Abbott commentary: Texas’ greatness depends on our students

Over the centuries, Texas has forged its own path to emerge as America’s leader in economic growth, industry, and innovation while preserving the personal freedoms that make our state legendary. When I became Governor in 2015, I set out with a vision for an even greater future for all Texans that would be achieved through the world-class education of our students. Lawmakers this session have the opportunity to ensure all Texas students, regardless of zip code or family means, can live up to their highest potential and together keep our state’s future rich with possibilities.

Leading the nation with the most National Blue Ribbon Schools, nine of America’s top 100 public high schools, and one of the nation’s best high school graduation rates, many students are already on their way to becoming successful entrepreneurs, innovators, and researchers who will keep Texas number one in advanced fields like aerospace and semiconductor manufacturing. As our diversified $2 trillion economy continues to advance, Texas students must be given specialized tools and instruction to grow and thrive with it.

Greg Abbott
Greg Abbott

Working with the legislature, I have provided more funding for public education and teacher pay raises than any Governor in Texas history. Through recent landmark school finance reforms, statewide perstudent funding is now at an all-time high. This session, we will allocate even more money for public education and teacher pay raises.

Despite tremendous strides in bolstering public education, it would be wrong to suggest that more money alone leads to better outcomes. In my travels across the state, parents express deep concerns about the quality and content of their child’s education. Some parents watched helplessly as their child struggled with imposed virtual learning. Many tell me they are angry about a school forcing their young child to wear a mask in the classroom. Some are parents to a child with special needs who is not receiving the attention that would help them excel. Others are appalled at woke political agendas and inappropriate content infiltrating classroom lessons and school libraries.

Parents must no longer be hindered in their ability to secure the best education for their child. I made education freedom an emergency item this legislative session because no one knows the needs of their child better than a parent. To ensure that, Texas must expand school choice through state-funded education savings accounts to all Texas students.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia currently offer school choice programs for parents to direct funding toward the most optimal learning environment for their child. Here in Texas, I created education savings accounts in 2021 that provides additional resources to parents of students with special needs. It has proven so overwhelmingly successful that a bipartisan super-majority passed it into law, and lawmakers are now proposing increased funding for it.

We continue to see parents’ eagerness for specialized resources to tailor their child’s education to their individual needs. A recent survey from the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs shows a majority of Texans, including minorities and those in rural communities, support protecting parents’ right to choose the best educational opportunities for their children. No matter what part of the state — rural, suburban, or urban — parents want options.

When charter schools first launched in Texas two decades ago, concerns were raised about the potential impact to public school funding, but those concerns never materialized. Instead, Texas public schools now receive more funding than ever, and more public schools continue to open across the state. Other states offering school choice further prove that giving parents options does not harm public schools but rather improves the overall quality of education through a competitive market.

With increased school funding and expanded school choice proposed this session, Texas is working toward a win-win situation of improving public schools while each student’s educational achievements flourish through customized learning options.

Texas is home to a unique, diverse population and families with equally diverse educational needs. This session, we will work to move past an outdated one-size-fits-all approach to learning so students from any background can be the best educated in the nation and carry our great state forward. It is time we work together to unleash the full potential of the young Texans of tomorrow.

This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Gov. Abbott: Texas’ greatness depends on our students