Mar 22, 2023

Gov. Abbott Delivers Remarks During ‘Parent Empowerment Day’ at Texas Capitol Transcript

Gov. Abbott Delivers Remarks During 'Parent Empowerment Day' at Texas Capitol Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsGreg AbbottGov. Abbott Delivers Remarks During ‘Parent Empowerment Day’ at Texas Capitol Transcript

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. Read the transcript here.

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Roxanne (00:00):

Principal, I am now superintendent of San Jacinto Christian Academy in Amarillo, Texas. So literally a year ago today, I left the public school to start my career journey at San Jacinto Christian Academy in Amarillo. What brought me there? Well, I never thought that I would ever be in private school because public school was my mission field. But after having two children of my own, I knew I wanted them to attend private school education, but I lived in Dallas. And so when I lived in Dallas, I can’t afford a college education for 13 years. I knew that I had to be able to continue to keep my kids with me as I served in the public school. Went and visited the school that I’m now at in Amarillo, and my eyes were just wide open. I didn’t think that I needed a choice until I had a choice, until the choice was in front of me. I never was given the choice, so I didn’t think I needed it. I stayed with a choice that was put in front of me.

And so I finally got the choice by being employed. That was the only way I was going to afford it, was to go and serve in the private school in Amarillo, Texas, 300 miles away. And that is not fair for all of our students who are in every single situation, whether it’s homeschool, charter, public, or private, every child has to have the support they need in order to get the education they deserve. So basically, we say all means all in public school, but we don’t really mean that if you’re not in our system. We only mean that if you come to our schools. But if you’re in homeschool or if you’re at a charter school or you’re at a private school, you’re on your own. Well, that’s not all means all. All means all means we’re going to support every student no matter where they are in order for them to receive a high quality education.

But as an administrator leaving the public school to the private school, I realized I had to de-indoctrinate myself. I didn’t realize that I was indoctrinated. I didn’t realize that I had gone to an all stakes all test mentality, until I was able to open the door to a private school that allowed for a variety of different learning experiences. And so when I got to see that and I wasn’t told, “Hey, you can’t discipline a kid because of disproportionality. Oh, you can’t do that. We’re just going to suspend them.” Or, “Well, for special need student, we need to give them the Cadillac of education, not the Rolls-Royce, Roxanne.” That’s when I knew every single time it would just whittle away at my idea of what is best for every kid.

And so I know the realities of being an administrator, a parent, and a teacher, and even just changing that one size fits all teaching and getting to go to the private school and seeing different projects and different learning, and actually we’re the Patriots and so we celebrate Veterans Day. And so what a welcome to my life. I’m here for all of you because I understand where you go to school in your neighborhoods, if you go to a public school, but I also know what the struggle was to be able to be a private school parent. And so we just thank you so much for being here and thank you to Governor Abbott for all he’s done for school choice.

Speaker 2 (03:41):

Thank you Roxanne. Please welcome Chairman James Frank. One of the many champions standing in the legislature. Chairman Frank, have the courage and the audacity to stand up and say, we will fight for every single child. Universal ESAs means every single child. Please welcome Chairman Frank.

Chairman James Frank (04:08):

Thank you. And thank y’all for being here today. It is my pleasure to introduce somebody who doesn’t need much introduction, but I’m going to do it anyway. Governor Greg Abbott has fought hard for Texas children during his many years of service and many different capacities in the state. As a father himself, certainly worked with his daughter Audrey on homework. I knew that he was married to an amazing lady, what I didn’t know is she was also a teacher and a principal. And so he understands the need for a quality education, but he also understands the importance of parental involvement, as everybody here understands. We are the people that raise our kids and should be. The Governor has provided more funds for public education than any governor in history in the state of Texas. More money for teacher raises than any governor in the state of Texas. But he understands that money is not the only thing. Money is not the only thing. He is here today to continue to talk about educational freedom that our children need to be able to participate in the Texas of tomorrows. So y’all please welcome Governor Greg Abbott.

crowd (05:17):


Governor Abbott (05:17):


crowd (05:28):


Governor Abbott (05:30):

Give it up for James Frank, state representative who cares about our kids. We’re here for a singular purpose today, and that is to support the freedom of parents to educate their kids the way they see best. Parental empowerment is so important. We will not let a little rain dampen our spirits. We’re going to show up, we’re going to show out, and we are going to show the legislature exactly why it is so important that we empower parents to choose the education that’s best for their child. Let me help both you, as well as the legislature, understand where I’m coming from. I am a strong supporter of public schools in the state of Texas.

Listen, I went to public schools in Longview and Duncanville, Texas, and looking back, I would not have it any other way. I enjoyed my public school experience and so many students enjoy that same public school experience. Also, some of our public schools are doing extraordinarily well. Texas ranks number one in the United States for the most blue ribbon schools of any state in America. We have one of the highest high school graduation rates in the United States of America. And our teachers are doing so well that when you look at all the large states in the United States, Black students are performing number one in the United States on reading and math scores. We’re doing a good job in our education program

As James Frank was talking about, listen, my commitment to public education has existed throughout my tenure as your governor. That’s exactly why I have authorized more funding for public schools than any governor in the history of our great state. It’s also why I authorized more teacher pay raises than any governor in the history of our great state. As we gather here on the wet steps of the Capital grounds, per student funding in public education is at an all time high in the state of Texas. And let me be clear about something, this session in this Capital, we’re going to provide billions of dollars more for public education and increase teacher pay raises even more.

Listen, as James Frank said, more money does not always lead to better results. And more money does not solve the problems that some parents are facing with regard to their children in some of their schools. I’ve heard so many stories across the state of Texas about what’s going on. In fact, one of the stories I heard was when I was talking to a teacher who had been an educator in public schools for years. She loved her education experience in public schools. She wanted to stay in public schools, but there was a straw that broke the camel’s back that caused her to leave public schools and go to a private school. And that’s when she saw a history teacher use his position of teaching history to teach kids to despise and disrespect the flag of the United States of America.

crowd (09:11):


Governor Abbott (09:14):

Let me tell you something, we will not use your taxpayer dollars to teach our kids to hate the United States of America. I’ve also talked to parents who said, listen, they love their local public school, but the fact of the matter is their child had unique challenges and the school district was unable to meet the unique challenges of their kid. And this mother said what almost every parent says, and that is no one will fight for her children the way that she will. And that’s why we need to empower parents to be able to fight for their kids to achieve the best result for their kids.

But something else has happened. It was probably going on before Covid, but we saw it most prolifically during the time of Covid and in the aftermath of Covid, we saw astonishingly what some of our children were being taught. It could be in urban districts, it could be in suburban districts, and I got to tell you, it exists in rural districts also. Our children are being taught a radical woke agenda.

crowd (10:23):


Governor Abbott (10:26):

Listen, there’s no reason why any student should have a woke agenda pushed on them. Our schools are for education, not indoctrination. The solution to all of this, the solution to all of this is to empower parents to choose the school that’s right for them, and that’s what we will pass this legislative session here in Austin, Texas. There’s a lot of arguments against this, but I got to tell you, there are weaknesses in all of the arguments against this. The main argument, they say, “Well, if we pass, school choice is going to defund public schools and it’s going to lead to an end of high school football in the state of Texas.” Let me tell you something, it’s a repeat of the same arguments that we heard when charter schools begin in the state of Texas 25 years ago. That they said, “Well, charter schools will end public schools as we know it, and end Friday night lights as we know it.”

Both of those arguments prove wrong about charter schools. Both of those arguments are wrong as a concerned school choice because not only are we not going to defund schools, as we pointed out, we are actually adding more money to schools than ever before. So get this, since I became your governor, the number of students attending charter schools have just about doubled. And despite the fact that those charter school students have doubled in number, we’ve added significantly more money for our public schools. And just like charter schools did not defund public schools, neither will school choice in the state of Texas. And let’s be honest, is there anybody here who saw high school football this last year? It’s doing great. High school football has never been better. My high school football team won the state championship this past year and things are going great in high school football.

Listen, another argument is that school choice doesn’t really lead to better results. If you look at one study, perhaps that’s the case, but the fact of the matter is in state, after state, after state, what we’ve seen is wherever school choice is used, public education improves. We have have a goal, which we should have, our collective goal here in the state of Texas is to make sure that all of our students are doing better. If we want all of our students to do better, and if we replicate it in Texas what has been successfully achieved in other states, when we use school choice in Texas, the students who choose school choice will do better, but also the public schools they leave from will do better. Also, all of Texas students will be doing better with their robust school choice program in the state of Texas.

So two things. One is, what is it that you need to do? What is it that you need to get your friends and family members and people back home to do? You need to understand that there are people, as we speak this moment right now, who get paid for a living to go inside this Capital and to lobby legislators to keep the status quo. Do not employ school choice. Do not change the way things are because it will annihilate education as we know it. They get paid for doing that. They’re paid to show up every single day. Some of them are getting paid with your taxpayer dollars, by the way.

crowd (14:31):


Governor Abbott (14:34):

But you know whose voice matters the most? It’s not these lobbyists who get paid, your voice matters the most. That’s why we need you to show up, not just today, but show up every single day and make sure your voice is heard. Let me tell you the way this process works. Whether you’re standing in the rain or inside the halls or in your own home, it takes five minutes of your time and that’s all, to change the world. You need to call your state representative, your state senator and let them know you support school choice in the state of Texas.

And listen, we know this is incredibly popular because if you lend your voice to it, you’ll be with the majority of Texas. Because if you’re a Republican, a democrat, or an Independent, large majorities of all three of those categories support school choice in the state of Texas. If you’re Black, if you’re White, if you’re Hispanic, if you’re Asian American, large majorities of all of those four categories strongly support school choice in the state of Texas. If you live in an urban area, a suburban area, or a rural area of the state of Texas, large majorities support school of choice in the state of Texas. Make your voice heard.

Last thing. As compelling as it is to empower parents to choose the education pathway that’s best for their child, this is an enormous challenge that we have. Anytime you implement anything new, it’s an effort. And we need to understand the magnitude of the challenge. Understand a little bit about facing challenges and overcoming challenges. Many of you know that when I was 26 years old, I was walking and standing just like everybody in front of me. But one day I went out for a jog. That day when I went out for a jog, a massive oak tree crashed down onto my back, fractured my vertebrae and my spinal cord, leaving me immediately and permanently paralyzed for the rest of my life. That’s a challenge.

I could have remained in bed. I could assault and stayed at home. I could have said, this is such an enormous challenge, I’m never going to be able to recover from it. Never going to be able to have a successful life. I could have been depressed. But instead I said, “I will not allow my life to to be determined by this challenge. Instead, my life will be determined by the way that I respond to this challenge.” And it was after that accident that I went on to become the longest serving attorney general in the history of our state and now the governor of the great state of Texas. What we all face in this state is one of the most enormous challenges of our time. We need to do a better job of educating our children. That’s on all of us, not just me, not just these legislators. It’s on you and every Texan. And we are up to this challenge. We will beat this challenge.

But the only way we’ll do it, you need to know this very important fact, I cannot win this fight alone. I need you standing with me, fighting with me on this challenge. And when you stand and fight with me, we are going to win. We’re going to change the education in Texas, and the children will be the beneficiaries with a better education product in Texas, and the children will rise up because you are going to rise up and fight with me. God bless you all and God bless the great state of Texas.

Speaker 2 (19:31):

Let’s give it up for Governor Abbott. Parents, Governor Abbott’s vision for Texas is clear. Every single parent must make the choice, not dictated by the street they live on or their zip code, but the choice of where to send their child. Parent empowerment is how we-

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