Texas Gov. Greg Abbott debuted his proposal for a so-called Parental Bill of Rights last week that would give parents more power to control school curricula, suppress teachings they don’t like and punish educators whose lesson plans offend them.
The plan is aligned with attempts in Texas and other Republican-led states to strip and prohibit lessons about inequality from classrooms. Florida — which is quickly becoming a cesspool for far-fetched, conservative legal experiments — passed its own Parents' Bill of Rights focused on education last year.
Abbott's proposal “will amend the Texas Constitution to make clear that parents are the primary decision-makers in all matters involving their children,” the governor said during a news conference Thursday.
What will that intentionally vague statement mean in reality?
Under the new plan, any education personnel found to have provided students with "obscene content" would be stripped of their licensing and state credentials, forfeit their retirement benefits and be placed on a "do not hire" list, Abbott said.
Before you ask: Yes, the standard for “obscenity” in Texas is also quite vague.
Late last year, for example, a Republican lawmaker in Texas targeted around 800 books for potential removal from school libraries, prompting one school district to pull roughly 400 of them. The books touched on a variety of topics, including racial and gender inequality, sexual orientation and abortion.
As NBC News reported at the time, the list included several well-known and lauded books, such as “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron and “The Cider House Rules” by John Irving.
During his news conference, Abbott said his plan would let parents decide whether their child will repeat a course or grade level rather than leaving the decision solely to the school district. The plan would also prohibit the sharing or selling of students’ information outside the Texas public education system, he said.
Abbott is running for re-election this year and will need to overcome multiple primary opponents to get on the ticket. That, in part, explains his laser focus on conservative issues like ending race- and gender-conscious lesson plans, curbing abortion access and enacting voter suppression measures.
His so-called Parental Bill of Rights should be seen for what it is: a political ploy that threatens teachers with termination and financial hardship for not abiding by conservatives’ whitewashed view of the world.
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