Texas PTA pushes for education to be bigger priority; push back against Abbott's school voucher plan

Nearly 2,000 students, parents and teachers crowded the South Lawn of the Texas Capitol for Rally Day, organized by the Texas PTA.

"Let’s put some money where our mouth is," said Suzi Kannon, as she addressed the crowd.

"We have to have a bipartisan effort, because kids aren’t Republican or Democrat," said Republican State Rep. Ken King of Canadian.

The Texas PTA and students themselves lobbied for a host of legislative priorities.

"I'd say the biggest one right now is public school funding and making sure that we are fully funding what our students need," said Kannon.

This session there’s a bill that would increase per-student funding, and another to fund schools based on enrollment as opposed to attendance.

"It takes more resources not less to deal with absences in our schools," said Democratic State Rep. Gina Hinojosa of Austin.

Also front and center: addressing the teacher shortage.

"My junior in high school didn’t get a science teacher," said Hinojosa.

"I met a teacher the other day who told me he does Doordash," said Democratic State Sen. Jose Menendez of San Antonio.

State Rep. James Talarico of Round Rock is proposing a $15,000 pay raise for teachers, something the PTA says is desperately needed.

"I think it's the most dire we've ever seen it," said Kannon.

One of the major agenda items for the PTA at the Texas Capitol is voicing opposition to the school choice voucher program that’s being pushed by Gov. Greg Abbott

"The only way they can pass these voucher scams is if they divide us," said Talarico. "We will not be divided."

The Republican-led plan would give parents money through "education savings accounts" to send their children to private school.

"Once you pull that away from our students, and they go to a private school, that accountability is not there," said Kennon. "Class sizes get bigger and all the same overhead exists, and it just takes money away from an already severely under-resourced education system."

But Abbott pushed back on that argument on Sunday’s Texas: The Issue Is saying vouchers have worked well in other states, and give parents more options in their child’s education.

"Some people say, ‘well, this is going to cause schools to shut down’ or something like that. That's very uninformed because we’ve seen more than 350,000 students leave public schools and go to charter schools, but we haven't seen public schools close down, and we certainly haven't seen any effect on high school football," said Abbott.