AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT)- Thursday evening, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was in Amarillo speaking at the Parent Empowerment Coalition’s Parent Empowerment Night, advocating for school choice.

“The issue tonight is freedom, the freedom of parents to choose what is best for their child,” said Abbott. “That is why we’re gathering here tonight.”

Before Abbott spoke those in attendance heard from parents with children attending San Jacinto Christian Academy along with the school’s superintendent, discussing the importance of private schools and parents having a choice in where their child attends school.

Rural school districts like those in the Texas Panhandle aren’t all in favor of school choice due to the potential impact it could have on public school funding. Currently Texas only funds schools based on the number of students enrolled.

Panhandle Independent School District Superintendent Blair Brown is one educator not in favor of school choice.

“We already have school choice in the state of Texas, our students are able to go to public schools, they’re able to transfer between public schools, they can go to private schools, they can go to state sponsored charter schools,” said Brown. “What we’re really talking about is do you support taxpayer money going to private entities without any accountability or any transparency.”

During the event Abbott boasted about how he has given more money to public school education and teacher pay raises than any other governor the state has had, and that’s something he plans to continue to do.

“The good news, if there’s any public educators out there, this legislative session we will use billions of dollars more to provide even more funding for public education and teacher funding this legislative session,” stated Abbott.”

However, during a “Raise Your Hand Texas” press conference on Wednesday local education advocates talked about how schools are currently underfunded.

“Texas under funds its schools by $4,000 per student, Texas ranks 48 in education funding,” said Anette Carlisle, Former AISD School board member. “Texas underpays its teachers, the teachers who work to make every student successful.”

During the 88th legislative session Abbott is hoping to pass legislation that would create an education savings account, that uses taxpayer money to cover the cost of tuition for parents who want to send their children to private schools.

“What we want to do is expand that program to empower every parent to choose the school that is best for their child that is their right,” stated Abbott.

According to Abbott the money will cover the full cost of tuition at private or charter schools. During this session Abbott is also pushing to pass a rental bill of rights that gives parents more power.

Abbott continued, “No one knows what is better for their own child’s success than their parents. It just makes sense and when it comes to education parents’ matter. It’s that simple. Parents deserve education freedom. Without that education freedom, parents are hindered in being able to help their own child succeed.”

But some rural educators see school choice as nothing more than vouchers that takes money away from public education.

“The governor’s plan to steal tax dollars from public schools to fund the voucher scheme will hurt Texas and Texas children,” stated Carlisle. “Keep public tax dollars in Texas public schools.”

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