Governor Perry and Parental Rights

Many of my out-of-state friends have asked my opinion of Governor Perry since he has made such a dramatic entrance into the race for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. Since the attack on his conservative credentials has recently focused on what I would consider his position on parental rights, I thought I should give my opinion of him and his record in that regard.

I have known Governor Perry for many years, both professionally and personally. While I have not always agreed with him, he has been the strongest supporter of home schooling and parental rights that we have had in the governor’s office in the 25 years that I have been involved in battling to protect the right of parents to homeschool and to make decisions for their children.

In 2005, during a time when there was a public outcry to increase the funding and number of CPS workers to deal with some high-profile child deaths, Governor Perry responded to home school parents’ complaints that CPS was targeting home school families and harassing them–on the basis of anonymous complaints–simply because they choose to teach their children at home. He personally directed his staff to get me an audience with the new commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services. At the governor’s direction the commissioner adopted a policy, which is still in place today, to clarify that whether or not a family homeschooled was not relevant to CPS investigations of abuse or neglect. There was no political benefit to the governor for taking this position, and it was clear to us that this was a matter of supporting innocent parents and families.

In 2009 he vetoed SB 1440 because it dramatically undermined parental rights and gave broad new power to CPS to remove children from their homes. He was pilloried in the media for this action but praised by parental rights activists in Texas and across the country. That same year he spoke at the THSC Parental Rights Rally at the Capitol and strongly supported our efforts that year and this year to pass the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act.

Because of his strong record on parental rights and home schooling, THSC PAC endorsed him for reelection in the Republican primary in 2010. In that race his conservative credentials were challenged by one opponent, and he was called too conservative by the other. In fact, the “conventional wisdom” was that if the primary turnout was high he would be defeated by his more moderate challenger. Instead he won a resounding victory against both a sitting US senator and a challenger from the right.

In the general election his Democratic opponent made the argument for requiring the registration of students withdrawing from public school to homeschool, which is something that Governor Perry has steadfastly opposed. He won that election handily.

I defend the right of parents in Texas to homeschool without government intervention or oversight frequently, and my argument focuses on the constitutional, fundamental right of parents to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children. Governor Perry’s HPV decision was a mistake that he regrets and an aberration in his long record of supporting parents in the ongoing battle against those who believe that the government should make decisions for children over the opinion of fit parents.