Gov. Greg Abbott’s new parental bill of rights, announced at a public charter school in Lewisville last week, is being met with skepticism by a family rights advocacy organization.
According to his press release, Abbott said, “The fact is no government program can or should replace the role that parents play in their children’s lives. That’s why as Governor, I have fought to defend the rights of parents, whether it comes to education or health care.”
However, this claim has become subject to serious scrutiny.
Specifically, Abbott went on to tout that, under his watch, mask mandates have been banned in schools and parents have been able to choose whether or not to send their children to school wearing masks.
However, this prohibition on mask mandates was a very public pivot walking back his own decision to mandate masks and shut down businesses during the summer of 2020. His executive order attempting to bar mask mandates has been thwarted by school districts across the state and is currently tied up in legal battles. Nonetheless, Abbott refused to add prohibiting mask mandates to any of the three special legislative sessions last year.
Abbott’s parental bill of rights features four key points: ensuring parents are the primary decision-makers for their children, providing parents access to core curriculum, protecting students’ personal data and removing pornographic materials from schools, and notifying parents of their parental rights by providing them with a copy of the parental bill of rights.
Parental rights in education have become a highly prominent issue in the past year. Two of the 10 GOP ballot propositions focus on education, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation just announced yesterday that their No. 1 priority for the 88th Legislative Session in 2023 is to “put parents in control of their child’s education.”
Nevertheless, some experts are questioning Gov. Abbott’s track record of advancing parents’ rights.
Jeremy Newman, the director of public policy for the Texas Home School Coalition, wrote, “As the Deputy Director of the foremost parental rights advocacy organization in Texas and someone who has personally and repeatedly raised prominent parental rights policy issues face-to-face before the Governor’s senior policy staff, I remain skeptical.”
According to Newman, “Every significant parental rights reform to pass the legislature since 2017 has done so without the support of Governor Abbott. Every parental rights legislative reform that has died has done so without his comment.”
Newman rehashed the numerous proposals to advance parental rights, including CPS reform, that died in the Legislature following Abbott’s refusal to intervene or passed without the governor even bothering to comment.
“For the last five years, Governor Abbott’s rhetoric on parental rights has been weak, and his policy initiatives have been AWOL. Now, suddenly, his rhetoric is bold. Given our past experience attempting to garner Governor Abbott’s support on parental rights issues, we were surprised to see his Thursday announcement boldly speaking in favor of a parents’ bill of rights,” said Newman.
With the primary election slated for March 1 and early voting beginning on February 14, Abbott has been on the campaign trail lately, although still refusing to attend any governor’s forum with his primary challengers.