From the Montgomery County Republican Chairman: My thoughts on SB8 Parent’s Bill of Rights and Education Savings Accounts
Montgomery County is blessed to have one of the most conservative State Senators in the Texas Senate to represent her. Republicans across the county applauded when Senator Brandon Creighton (R-SD4) was named chair of the Senate Education Committee. Senator Creighton has been leading the effort on one of the most anticipated bills expected in the 88th Legislature, Senate Bill 8 (SB8) which promises to deliver on several GOP Legislative Priorities that were adopted in June of 2022 at the latest Republican Party of Texas State Convention. Senate Bill 8 was released this week and has two articles: the first is a Parent’s Bill of Rights, and the second is regarding Education Savings Accounts for Texas students and parents in what amounts to School Choice.
Drafted to address a number of issues that have arisen in Public Education in the past few years across the country, SB8 would seek to empower parents to make decisions in the course of their child’s education. The Bill addresses issues that have been plaguing our nation such as school districts calling children by their preferred pronouns in class and keeping that information from parents. Under the provisions of SB8, that would no longer be legal. The Bill seeks nothing short of a complete partnership with parents, students, and schools to best direct the future of the education of Texas students. It strengthens the language of other laws already enacted by stating the following:
“Section 26.001, Education Code, is amended [to read] Family Code, a parent has the right to direct the moral and religious training of the parent’s child, make decisions concerning the child’s education, and consent to medical, psychiatric, and psychological treatment of the child without obstruction or interference from this state, any political subdivision of this state, a school district or open-enrollment charter school, or any other governmental entity.”
This would include monitoring the curriculum, books, assignments, and lesson plans within a parent portal that the Independent School District must ensure that parents can access. Additionally, there is oversight on the kind of books that students have access to in a teacher’s classroom, as well as in the library. But perhaps the most controversial idea in SB8 is the idea that the parent has the absolute right to determine their child’s education. “Sec.A26. 0026. RIGHT TO SELECT EDUCATIONAL SETTING. A parent is entitled to choose the educational setting for the parent’s child, including public school, private school, or home school.”
This is where the majority of the controversy in this Bill will emerge, even amongst Republican voters. Article 2 of SB8 seeks to set up a process by which parents of Texas students can receive $8,000.00 per year to be paid out quarterly into a student’s Education Savings Account that can be used for a variety of educational expenses to include Private School tuition, books, materials, uniforms, technologies, and other expenses that go into educating the children of Texas. What makes this controversial is the debate among Texans on how best to provide for the education of Texas students.
The Texas Constitution under Article 7 Sec. 1. states “[a] general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” Funding education is not being debated, but how it gets funding is a different story. Perhaps the largest block of conservative Republicans that have already begun to voice concern over the provisions of Article 2 of SB8 is the Homeschooling community. The argument from some in this group (not all!) goes something like this: “You cannot trust the government to give money toward something and there not be strings attached. If homeschoolers who are completely unregulated take this money, then they can kiss their homeschooling liberty goodbye!”
Proponents of the Bill point to the hundreds of thousands if not millions of students who come from either poor or low income families, whose parents work and are unable to afford private school, or do not have the luxury of homeschooling are trapped in a failing system that costs the tax payer a tremendous amount of money with little to no actual education to show for it after 13 years of public school.
Whichever camp (if any) you happen to fall in, it has never been the object of this County Chairman to tell you what to do, or what to think. As Republicans we hold the view that the individual is sacred, and a thinking creature capable of self-government. There is no debate that the public school system nationwide, and yes, even in Texas (#statetakeoverHISD) is failing. What we have here is an opportunity to fix that and protect people’s liberty. Is SB8 perfect legislation? No, most assuredly not! Yet, it is still just a bill, and is capable of being amended. What SB8 is in its current state is a very good framework, that can be improved upon. Call Senator Creighton, and if you have suggestions on how to improve it, make them known. But understand that as Jefferson said, “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”
Our schools are failing, and the Republican Party has historically ceded the realm of education to the left. It is time that the Republican Party straps the important issue of education to our principles of liberty, virtue, and the pursuit of happiness for the good life of our students and therefore our republic.