Texas Catholic Voice Oct 23, 2023

In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:

  • Support HB 1 on parental choice ...
  • Oppose HB 4 on immigration...
  • David Speer to be executed Thursday ...
  • Synod on Synodality  ...
  • And more!

A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director

Last Thursday night, the long-awaited House parental choice bill was filed. HB 1 includes the establishment of an Education Savings Account (ESA) and 8 billion dollars in additional public-school funding.

We are grateful to Chair Brad Buckley for filing this legislation and to the House for seeking to ensure success for all Texas students whether they be in public, private, or home school.  

Bear in mind that public school finance is not on the special session call, so there will be no hearing unless the governor adds it.  

Regarding the ESA section of the bill, the bishops will be advocating for improvements. Nonetheless, the fact that the House has filed HB 1 is incredible and makes this the highest priority the House has ever given to education choice.  

HB 1 has the following ESA provisions:  

  • Eligibility includes children in public, private and home school. 
  • ESA amount is 75% of the estimated statewide average amount of funding per student for the applicable school year, which is approximately $10,000-$11,000.  
  • Prioritization as follows:   
    • Children with a disability (eligible to participate in public school special ed program) from a household earning up to 400% of the federal poverty (for a family of four, $120,000)   
    • Children from a household below 185% of the federal poverty level (for a family of four, $55,500)  
    • Children from a household between 185% and 400% of the federal poverty level 
    • Children from a household at or above 400% of the federal poverty level  
  • ESA students required to take the STAAR test.  
  • The number of participating students is capped at 20,000 in the first year of the program and 50,000 in the second and third years. 
  • The program expires Sept. 1, 2027.  

We are pleased with the eligibility, prioritization of applicants, and the ESA amount. These are all improvements to SB 1, which limits participation of private and home school children to 10% and participation of the lowest-income children to 40% while providing a lower amount of $8,000.  

We will advocate for the removal of the caps in HB 1 on the number of participating students, or at least to have the caps expire in two years.  

We will also be strongly advocating for the removal of the STAAR test. The bishops support requiring the administration of a norm-referenced assessment for ESA students because this is common practice in most private schools. The STAAR is aligned to the public-school curriculum which is not necessarily taught in private schools. 

Finally, we are opposed to the program terminating in three years as the opportunities provided to families by an ESA should not arbitrarily be taken away. 

Please contact your representative and urge him or her to support HB 1 with the option for ESA students to take a norm-referenced assessment, removal of the caps on the number of students participating, and the removal of the program’s expiration date.  

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us! 

Immigration Update 

The Senate passed SB 11, which creates a state offense of improper entry into Texas and unfortunately, the House State Affairs Committee voted out HB 4 which does the same as SB 11, but also allows law enforcement to “remove” individuals in lieu of arrest by taking them to a port of entry and ordering them back to Mexico.

We and many others testified that the bill is unjust and problematic for several reasons, including delaying or denying application for asylum, the cost to county courts and detention facilities, and the cost of litigation when the federal government sues the state. 

Immigration enforcement should be exercised in a way that is targeted, proportional, and humane.  By “targeted” we mean that enforcement resources should be focused on apprehending those who are dangerous.  Policies should be tailored and not overly broad, so the basic rights of all immigrants are respected.   

“Proportional” means that enforcement of immigration laws should not feature unnecessary penalties or force. Immigration control officers and border patrol agents should receive intensive training on appropriate enforcement tactics and use of force.    

“Humane” means the human rights and dignity of the person are preserved and respected to the greatest extent possible in any enforcement action. Families should not be divided and should receive special consideration. Undocumented immigrants should not be detained for lengthy periods or intermingled with violent offenders. Asylum seekers should receive appropriate screening by a qualified adjudicator. Children should be accommodated within a child welfare context.  

The situation at the border is untenable, but HB 4 is not the solution. The Church will continue to work with civic leaders, especially our Texas legislators, to uphold the rights and dignity of every person and to foster the common good. 

Please contact your representative and urge him or her to oppose HB 4. 

A Prayer for St. Elizabeth's Intercession

Lord God, thank you for blessing
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton with great faith, hope, joy, and charity.
We pray that her timeless example will guide us.
We look at her humility to help us accept your will for our lives.
Let her grateful heart remind us to thank you
for the joys and challenges of life.
May her courage and perseverance inspire us
To serve others, our church and our country.
Thank you, God, for Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton,
a loving and glorious saint who is always by our side.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us. Amen.

Prayer for the Legislature

Please pray for all our public servants and elected officials, including our Governor, Lt. Governor, House Speaker, lawmakers, and their staff, that the Lord may grant them wisdom and prudence to work for the common good of all the people of Texas.

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Will Speer shaking hands with the Warden of Texas Death Row after his baptism.

Texas named Will Speer as the first Inmate Coordinator for the Death Row Faith Based Program. His execution is scheduled for Oct. 26.

Upcoming Executions

Oct. 26 – William Speer
Nov. 9 – Brent Brewer
Nov. 16 – David Renteria
The Texas bishops ask for clemency for all on death row in our country and pray for the abolition of the death penalty.  

Pope Francis' prayer intention for October

For the Synod
We pray for the Church, that she may adopt listening and dialogue as a lifestyle at every level, and allow herself to be guided by the Holy Spirit towards the peripheries of the world.

The Texas Catholic Voice is a publication of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. For more information, write news@txcatholic.org or call 512-339-9882.