Whose child or family is Gov. Greg Abbott going to terrorize next?
First, he attacked transgender children and their families by ordering state investigations, which could lead to prosecution, for families that provide gender-affirming treatment for their kids. These are some of the same kids, not so incidentally, whom Abbott and his legislative cronies already had kicked off their school sports teams.
The governor’s order to investigate families over private family health care decisions was based on a non-binding and politically motivated “legal” opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton that gender-affirming care could be considered a form of child abuse. The real child abuse in this instance, however, was committed by Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton.
Now, Abbott is attacking undocumented migrant children by threatening to cut off their life-changing public educations, the difference for many kids between a lifetime of poverty and real opportunity. This is shameful and is also a form of child abuse.
Forty years ago, in issuing its decision in Plyler vs Doe, a landmark case from Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the importance of giving all our children, regardless of immigration status, access to a free public education. The court decision nullified a state law that had allowed Texas districts to refuse admission to undocumented children or charge them tuition, which their families couldn’t afford to pay.
Last week, Abbott, in an interview with a right-wing radio host, suggested the state of Texas should try to get the current Supreme Court to overturn this decision, just as the high court seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, another longstanding landmark case from Texas that affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion.
After the governor’s radio comments created an uproar, he has since said the federal government should pay for the costs of educating undocumented immigrant children. But he didn’t completely back off his original statement.
Let’s be clear. Migrant families, including undocumented families, pay their fair share of school taxes. They pay sales and gasoline taxes like everyone else, and when they pay their rent, they are helping their landlords pay their school property taxes. They and their children are not getting a free ride.
Instead of blaming migrant kids and President Biden for Texas’ school budgetary problems, the governor should look in the mirror. He and the legislative majority are to blame for under-funded public schools. During the 2020-21 school year, the state of Texas spent, on average, more than $4,000 less per student in average daily attendance than the national average. This was only two years after the Legislature enacted House Bill 3, the 2019 school finance law that had boosted school funding but just shows how far Texas still has to go in making public education a real priority for every child.
It is sad that the governor of Texas thinks he can win votes for reelection by bullying vulnerable children and their families. It is sadder still that he probably will, unless more voters suddenly find their own kids and families under attack from Austin because the governor found another group of kids to pick on for some political reason.