Governor Greg Abbott has proposed amending the Texas constitution to specify parents’ rights to involvement in their children’s education.
The “Parental Bill of Rights” would make parents the “main decision-makers in all matters” regarding their children. The move comes after a growing national debate on sex education, critical race theory, and the role of parents in their children’s education.
A flyer of Abbott’s proposed Bill of Rights was distributed at a campaign event at a public charter school in Lewisville, Texas and posted to Twitter.
— Teresa Woodard (@twoodard8) January 20, 2022
The governor’s proposal would expand parental access to the curriculum and the material used in the classroom. At the start of each semester, educators would be required to give parents copies of their curriculum. The curriculum must also be easily accessible online or through another distribution method.
“In order for parents to be involved in their child’s education, they must know what their children are being taught,” reads the flyer.
In addition to giving parents the right to choose if their child repeats a grade, the bill requires school districts to inform parents of their other options — including character schools, magnet schools, or other public schools.
Abbott’s proposal also aims to prevent content deemed obscene or harmful from being distributed in schools.
“Texas will ensure that any educational personnel who was convicted of providing minors with obscene content will lose their educational credentials and state licensing, forfeit their retirement benefits and be placed on a ‘do not hire list,” Abbott said at the event.
The state’s current existing penal code makes it a class A misdemeanor or third-degree felony to sell, distribute or display harmful material to a person under the age of 18.
Former U.S. Education Secretary for President Ronald Reagan Bill Bennett appeared virtually at the event in support of Abbott’s push for parental involvement in their child’s education.
“Take charge of your child’s education. It is the single most important thing you can do for your child,” Bennett said.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, the non-partisan Institute for liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise, has endorsed the proposal.
The Texas Association of School Boards told WFAA that it “[looks] forward to reviewing Gov. Abbott’s plan.”
“It’s our hope that it doesn’t include additional unfunded state mandates or administrative requirements that burden frontline educators,” the organization said.
Education policy has gained new importance in elections in recent years, as the 2021 gubernatorial race in Virginia captured.
Governor Glenn Youngkin “won by tapping into culture war fights over school curricula, emphasizing parental rights to make decisions about their children’s education with the slogan, ‘parents matter,’” per AP News.
“The polls kept telling us that education was the seventh or eighth or ninth most important issue,” Youngkin said at the Republican Governors Association annual meeting this year. “Let me tell you, it is the top issue right now, and Republicans across the country can own this topic.”
Governor Abbott, who filed for reelection on Jan. 8, seems to have confirmed this shift in focus with his Parental Bill of Rights.
Abbott is seeking a third term in office.