Gov. Abbott Continues to Show His Backward Priorities on Public Education

When a politician tells you who they are, you should believe them. As the fall semester gets into full swing, Gov. Greg Abbott has been signaling repeatedly what kind of leader he is. 

Abbott’s Inaction Since Uvalde 

Eighty-seven days after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Abbott still has taken no meaningful action to make schools safer this year or reduce the chances of tragedy. 

Earlier this week, as students and educators across the state returned to their campuses, Texas AFT released a report card with failing grades for the governor on several important school safety measures and his response to the Uvalde shooting: 

  • Failing to call an emergency legislative session to address gun safety
  • Failing to demand the Legislature raise the legal age for buying assault rifles from 18 to 21
  • Failing to hold Department of Public Safety officials accountable for the 77-minute wait to respond to the Uvalde shooter
  • Failing to show sympathy and provide comfort for families of Uvalde victims by attending their funerals
  • Failing to do everything in his power as governor to prevent another school shooting

“At a time when our districts are struggling to fill hundreds of vacancies because of the disrespect shown to educators by state leadership, the governor’s inaction after Uvalde will make the crisis even worse,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “Fewer and fewer want to work in a job that gives them no guarantee they or the kids in their class will come home at the end of the day.”   

In June, 90% of Texas school employees surveyed by Texas AFT said they worried about a shooting happening at their school. They also signaled strong support for several significant actions on gun access: comprehensive background checks on all gun purchases (99%), red-flag warning laws (98%), and raising the minimum age for legal gun purchase (96%). 

You can read more about the report card in Texas AFT’s online release. 

Voucher Schemes by Any Other Name 

The governor’s inaction on school safety makes the topic Abbott has turned his attention toward all the more galling. On Aug. 11, Abbott held a press conference to discuss “school choice” at The King’s Academy, a private “Christ-centered” school in Dallas. 

In a bewildering display of what Capo called “linguistic gymnastics,” Abbott carefully avoided using the word “voucher,” while nonetheless using his platform at a private religious school to note the importance of “empowering” parents with “different options for education.” 

It’s no surprise that Abbott would avoid talking transparently about vouchers when so few Texans support them. In recent polling from Texas Parent PAC, 7 in 10 Texas voters said they are concerned vouchers will hand money to wealthy families to keep their kids in private and religious schools while doing nothing to help lower-income families or kids in rural areas.  

Read Texas AFT President Zeph Capo’s full statement on Abbott’s “school choice” push on our website.

Holding Abbott Accountable 

The message from our union and members to the governor continues to be: respect us or expect us. Given Abbott’s continued disrespect for our neighborhood public schools, the most important way to hold him accountable is to show up in November and vote for our Respect Slate of candidates for statewide office

But we also want to highlight two more immediate ways you can make your voice heard: 

  1. Join us for a rally at the state Capitol on Saturday, Aug. 27: Texas AFT will be in attendance at the “Raise Our Voices to Raise the Age” rally hosted by March for Our Lives and parents from Uvalde. Details can be found on the online RSVP form.

Tweet the governor: If you’d like to let the governor know what you think of his public education priorities, use this link to send a tweet.