Texas Governor Greg Abbott proposes a “parental rights statement”

LEWISVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – At the public charter school, Founders Classical Academy of Lewisville on Thursday night, Gov. Greg Abbott warned hundreds of parents they were losing their voice when it comes to their child’s education and health care. “The essential role of parents is threatened by the government itself.”

Over the past year, we’ve seen parents in North Texas criticize their local school boards amid controversies over mask mandates, the contents of some library books and whether critical race theory is taught in schools. the classrooms.

To help parents become more involved in their child’s education, the Governor signed a pledge outlining four key provisions of his proposed Parental Rights Bill. “Parents will regain their rightful place as the preeminent decision-makers for their children.”

The governor said the Texas Constitution needed to be changed to make sure that happened.

Other parts of its commitment include giving parents easier access to students’ curriculum, informing parents of their online rights, and protecting students from having their personal data shared or sold outside. of the Texas public school system.

The governor also told the crowd that he wanted to strengthen penalties against educators, including teachers and librarians who give students inappropriate books. “Texas will ensure that any education personnel found guilty of providing obscene content to minors will lose their credentials and state license, lose their pension benefits, and be placed on a do-not-hire list. .”

Under Chapter 43 of the state’s existing criminal code covering public indecency, selling, distributing, or displaying harmful material to anyone under 18 is either a class A misdemeanor or a third-degree felony.

The code describes harmful material as appealing to “a minor’s lustful interest, sex, nudity or excretion; is “obviously offensive to prevailing norms in the adult community as a whole regarding what is appropriate for minors; and is totally without social value for minors.

Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education for President Ronald Reagan, appeared at the event virtually and told the crowd, “Take charge of your child’s education. It’s the most important thing you can do for your child.

Texas American Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo slammed the governor’s proposals, pointing out that the state legislature passed a Parents’ Bill of Rights in 1995 and additions to it had already given parents access to the program.

Capo said: “We are all for full involvement of parents in the education of their children… what we will not accept is a bogus and politicized story of the governor who ends up targeting and vilifying teachers and children. schools… Our governor plays politics. It’s disgusting.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonpartisan institute that promotes freedom, personal responsibility and free enterprise, supports the governor’s bill of parental rights.

The foundation’s director of K-12 education policy, Michael Barba, said, “All families deserve program transparency, quality education, respect for their contribution, and ultimately the right. choose the best education for their child.

This week, the governor and other Texas Republican leaders spoke ahead of the foundation’s policy orientation.

Another Republican gubernatorial candidate, former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, also rejected the governor’s plan, saying, “Parents have already been endowed with natural and inalienable rights from the Creator God, not from the Governor Abbott. We live in a constitutional republic, not a monarchy. .”

The campaign of another Republican primary challenger, former state senator Don Huffines of Dallas, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke said he supports involving parents in their children’s education.

But he said voters told him they objected to focusing on culture war issues. “They want us to come together to make sure our kids can read at the grade level, that we focus on teaching math and stems, and that we graduate 18-year-olds in the state of Texas who are ready for college and competitive for the careers we are creating in Texas today.

State lawmakers will need to amend existing law or pass new legislation to toughen penalties against educators.

A change to the state constitution requires not only the approval of lawmakers, but also that of voters.

The next legislative session is due to begin next January.

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