Black leaders call on Texas House to empower parents, pass school choice measures

(The Center Square) – At a parental empowerment event in Houston, Texas, Dr. Richard Johnson, director of the Booker T. Washington Initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, joined Gov. Greg…

(The Center Square) – At a parental empowerment event in Houston, Texas, Dr. Richard Johnson, director of the Booker T. Washington Initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, joined Gov. Greg Abbott and others to call on members of the Texas House to listen to parents across Texas who want the freedom to send their children to a school of their choice.

Johnson and Dr. Dana Carson, founder and lead pastor of Reflections of Christ’s Kingdom World Outreach International, The R.O.C.K., who hosted the event, argued that parental rights is a spiritual issue and school choice is “bigger than partisanship.”

“This is the issue of our time and what we do with this moment will be read about not only in decades but a century from this time,” Johnson said. “Eternity will stand forward and say one day a group of people stood up for what was right.”

Referring to the Declaration of Independence, he said, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and among them are the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Every parent has the right and the freedom to make the best possible choice when it comes to the education of their children.”

Johnson thanked Abbott for leading the charge to bring parental rights to Texas, “but he can’t get there by himself.” He pointed to a survey statewide, saying, “it doesn’t matter if you’re Black, white, brown, what your religion is, over 80% of Texans said they want parents to have the freedom to have the best education available for their children. The question becomes: why are we grappling with this in the legislature?”

At least 24 Republicans and all Democrats in the House oppose school choice, according to a recent vote.

“The governor has heard the citizens of Texas, the lieutenant governor has heard the citizens of Texas and there’s some people in the House who haven’t heard yet. And we’ve got some work to do to make them hear,” he said.

Johnson argued parental rights is a spiritual issue and that those gathered at the church were there to “acknowledge the sovereignty of our Almighty God.”

He also said that Austin “lobbyists are getting paid with your taxpayer dollars to say that you should not have a choice. But your voice matters more than their voice. I want you to use your voice. It won’t cost you a penny to call your representatives and let them know you support school choice.”

Carson discussed how the ROCK is helping disadvantaged children who’ve struggled with a “multiplicity of problems.” He said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to sit in a court room and beg a judge not to sentence [a minor/s] and let the church have them. Sometimes they let us have them, sometimes they don’t.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat and counseled with parents who are extremely frustrated with the environment of their children’s public education,” he said. “We know that public education works fine for some and for others it doesn’t.

“When we look as black and brown people and the school to prison pipeline that’s a problem. Something has to be done.”

Many studies have shown that school choice positively impacts minority and public students; two cite Milwaukee’s school choice program as a success.

A Journal of Private Enterprise report found that “using matched student-level data” evaluating private school choice outcomes in Milwaukee, “exposure to the [voucher] program in eight or ninth grade predicts lower rates of conviction for criminal activity and lower rates of paternity suits by ages twenty-five to twenty-eight. Specifically, exposure to the [voucher program] is associated with a reduction of around 53 percent in drug convictions, 86 percent in property damage convictions, and 38 percent in paternity suits. The program effects tend to be largest for males and students with lower levels of academic achievement at baseline.”

A Journal of Public Economics report also found that when “religious private schools were allowed to accept voucher students (increasing the number of choices for families)” and “when more money ‘followed the child’ to the school of their family’s choice,” public school students “experienced larger learning gains; … more choice for families appeared to lead to public schools doing a better job for their students.”

Dr. Carson continued, saying, “I don’t stand here as a Republican or a Democrat. I stand here for conviction and truths. I know we can make a difference with some children if parents had free choice. For me, free choice is a big thing. I’m a preacher. God gives free choice. I can’t imagine a government usurping authority over what God gives. God gives free choice. We should have the ability to train up a child in the way they should go,” referring to Proverbs 22:6 in the Old Testament of the Bible.