AUSTIN, Texas — Tuesday was "Parent Empowerment Day" at the Texas State Capitol, where education leaders, elected officials and parents were expected to discuss parental rights in children's education.
As part of Parent Empowerment Day, Gov. Greg Abbott delivered remarks on the north steps of the Capitol. He was joined by State Rep. James Frank, Texas Public Policy Foundation Campaign Director Mandy Drogin and San Jacinto Christian Academy Superintendent Roxanne Cheek.
One of Abbott's main priorities of late has been "school choice," a term used to describe programs that give parents State money to send their kids to schools outside the public education system. The most common of these programs are school vouchers, or State-sponsored scholarships for private schools.
Watch the governor deliver his remarks below:
Abbott has spent the past few months traveling around Texas to discuss school choice. His most recent stop before Tuesday's planned remarks was in Tyler, Texas, earlier this month.
"We can have it both ways. We can improve public education while at the very same time, empower our parents," Abbott said at his Tyler event on March 10.
The governor's plan would direct tax dollars to parents to help pay private school tuition. But opponents of the plan – including many educators – say it would hurt public schools by taking money away from them. Rural schools could be especially impacted, according to those against the plan.
On Tuesday, Abbott said some Texas students are being taught a "radical woke agenda." He told the crowd outside the Capitol that their tax dollars would not be used to "hate the United States of America."
House Rep. James Talarico, a former educator, said he knows firsthand that what Abbott says is happening schools isn't actually happening.
"These are manufactured crisis that the governor is using to score political points and to demonize our schools so that he can justify defunding our schools," Talarico said.
The Round Rock native said private schools are not held to the same accountability standards as public education.
"Private schools don't have to provide busses or transportation for kids who maybe don't have parents who can drive them to school, and they can deny admission based on any criteria they want," Talarico said. "This is actually denying parental rights, it's actually hurting kids – especially disadvantaged kids."
Senate Bill 8, legislation related to school choice, will go to the Senate Committee on Education on Wednesday, March 22. Public testimony starts at 9 a.m.