Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told parents that Texas needs to create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to increase parental choice in education.
Such a program would put the state’s share of per-pupil education funding into individual student accounts. Parents could use the funds for approved education expenses, such as private school tuition, tutoring, homeschooling and technology.
“That will give all parents the ability to choose the best education option for their child,” Abbott told the audience of Parent Empowerment Night in Corpus Christi on Tuesday, Texas Tribune reported.
“The bottom line is this: This is really about freedom,” Abbott added.
Abbott, who is serving a third term as governor, promised during his recent inaugural address to increase education choices for parents and students.
“We must reform curriculum to get kids back to the basics of learning and empower parents with the tools to challenge that curriculum when it falls short of expectations,” said Abbott in the address. “No one knows what is better for a child’s education than their parents.
“Those parents deserve the freedom to choose the education that’s best for their child.”
Abbott’s previous promotion of school choice was mostly about expanding charter schools. However, parents who are dissatisfied with how public schools handled COVID-19 lockdowns and unhappy with woke ideology in curricula are causing a tidal wave of support for expanded education options, the Tribune reports.
“Parents have truly woken up,” Rep. Mayes Middleton, R-District 11, told the Tribune.
“You’ve seen in school boards – not just across the state, but across the country – where a lot [of parents] feel like their voice may not be heard, but at the end of the day, this is just giving them the tools,” he said.
Opponents of school choice have claimed that rural communities would suffer because they don’t have extensive private school options.
“If I have anything to say about it, it’s dead on arrival,” Rep. Ken King, a Republican whose district includes parts of the Texas Panhandle, told the Tribune about the ESA proposal.
But results from states like Florida, which have embraced school choice, have debunked that argument.
“Choice allows more rural families to access the options that already exist,” wrote Ron Matus in the Washington Examiner.
Matus is director of policy and public affairs at Step Up For Students, a nonprofit which administers Florida’s choice scholarship program and co-author of a new paper, Rerouting the Myths of Rural Education Choice.
“Better yet, even in rural areas, supply grows to meet demand. Over the past 20 years, the number of private schools in Florida’s rural counties grew from 69 to 120,” added Matus.
Abbott, who cruised to reelection with 55 percent of the vote, clearly believes his third term is a charm for ESAs.