DALLAS, Texas (NEXSTAR) — The battle over the rights of transgender students reached the White House and the Texas Republican state convention on Friday. The Obama administration issued guidance Friday directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
The message was sent in a joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice to public schools across the country, saying if schools do not cooperate, they could face the loss of federal funding.
“This will be the end of public education if this prevails,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said Friday morning in response to Obama’s policy. “People will pull their kids out.”
Patrick has been very vocal about the issue for weeks. He and other state leaders at the Texas Republican Convention made transgender bathroom policies their main focus since the convention kicked off on Thursday.
Patrick called Obama’s announcement “blackmail” and a “threat to our children”. He had a different message for Texas superintendents Friday morning.
“I am telling all the superintendents in Texas, you have about three weeks left in the school year. Do not enact this policy,” Patrick said. “The people of Texas and the legislature will find a way to find as much of that money as we can if we are forced to.”
Friday afternoon, White House press secretary Josh Earnest fired back at Patrick during the daily briefing.
“Well, I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to elected statewide office,” Earnest said.
“We’re talking about our children here. Every child deserves to be safe, respected, and welcomed in their school,” Manny Garcia, Executive Director of the Texas Democratic Party said in a statement released Friday. “Today, President Obama took steps to ensure that.”
The letter issued this morning does not carry the force of law. Patrick also said Friday that a lawsuit against the Obama administration is not off the table.