Texas parents are making gains in the legislature to retake control of their child’s education, and we are within reach of the education Holy Grail—education savings accounts (ESAs). Never before have we been so close to empowering parents with the ability to select the best school for their child, rather than be assigned a school by the government.
Hillary Hickland is just one of the thousands of mama bears frustrated with her children’s public school that I met at a Parent Empowerment event. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and I have traversed Texas, hearing from parents about the lack of transparency and respect for parents’ wishes for a high-quality education, free from cultural indoctrination.
Hillary never intended to get involved in Texas education—at least much beyond the PTA level—until she realized what thousands of parents throughout our nation realized—the new public system is set up to ignore parents, lower education standards and shift the focus from academic excellence to a union-backed progressive social agenda.
Like so many parents across Texas, Hillary learned of sexually explicit books and materials in public school libraries, and she checked into what the Belton Middle School library was offering kids. She found many of the titles she’d heard about: “These books contain narratives and graphics that normalize child sexual abuse, sexual assault, incest, drug abuse and suicide,” she told me.
And, to her amazement the administrators had a robust strategy to fight her to keep those materials available for young children to access. So, Hillary joined the thousands of parents engaging in this legislative session, and we’re just getting started.
In the regular session ending on May 29th, legislators made significant gains in protecting children. First, Texas passed a law protecting them from experimental and potentially harmful transgender medical procedures.
Next, lawmakers addressed the concerns of parents like Hillary with a strong education transparency measure—it will require that schools make all materials, curricular and extracurricular, available to parents through an online portal.
Another bill, HB 900, provides parents with greater transparency and respect regarding school library materials by recognizing parents as the primary decision-makers in a child’s access to them. The bill also prohibits vendors from providing sexually explicit materials to schools.
In higher education, Texas also made gains by both ending diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices and efforts in Texas public universities, and by reforming tenure.
Texas also now has the strongest consumer data protections in the nation, with a new Digital Bill of Rights and more power for parents to protect children online.
But lawmakers failed millions of parents by not establishing ESAs—so Gov. Abbott is committed to calling them back to address this.
Throughout the last year, we’ve worked hard to advance parent empowerment. But our opponents have worked hard, too—mostly to mislead and fearmonger. The education lobbyists and administrators, whose only goal is to rake more money in to the system, worry that parental empowerment will erode their control and require greater accountability. They’ve scared Texas’ 320,000 teachers into believing giving parents a choice will “decimate public education” —though there is no evidence of this in the 31 other states with school choice programs. They even make absurd claims like saying school choice will end high school football.
But for parents like me—and like Hillary—it’s really about the children and the future of our great state, not job security for overpaid administrators and corporate interests making millions off our children.
The truth is, we have some great public schools in Texas, but far too many have surrendered to the progressive agenda, which regards parents as busybodies, not full partners. Far too many have fought to lower academic standards to the lowest common denominator, rather than setting Texas on a course for academic excellence.
Hillary’s involvement in this fight, along with thousands of parents, is about compassion. She asked me to “Imagine an 11-year-old choosing these books and being exposed to these harsh and heavy concepts that are difficult for adults to process.”
It’s concerns like these that are driving the parent empowerment movement. And like the civil rights movement of the 1960s, there will be defeats and victories, valleys and mountaintops. It’s easy to lose sight of the goal when your opposition has maintained the power and money, but they are only drawing out the inevitable – freedom will ring.
Texas lawmakers will soon have another opportunity to stand on the right side of history. Soon they will enact school choice for the nation’s largest school-age population. The educrats withholding freedom may not be on their side, but we mama bears are freedom fighters, and we will not stop until every parent has the ability to select the best education for our cubs.