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In Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s pledge to enact the “parents bill of rights” to cement parents as the primary decision makers in their kids’ education, he also irked his Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke by voicing support for a school voucher program.

Abbott was joined by Republican state representative John Lujan as he signed a pledge to make the “Parental Bill of Rights” law in 2023 at a San Antonio campaign event Monday night.

The “Parental Bill of Rights” would allow parents to review any education materials their children could access, and give them more control in their kids’ education. Teachers who provide students “obscene” materials should have their teaching licenses revoked and lose their retirement benefits, Abbott added. His proposals were in addition to a previous parental bill of rights in which he called for the banning of critical race theory in classrooms.

Texas Gov Greg Abbott shows off Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, after he signed it into law in Tyler, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
(AP Photo/LM Otero)

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Abbott’s school voucher proposal would allow students to use government funding to attend private schools or charter schools rather than their assigned public schools.

“Empowering parents means giving them the choice to take their children to any public school, charter school or private school with state funding following the student,” Abbott said in San Antonio. “To be clear that does not mean that public schools will be not fully funded. They will.”

Yet, O’Rourke accused the governor of just that – defunding public schools.

“Abbott is for defunding our public schools,” O’Rourke tweeted after Abbott pitched his school voucher plan. “I’m for fully funding our kids’ classrooms and fully supporting parents, teachers, and students.”

Classroom with empty wooden desks. (iStock)

Classroom with empty wooden desks. (iStock)
(iStock)

“Abbott is already underfunding our classrooms by $4,000 per student,” the Democrat added. “The last thing we need is to have him take our tax dollars out of our kids’ schools and send them away to private schools.”

National Director of Research at the American Federation for Children Corey DeAngelis rejected O’Rourke’s claim.

“Someone should ask Beto why giving families a choice would ‘defund’ public schools,” DeAngelis said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “It sounds like he doesn’t have very much confidence in the public school system, which is a great reason to give families a choice. Families shouldn’t be forced to send their kids to failing government schools for 13 years.

“The reality is school choice is a rising tide that lifts all boats,” he continued. “School choice competition leads to better outcomes in public schools. School choice doesn’t ‘defund’ public schools. If anything, public schools defund families. School choice initiatives just return the money to the rightful owners, or at least the intended beneficiaries of the funding (students and their families).”

The Libertarian Party of Texas shared similar sentiments.

“We believe that parents/guardians should have the authority to decide where and how their children are educated,” the party wrote on Twitter. “Let’s fund students not systems.”

But the Texas School Alliance, a school district member organization that comprises 44 school districts in Texas, called Abbott’s plan a “scheme.”

“You can’t fully fund public schools and address the worst teacher shortage in Texas in history by siphoning off public dollars to private schools,” the group said in a statement. “The math doesn’t work.”

Beto O’Rourke’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeAngelis, like other school choice advocates, celebrated the governor’s announcement.

“I’m happy to see Governor Abbott let everyone know this week that he is firmly on the side of parental rights in education by prioritizing school choice,” he said. “The only way to truly secure parental rights in education is to fund students directly and empower families to choose. Only then will schools have real incentives to cater to the needs of families as opposed to the other way around. This is the way. It’s time for Texas to fund students instead of systems.”

ABBOTT DEMANDS TEXAS SCHOOL BOARDS SHIELD KIDS FROM PORNOGRAPHY

FILE - Texas Democrat gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a campaign event in Fort Worth, Texas Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

FILE – Texas Democrat gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks during a campaign event in Fort Worth, Texas Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
(AP)

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“Nothing is more important to the future of Texas than ensuring our children are educated,” Abbott tweeted after the event. “It’s vital that we continue to fully fund schools while also giving parents a choice about which school is best for their child!”

The legislation, however, has a long waiting period. The legislature would have to decide to change the Texas constitution, but does not meet this year. Abbott would have to call a special session, or wait until 2023.

 

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