It has been a long year of legislative sessions in Austin. Quite a lot has happened affecting homeschoolers, including major successes and some disappointments along the way.
Here is a 2017 legislative year recap of the regular and special sessions as they relate to the homeschool community.
2017 Regular Legislative Year in Review
THSC had the following priorities during the regular session from January to June:
- Defense: Stop all harmful bills affecting the rights of homeschoolers and parents
- CPS Reform: Pass the Parent-Child Protection Act
- Parental Rights Reform: Pass the Family Unity Act
- UIL participation: Pass the Tim Tebow Bill
The THSC Watchmen worked diligently to combat many threats that emerged against parental rights. Here are a few of the bills that our team stopped in the regular session:
- HB 39 (DEAD): This bill would have empowered CPS caseworkers to perform “fishing expeditions” prior to a 14-day adversary hearing. This would have allowed caseworkers to attempt to create evidence justifying an otherwise unjustified removal of a child from the parents’ home. The bill also would have given CPS the power to consent to non-emergency medical treatments for a child prior to a determination that the removal was justified.
- HB 1549 (DEAD): This bill would have created a system where CPS could make regular monthly visits to the homes of entirely innocent families. CPS would have been allowed to make these visits if they believed the parents were “at risk” of committing abuse or being neglectful at some point in the future.
- HB 2866 (DEAD): This bill would have granted extensive power to CPS to overrule the authority of parents during abuse/neglect investigations. This included a requirement that CPS conduct invasive psychological assessments of every child they removed from a home without a court hearing and without any consent from the child’s parents.
In total during the regular session, the Watchmen stopped, or fixed 35 bills that would have harmed parental rights.
THSC Tackles CPS Reform During Legislative Season
One of the biggest issues during the 2017 legislative year was CPS reform. This was THSC’s top priority issue during the regular session due to the high number of instances in recent years where CPS failed to respect the rights of parents.
Because of the efforts of the THSC Watchmen and support from the homeschool community, nine important CPS reforms passed!
Your support of the THSC Watchmen during the regular legislative session allowed us to:
- Identify and track 270 bills affecting parental rights.
- Stop or help prevent 21 bills that specifically threatened parental rights.
- Successfully amend and fix 14 bills that threatened parental rights.
- Pass nine CPS reforms that will protect parents and children from government overreach.
Sadly, both the Family Unity Act and the Tim Tebow Bill failed to pass. The Family Unity Act was blocked by Sen. Joan Huffman in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Senator Huffman has a track record of opposing the rights of parents.
The Tim Tebow Bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly. Unfortunately, the bill died in the House Public Education Committee, where leaders of the House have placed many legislators who oppose giving parents greater control over their children’s educations.
2017 Special Legislative Session Recap
After the regular session ended without passage of a number of important bills, Governor Abbott called the legislature back to Austin for a special session that lasted from July 18 to August 16.
During this time, the THSC Policy team fought for key reforms to benefit homeschoolers and parental rights. These are the issues THSC worked on during the special session:
- Do Not Resuscitate Reform: Protect parental rights in hospital and end-of-life situations.
- Texas Privacy Act: Protect parental rights over a child’s exposure to unsafe and compromising gender neutral showers/locker rooms.
- School Choice for Special Needs Students: Create a privately funded school choice program to increase educational choices for special needs families.
Of these three bills, the DNR Reform Bill (SB 11) successfully passed despite opposition from the predominantly liberal House leadership. This bill will close a loophole in Texas law that allows doctors and hospitals to deny life-sustaining treatment against the wishes of a parent.
Unfortunately, the other two bills were blocked by House leadership and failed to pass. Despite many conservative reforms blocked during the regular and special sessions, there was a silver lining.
The results from the 2017 legislative year made it clear that the primary obstruction to conservative, pro-parental rights, pro-homeschool legislation is Speaker of the House Joe Straus and his leadership team.
This clear line between conservative and liberal Republicans has set the stage for the next election where we have the chance to elect true conservatives to the Texas legislature. THSC will return to the fight for the primary elections in the spring to hold legislators accountable for their actions.
Stay tuned for future developments in this ongoing battle! If Governor Abbott decides to call a second special session, the THSC team will return to Austin once again. Whether this occurs or not, we plan to fight for homeschoolers in the next election cycle to help elect pro-homeschool, pro-family legislators to our state government.
How Can You Help After the 2017 Legislative Year?
As you know, advocating for homeschoolers requires a lot of resources. If you care about the issues that we are facing today and would like to help, please consider making a donation to THSC’s legislative fund.
Your contribution will go a long way toward protecting homeschoolers and parental rights well beyond the 2017 legislative year. Thank you for continuing to partner with THSC as we join together Keeping Texas Families Free!