Saturday, July 20, 2024

Abbott Enlists Parents to Get School Choice for Every Texas Student ‘Across the Finish Line’

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Tuesday called for parents to contact their state representatives and encourage them to get school choice “across the finish line.” 

The Republican governor posted on X, formerly Twitter, “Texas has an obligation to deliver the best possible education for each child. School choice will help achieve that.”

He then asked that parents visit as a means of contacting lawmakers. 

Abbott called for a special session on Oct. 5 to provide education savings accounts, or ESAs, for “all Texas schoolchildren.” 

“Now is the time to expand ESAs to every child in the state. That will give all parents the ability to choose the best education option for their child,” he said.

Texas’ governor isn’t the first to call for a major overhaul to the state’s school choice legislation.

A Heritage Foundation report, released in September, identified Texas as ranking No. 35 among the states for school choice, trailing behind more liberal states like California, Illinois, and Vermont. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

“Texas could improve its ranking by establishing K-12 education savings accounts, making it easier for more charter schools to open and operate, and giving families more choices among traditional public schools,” noted the Heritage Foundation report.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called school choice “the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” pointing out the massive disparity of opportunity between students from lower income homes versus families that are able to afford more expensive and academically rigorous private options. 

Republicans from rural parts of Texas blocked school choice reform in the spring, and not for the first time. In 2017, several of these rural state legislators joined with urban Democrats to vote down a voucher bill that had already passed Texas’ Senate. 

One of the representatives, Suleman Lalani, D-Fort Bend County, called vouchers and school choice options a “scam that threatens everything we love about public schools.” 

According to Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, Lalani sent his children to a private school.

Rep. Ellen Troxclair, R-Blanco, who represents several rural areas, told The Daily Signal that school choice wouldn’t harm good public schools, but would allow parents to choose the best education option for their children:

The bridge being built in the Texas legislature right now is that supporting public schools and universal school choice do not have to be mutually exclusive—we can support good public schools while also allowing parents the freedom to choose the education that best fits their child’s needs.

Abbott seems very serious about getting education reform passed. Though Texas special sessions are only allowed to last a maximum of 30 days, the governor promised to bring the legislators back for another special session until education freedom is achieved. 

At a Parent Empowerment Rally on Oct. 16, the governor told a large crowd, “I can play this game longer than [the legislators] can play this game.” 

Now, Abbott has called on Texas families to directly demand action from their representatives. 

Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston and Harris Counties, told The Daily Signal it’s essential that legislators “answer the call” from parents: 

Our rights as parents come from God, not government. Parents matter, and they are demanding their voices be heard. We must answer that call and pass a school choice bill that allows every parent to decide which education option works best for their children according to their unique needs.

Many have been calling for school choice options over the last decade because of underperforming public schools, alternative education needs, and how schools are pushing certain social issues. These social issues include critical race theory and radical gender ideology. Texas parents have expressed dismay over finding these ideologies being taught in public school classrooms.

One Arlington father, Drew Smith, told NBC 5 DFW that a “classical-style education” with a focus on learning—not on social issues and sexual content—was the key reason he wanted to move his three children to private schools. Recent undercover investigations by Accuracy in Media have shown Texas public school administrators bragging about still teaching inappropriate content despite state bans on doing so.

At this time, the Texas House and Senate have both put forward bills expanding school choice, but the fight isn’t over yet. Abbott has made clear that he will continue to call special sessions until universal school choice is a reality for all Texas school children.