Texas Legislature proposes parental rights amendments

The Texas State Senate passed two constitutional amendments related to parental rights. They are now pending before the House. If approved by the House, they would appear on the ballot for Nov. 7, 2023.

Senate Joint Resolution 29 would provide a state constitutional right for parents or legal guardians to direct their children’s education, including choosing an alternative to public school, accessing public school teaching materials, attending school board meetings, and accessing the child’s student health records. It passed the Senate on April 19 by a vote of 21-10 with two Democrats joining the Republican majority to meet the two-thirds vote requirement. The author of the amendment is Sen. Angela Paxton (R-8). 

In the author’s statement of intent included with the resolution text, Paxton said, “In choosing professional educators to facilitate their child’s education, parents do not cede their right to educate their child. Therefore, the right for parents to be the ultimate decider of their child’s education should be enumerated in the Texas Constitution.”

The Texas NAACP, Texas American Federation of Teachers, Intercultural Development Research Association, Texas AFL-CIO, and Texas State Teachers Association registered in opposition to the amendment.

The other amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 70, would establish a right for parents or legal guardians “to exercise care, custody, and control of the parent’s child and to make decisions for the upbringing of the parent’s child, including but not limited to decisions regarding the education, moral and religious training, and health care of the child.” It passed the Senate on April 19 by a vote of 28-3 with all but three Democrats voting in favor of the amendment. The author of the amendment was Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-1).

Sen. Hughes said, “The goal of S.J.R. 70 is to ensure the longevity of these rights by taking them from case law, which can change or go away at any time, and adding them to the Texas Constitution, and to provide clarity for attorneys, local judges, and parents.”

Texas PTA registered in opposition to the amendment.

Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate, assuming no vacancies.

During the 2023 legislative session, 295 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature for the 2023 ballot. As of April 27, one passed both legislative chambers and was certified for the ballot.