Texas Governor Greg Abbott has made advancing school choice legislation a key target for his administration, highlighting the issue at several recent events.
At a “Parent Empowerment Night” event at the Covenant Christian School in Conroe on Tuesday, Abbott promoted education reform to an audience of several hundred people, including parents, students, and activists.
He set his appeal for school choice within the context of growing concerns regarding the quality of education students now receive generally and the content of the curriculum specifically.
“Like many of you here tonight, I grew up learning the basics: reading, writing, math, and science,” Abbott explained, per a press release.
“Unfortunately, many schools are veering away from the very education that inspired generations of Texans to make our state — and country — the beacon of liberty and opportunity that it is today,” he continued. “We must empower parents to choose the best possible academic opportunities for their children.”
He claimed, however, that school choice programs would not “defund” public schools, insisting, “With education freedom an emergency item this session, we will add more funding for public schools as well as increase school choice across Texas.”
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Gov. Abbott named school choice as a legislative priority during his State of the State address in February.
Specifically, Abbott has favored the creation of “Education Savings Accounts” that would allow parents to direct funds allocated to their child’s education from the state to private schools.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has also been a vocal supporter of more school choice, listing the issue as one of his Senate priorities, as covered by The Dallas Express.
School choice proposals have earned majority support, with 53% of Texans backing universal plans, according to a recent study by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.
Opponents have condemned Abbott for backing school choice plans, claiming they would negatively affect public schools and student outcomes.
The Texas Association of School Administrators explains in its legislative priorities that it opposes “any state plan that would use vouchers, tax credits, taxpayer savings grants, tuition reimbursements, or any other means to divert public tax dollars to private entities, homeschooled students, or parents, with little or no academic or financial accountability or transparency.”
Activist group Pastors for Texas Children responded to Abbott’s speech at Covenant Christian School on Twitter, writing, “It is beyond outrageous to witness our Texas Governor @GregAbbott_TX violate his public and constitutional duty before God by hawking vouchers from the public treasury to subsidize private religious schools.”
The Dallas Express reached out to the group for further comment but did not receive a response.
Gov. Abbott will speak at another Parent Empowerment Night at the San Jacinto Christian Academy in Amarillo on Thursday, according to a media notice sent to The Dallas Express.