I survived Nazi occupation and the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia. I watched as the communists came into the schools, threw out the textbooks, and rewrote history. Every day, my father, a learned man and local leader, retaught me and my sister the true history of our country and heritage.

Eventually, because my father would not bend his knee to the communist authorities, we were forced to flee. We first escaped to Austria, then immigrated to Australia, eventually coming to America. Throughout, my father maintained his dedication to education, history, and freedom.

I raised my four children in Temple, Texas in the 1970s and 80s. I sent them to Temple ISD schools—Thornton Elementary, Bonham Middle School, Temple High School—and I tried to imbue in them the same respect for the importance of education that my father imbued in me.

However, even half a century ago, I often found myself at school board meetings arguing with the board about academics, communism, and anti-American sentiment, just as we see parents doing today at their local school board meetings across Texas.

Half a century ago, even as the Cold War intensified, even as we were locked in a mortal struggle with the Soviet Union, communism—and communist sympathies—had already begun to creep into the classroom.

Half a century ago, in the intensely patriotic, rural region around Temple, anti-American beliefs had already begun to creep into the schools through indoctrinated, anti-American teachers.

Half a century ago, our academic standards were high. However, even then, they were beginning to slip. Even then, the plague of low expectations for Texas kids had already begun to rear its ugly head.

And this was happening in Temple, a town built around hard work and its schools. A town that laid dark and empty every time the football team had an away game.

And this was a full 50 years ago.

How much worse is it now?

I still live in Temple, but my children have been out of school for decades. I don’t have first-hand experience, but I know the battles I fought, and I know what the numbers look like today. Over 56% of students are behind on reading, and almost 64% are behind on math. That’s well over half of the students in Temple—and according to state data, 97% of students who fall behind never catch up.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Even as I battled individual teachers and the school board, my children had many good teachers. And even as the numbers for Temple ISD paint a bleak picture, I know there are many hardworking men and women who love our country and our children and are trying to do right by our kids.

But parents shouldn’t be trapped in schools that don’t serve their kids, especially if a rogue teacher is indoctrinating their child. Parents should have the right to direct the state funds that would go towards their students to other institutions that have the unique instructional model that works for them. Parents shouldn’t have to do what my father did—spend every evening teaching and reteaching American Exceptionalism.

Parents need to be empowered to make the best educational choices for their students. Education is not only the pathway to a better life, but the tool needed to fight back against communism, tyranny, and authoritarianism. At the center of the struggle for parent empowerment is a struggle for the soul of our nation. For the sake of our kids, our grandkids, and the rest of our progeny, we cannot lose. We must not.