When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott visits Tyler Thursday evening, he’ll bring a clear and simple message: Texas parents have the right to direct the upbringing—and education—of their children. There’s much, much more to the governor’s plan—and for the future of Texas education.
Yet despite the vast body of evidence demonstrating that parent empowerment improves education for everyone, opponents of Gov. Abbott’s plan claim it will “destroy” public schools.
We’ll address that in a moment. For now, we’ll point out how popular parent empowerment is with Texas families. Strong majorities—even of Democrats—support allowing education funding to follow the child. Among Democrats, 53% of those polled by UT Tyler say they support allowing “parents to use state funding to send their children to private schools.”
For the record, that’s not “state funding.” That’s money from the pockets of Texas taxpayers—let’s not forget that, including Texas parents.
But parent empowerment’s strongest supporters are the families many of whom are likely to be trapped in underperforming schools—many are low-income and many are minority parents. Fully 65% of Latinos polled and 57% of Black respondents support parent empowerment in Texas. Denying these families the ability to ensure their child gets the best education possible is abandoning thousands of Texas children to an educational experience that is failing them.
The issue here is freedom. All parents, regardless of their financial ability, should have the freedom to select the best school for their child—not just the parents with the financial means to move to a great public school district or afford to write a tuition check. All families, regardless of income, should have the power to pick the school that fits them, instead of the government assigning them a school based on their address.
But it’s not just choice. Empowering parents means all parents, including those in public schools, can count on transparency, high-quality options (because the vast majority of students will remain in their traditional public schools), and on being treated with respect as the ultimate decision maker in their child’s life.
That means no more jailing parents for speaking up at school board meetings. No more secretly “transitioning” young children, behind their parents’ backs. No more restraining special needs kids. And no more revisionist history that tells blatant lies to our children about Texas or America.
Will the Texas education system be destroyed? Fortunately, ESAs are nothing new. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of school choice. Florida was one of the first to adopt ESAs. From 2003 to 2019, NAEP outcomes show that Florida’s elementary school reading proficiency for low-income students increased from No. 33 in the United States to No. 1.
Nor will public schools be “defunded.” According to a 2021 study, “In the five states with the most robust educational choice policies, inflation-adjusted funding per pupil increased between 1.2 percent (Arizona) to 12.7 percent (Ohio) since 2002, which is not long after four of the five states enacted their first educational choice policy.”
Gov. Abbott also pledges to pay for ESAs out of the general fund rather than the education budget. We’ll be able to tell at a glance that he’s kept his word and not cut public education funding, including increasing teacher pay.
Texas Republican voters were asked in March if they support parent empowerment—and 87.8% said they do. Here in Smith County, that number was 89%.
The time is now. We can ensure that all Texas parents have the power to decide what’s best for their children. And Gov. Abbott is leading the way.