Texas' Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has proposed spending more money for existing half-day pre-K schooling to serve children who come from low-income families, military households and children who are learning English.
Democrats and education groups don't believe the additional funds are enough, but some advisers to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican with a big tea party following, claim the pre-K program is socialist and keeps kids in a "Godless environment," reports The Associated Press.
Patrick created a "grassroots advisory" board made up of "18 hand-picked tea party consultants" in January.
The advisers wrote in their letter to lawmakers:
"We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers' day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade.
"...This interference by the state tramples upon our parental rights. The early removal of children from parents' care is historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights."
In his State of the State address in February, Abbott called pre-K one of his emergency items for lawmakers to move on, and said, "We must improve early education."
The Texas House passed House Bill 4 earlier this month to increase funding for pre-K, but the Texas Senate, which Patrick controls, did not address the issue until April 23 when Patrick referred the pre-K bill to a committee, after rumors of a possible rift between Abbott and Patrick.
According to KHOU News, Patrick said:
"I look forward to working with the Senators, the House and the Governor in the coming weeks to create a comprehensive package that includes A-F, parent trigger, opportunity districts, online learning, school choice and a pre-K program that's good for Texas. Together, these bills will have a positive impact on education in Texas."