Texans: Standing Up for Their Students and Public Schools

Bruce Lesley
Voices4Kids
Published in
6 min readDec 21, 2023

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Public schools, which were embraced after the Civil War as necessary to protect democracy and our republic, are under attack. Under the guise of “choice,” opponents of our public schools have embraced vouchers, which were formulated in the 1950s by segregationists who wanted to fund “segregation academies” to maintain separate systems of education for White and Black students.

Is it “a tell” that these opponents of public schools are also vocal opponents of “diversity, equity, and inclusion”? And if you oppose those things, can we surmise they favor “segregation, inequity, and exclusion”?

Frankly, it is quite clear that this, or something worse, is their agenda. They seek the outright destruction of public schools and have said so quite publicly.

Others don’t want to “destroy” public schools in the traditional sense of closing them down. Instead, the goal of Dominionists in North Texas, for example, is to take them over with the purpose of spreading “White Christian Nationalism” and the “7 Mountains” (NOTE: the preacher misspells “religion”).

Source: Christopher Tackett’s YouTube channel

The vast majority of Texans are the products of public schools and have a deep appreciation for their teachers, librarians, counselors, and coaches. They are also respectful of all the educators who dedicate their careers and lives to helping teach and inspire the next generation.

Consequently, Texans are fiercely loyal to their public schools, which serve as the bedrock of communities and neighborhoods all across the Lone Star State. Travel to any community on “game night” (aka, Friday Night Lights) and you will find Texans wearing their school color, singing their school songs, and cheering on their school teams, bands, and other students.

Although politicians like Betsy DeVos, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and Ted Cruz love to hate on public schools, they rarely — if ever — set foot inside of one. They have zero understanding of the work that educators, which includes everybody from the bus drivers to the principal, do on a daily basis. Educators are dedicated to educating and managing hundreds of students on school campuses across this country daily. The vast majority spend money out of their own pockets to provide books and school supplies for their students and classrooms.

And sadly, they even put their lives on the line to protect children.

Texans get it and most are immensely grateful for their teachers and the jobs they do. Last week they let their lawmakers know it.

Despite massive amounts of money flowing from billionaires and special interests in support of vouchers and Governor Abbott’s bizarre tactics of holding hostage all public school funding for 5.4 million students to extort support for his voucher scam, Texans said no.

In the fourth special session, Team Abbott took their shot and the Texas House of Representatives handed him and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick a resounding 84–63 defeat on the House floor.

Texans heard the evidence that vouchers siphoned money away from public schools in Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Ohio and decided it was not for them. Texans oppose efforts to strip public schools of their funding and support.

Texas is a “limited government” state with no state income tax, and so Texans rejected what they saw in other states, which was rampant waste, fraud, and abuse with their voucher programs. Florida taxpayers are paying for other families to buy tickets to Disneyworld, Game Station devices, paddleboards, or whatever those parents want to buy.

In Ohio, there is a scandal of neo-Nazi Ohio homeschoolers who were distributing “Dissident Homeschool” curriculum to over 2,000 subscribers.

Texans also heard the evidence loud and clear that vouchers have resulted in pathetic student outcomes. The people I know in Texas are already upset that their state has the highest uninsured rate for children in the country, lead the nation in book bans, ranks 40th in state expenditures on public schools, and ranks 45th in child well-being.

Texans are frugal people who want to see an investment agenda focusing on the fundamental needs of children rather than on a voucher system that has proven to worsen student outcomes in state after state.

Or, as Molly Ivins used to say:

The first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.

It is important to highlight that nobody is saying they are against parents homeschooling their children or sending their children to private schools. What Texans are against is being asked to pay for vouchers, which they realize will flow overwhelmingly to:

  • The wealthiest Texans who already send their kids to private schools;
  • Outside vendors who want nothing more than to game the system for their benefit; and,
  • Private schools, which are the only ones that truly have choice (e.g., the choice to take or reject students as they desire and the choice of what services and education they decide to offer).

Texans are not fooled. They see the money flowing into the campaign coffers of Texas’s elected officials in support of the voucher scam and see it for what it is: another way to enrich the wealthy and well-to-do. They are standing up and telling politicians they have had enough.

Again, to quote Molly Ivins:

Bad policies, stupid policies, gutless politics have real consequences.

Most Texans are too busy worrying about work, paying bills, and their families. Politicians in the state have long counted on people being unaware of what they are up to. But they understand that, once you destroy a cherished resource and sell off its parts, it is hell to get it back. Texans have stood up and spoken in defense of their public schools. It is time for Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick to do their jobs and finally:

  • Fund Texas’s public schools and help the 5.4 million children they serve;
  • Restore health coverage to the hundreds of thousands of children they have kicked off of coverage;
  • Address the rising infant and child mortality rates plaguing the state and the country;
  • Fix Texas’s horrible child welfare system, which is failing the state’s most vulnerable children; and,
  • Stop pushing children who are desperately seeking asylum back into the Rio Grande.

Children have long been victims in Greg Abbott’s Texas. It is well past time that he do better by them or get out of the way and allow a new generation of leaders to embark on a vision that would take the Lone Star State and its children to a much better place.

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If you are someone concerned about helping to ensure that children and their needs, concerns, and best interests are no longer ignored by policymakers, please join First Focus on Children as an “Ambassador for Children”.

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Bruce Lesley
Voices4Kids

@BruceLesley — President of @First_Focus & @Campaign4Kids. Child advocate, husband & father of 4. Basketball fanatic. Follow on Twitter: @BruceLesley.