income children who are unable to access the same educational opportunities their more well-resourced peers have long enjoyed.

For the foregoing reasons, we respectively request you support SB 1968.