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Government/Politics

Lt. Gov.’s Handpicked Committee Lambasts Gov. Abbott’s Pre-K Plan

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Ryan E. Poppe

A group of private citizens personally selected by Texas’ Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, is crying foul on potential legislation that would expand Pre-Kindergarten classes in the state, going as far as to dub it “Godless” and a “threat” to parents across Texas.

These are bills that started out as a campaign promise for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and were later deemed a legislative priority at the start of the session, legislation that the members of the Lt. Gov.’s grassroots advisory board called a “threat to parental rights.” 

In a letter, the group wrote: “We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young people from homes and half-day religious preschools to a Godless environment showing absolutely NO LONG TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade.” 

They also expressed concern that the bills would lead to a universal mandatory Pre-K program for all school districts.

Kingwood Republican Rep. Dan Huberty, the author of the House version of the bill, said he allowed for coordination with other programs important to parents. “As an example, in Humble ISD, the district I represent, they can coordinate with “Mother’s-day-out” programs and everything else. All our bill did was, we’re already spending $1.7 billion dollars a year on Pre-K. We’re adding additional funding to allow them to see what’s the benefit of the program, how is it working,” Huberty explained.

Under the bill, an additional $130 million to school districts implementing an expanded Pre-K plan, including better standards and parent engagement programs.

He said that unfortunately, none of Patrick’s advisors reached out to his office to enquire about the bill, passed by an overwhelming 129-18 majority in the House on April 8 this year, or another filed by Laredo Democrat Judith Zaffirini in the Senate. 

In response to these comments, the Lt. Gov. wrote: “The letter was an unsolicited response expressed by individual Texans.” He did not indicate whether he shared his advisory board’s view on this session’s Pre-K legislation, or not. 

In response to the panel’s statement, Amelia Chasse, with the Gov.’s Office, said Gov. Abbott’s Pre-K initiative was a conservative antidote to ineffective pre-existing Pre-K programs.

In a written statement, she said, “The governor’s plan adds accountability, implements high-quality education standards, gives parents and teachers the freedom to determine how best to educate their students and helps schools avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. It will ensure tax dollars are used more effectively and reduce the $1.7 billion in tax dollars spent on remediation education programs.”

Huberty’s legislation has been sitting on the Lt. Governor’s desk for consideration in the Senate for over a week. The Senate version of the bill — the chamber is controlled by the Lt. Gov. — remains stuck in committee.