Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) is coming under fire from the advisers of incoming Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) who insist that a bipartisan effort to improve the state's preschool and kindergarten programs represents a "socialist" attempt to expose children to a "Godless environment," MSNBC's Steve Benen reports.
During his campaign, Gov. Abbott promised to push hard for state-funded preschool programs, claiming that years of cuts had led to Texas students being behind their peers in other states from the get-go. Democrats like state Representative Justin Rodriguez agreed, telling the San Antonio Express-News' Maria Luisa Cesar that "I think we're getting past the point where we have to convince folks of the importance of pre-K."
The only issue, Rep. Rodriguez said, would be who exactly would pay for the program. Advisers for newly elected Lt. Gov. Patrick -- who represented themselves as a "grassroots advisory" committee -- clearly indicated that they do not believe it should be the tax payers.
"We are experimenting," they wrote, "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."
Any attempt to institute a program, be it initiated by Democrats in the state legislature or Republicans from the governor's office, would be considered "interference by the state" -- a "trampling" of parental rights. "The early removal of children from parents' care is historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights."
Lt. Gov. Patrick did not respond directly, but his spokesman, Alejandro Garcia, told the Associated Press that "the letter in question was unsolicited and expresses the individual viewpoints of Texas citizens" -- even if those citizens do work as advisers to Lt. Gov. Patrick.
As for the governor, his spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said that Gov. Abbott's plan is "a conservative antidote to ineffective pre-K programs" and not, as the "grassroots" letter suggested, an attempt to indoctrinate impressionable children into a secular, socialist ideology.