Governor panders to false narrative on parental rights, turns his back on addressing the extreme hardships teachers face in Omicron surge

Gov. Abbott at table holding microphone with 10 American flags behind him

Is Gov. Greg Abbott talking about how to address the chaos in our schools with extreme teacher shortages caused by the Omicron surge? Is the governor proposing solutions help stop severe teacher burnout and to help make campuses safer for students and staff? No, on both counts. 

Instead, Abbott is parading a Parents Bill of Rights to pander to the false narrative that our schools are shutting out parents.

“We’re all for full parental involvement in their kids’ education, families engaging in their school communities, which is why we already have a Parents Bill of Rights passed by the Legislature back in 1995,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo in a statement yesterday. “Those comprehensive rights and additions to them through the years have given parents greater access than ever before to curriculum and all decisions made in schools. What we won’t agree to is a phony, politicized storyline from the governor that ends up targeting and vilifying teachers and schools.”

Chapter 26 of the Education Code already lays out defined parental rights that include full transparency to instruction, as well as parental decision rights in almost every aspect of school life. Abbott says he intends to add language to the Texas Constitution, although it’s unclear what that language would be. Voters must approve additions to the Constitution if they are placed on a ballot by a two-thirds vote of both chambers in the Texas Legislature.

“What’s needed now is respect—mutual respect between school officials, teachers, and parents—that understands we all want the best for our students,” Capo said. “At a time when teachers are literally exhausted to the point of collapse and dropping out of the profession in droves, we have a governor who isn’t providing them any respect and certainly no support. Instead, Abbott is fighting hard to keep local leaders from making schools safer for children and teachers and inflaming lies about roadblocks to parental involvement. Our schools are in chaos and despair from the onslaught of this latest COVID surge, and our governor is playing politics.”

One thing the governor didn’t do is emphasize private-school vouchers, something some observers expected might happen. Abbott did, however, choose a charter-school campus—Founders Classical Academy of Lewisville— for his announcement. That charter has about half the number of African-American and Hispanic students as neighboring Lewisville ISD, and only 3.7% of its students are in special education. The charter is also part of a chain that gained headlines for curriculum on evolution—material that in many ways stressed creationism over evolution as the most plausible explanation for the planet’s development.

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