Dear Anita Bryant,
Dear Governor Abbott,

After hearing about how you want to end the presence of transgender and gender non-conforming teachers in Texas, I hope you can understand my confusion about who was saying that. We are of the same generation – albeit you are ten years my senior – so I’m thinking you’ll remember Anita. However, as a straight, upstanding, Christian man, you may not. After all, her opposition to queer rights in the 70s didn’t really affect you.

Or perhaps you look to her “Save Our Children” campaign as a model for what you’re hoping to achieve in Texas, although she was more focused on rolling back queer rights more than keeping teachers from educating children. You could do better by focusing on The Briggs Initiative from 1978 that would have banned gay and lesbian teachers from teaching in California schools. I’m certain in the nearly 50 years since that campaign, anti-queer organizations have learned a thing or two to make your goals a success. I’m sure your friends at Alliance Defending Freedom could give you some tips.

But being the Governor of a state in the bottom rungs of education (Texas ranked 41st in 2023, in case you were unaware), you would do better to retain as many teachers as possible. Or is running as many public educators as possible out of the profession the real goal? We know how much effort you put into getting school vouchers – aka taxpayer money/public school funds – passed by the state legislature. I suppose that’s easier to do when you’ve dismantled the public school system.

If you were truly concerned about teachers being able to teach, you would encourage legislators in Texas to properly fund schools versus finding ways to take money and resources away. Instead, you would rather focus on making sure students are unable to learn about history or read about Black and queer experiences. For a state with such a low ranking in education (not to mention healthcare), some effort should be expended to improve how we educate children.

The other option could be to see what else you are capable of doing to drive our education scores down. I have no doubt with some extra effort, we could overtake some of our neighboring states, like Oklahoma (45th), Arkansas (47th), or Louisiana (48th). And I have no doubt Mississippi (49th) and West Virginia (50th) would be happy to swap places.

After hearing about your speech to the Young Conservatives of Texas, I am reminded how conservatives push the belief that having a queer educator in the classroom is going to “indoctrinate” students. Or in the latest vernacular “trans” a student. Mostly because I can remember someone saying that if teachers had that kind of influence, there would be a lot more priests and nuns. Because Catholic school teachers certainly never pushed a particular belief on their students.

And if you were truly concerned about what was happening to students or children in general, you would be riding leaders in the state foster care system to fix the ongoing problems with investigations into abuse and housing issues. But making sure transgender and non-conforming teachers cannot teach is the better option here. After all, you can’t score cheap political points on repairing the foster care system.

So how about you allow teachers to just teach? And accept that they aren’t concerned about indoctrinating children, but more about having students show up, engage with what’s being taught, and learn about all of society and history.
Getting rid of teachers isn’t going to make this a better state for education. Even if doing so gives you more conservative street cred. Your political goals are not going to matter when Texas hits the bottom of the education barrel.