With a new school year beginning next month, parents who attended the Texas House Public Education Committee hearing Tuesday are wanting better for their children.
From COVID shutdowns and virtual learning to mask mandates, pornographic books in school libraries, and racist ideologies in classrooms, parents voiced their frustration with the system to lawmakers on the committee.
The public was forced to wait while lawmakers heard a full day’s worth of invited testimony from lobbyists, special interest groups, and school district staff. Parents began testifying after 8:30 p.m.
Notably, one of the last invited testimonies of the day was from parental rights advocate Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children.
DeAngelis told lawmakers, “The only way to truly secure parental rights and education is to fund students directly and empower families to choose the education providers that best meet their family’s needs and align with their values.”
“It’s time for Texas to fund students, not systems. After all, education funding is supposed to be meant for educating children, not for propping up and protecting a particular institution,” said DeAngelis. “The funding belongs to the student, not the institution.”
Previewing the testimonies from parents to come, DeAngelis said, “We’re seeing it with a new special interest group that has emerged, it’s not just the employee unions anymore—it’s the parents.”
“The parents who are sitting behind me in the room, the parents who are at the capitol today, they’re awake, they’ve woken up, they felt powerless in 2020 and they’re going to make sure they never feel powerless like that ever again.”
According to DeAngelis, the system is not set up to accommodate students and help them reach their full potential. “We force millions of kids to go to residentially-assigned government-run institutions that are, by definition, a one-size-fits-all system that is not going to work for families who just inherently disagree about how they want their kids raised and how they want their kids to be educated.”
“Funding students directly and empowering parents is the only way forward through freedom rather than force.”
Indeed, public testimony that followed confirmed that parents are fed up with the current system.
“It is a crisis of systematic complacency and convenience,” explained Rachel Hale.
“I can understand why you legislators and school districts are confused by parents being up in arms when we’ve trusted the system and allowed you to buy school supplies and act in the role of parents. We were asleep at the wheel,” Hale acknowledged. “However, that is no longer the case.”
“Stop undermining parents’ authority. Knowledge is power. So let’s empower students to learn and think once again for themselves and outside the box you’ve created. We don’t need mental health clinics in school. In fact, why would anyone entrust their mental health to you when you can’t even get academics right and that’s your wheelhouse?”
“We must return to academics and I’m certain scores will improve,” added Hale, who told the committee that the 300 percent increase in students being removed from public schools includes her own child.
The option to choose the path for their child and have the money follow the child is incredibly appealing to many parents across the state.
Gabrielle Clark, who previously filed a lawsuit in Nevada against her children’s school for teaching racist ideologies in the classroom, told the committee “I live here now, and if my daughter is taught CRT at all, I will sue you. If my daughter is taught SEL at all, I will sue you.”
“We don’t need CRT. We don’t need SEL. I’m an atheist, bisexual, biracial, homeless person. I want school choice. I do not want my child to be taught that just because she’s black and a woman she’s not gonna make it.”
“You are not gonna do this to us. We will fight every single day from now on,” promised Clark.
Another mother, Sheena Rodriguez of Alliance for a Safe Texas, addressed the ongoing issue of pornographic materials in children’s libraries.
“Texas public schools are using taxpayer dollars to repeatedly subject our children to inappropriate sexual materials,” said Rodriguez, explaining that “studies suggest such exposure dramatically increases the likelihood of sexual addiction and vulnerability to exploitation and sexual abuse.”
“School administrators across Texas are currently allowed to fail to teach our children the fundamental academic necessities required for our children to be able to simply succeed in life,” said Rodriguez. “The same school administrators are also allowed to promote the degeneration of our most precious population, our children, all while telling parents to sit down and remain silent.”
“This has nothing to do with LGBTQ, this has nothing to do with gay rights,” says Rodriguez. “This has everything to do with the exploitation of children. And as a mother now, who endured childhood sexual abuse, why ever in the world can we simply not just teach our children? Our schools are failing! They cannot read or write!”
State standardized testing shows that nearly half of all students between grades 3-8 cannot read at grade level and over half are testing below grade level in mathematics.
Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled his support for school choice legislation this upcoming session.
Concerned citizens can contact any member of the House Public Education Committee and their state lawmakers.