Sen. Ted Cruz thinks it’s high time the Lone Star State start providing school choice to its residents.

“I think this year is the best opportunity of your and my lifetime for the state legislature to pass a real and serious school choice program, to provide every child in Texas with hope and access to an excellent education,” Cruz said in an interview Saturday with The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Republican’s remarks come just days after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, indicated he would call a special session of the state legislature in October to focus on school choice.

“Texas unfortunately lags behind on school choice,” Cruz said.

A Heritage Foundation report, released last September, identified Texas as ranking no. 35 among the states for school choice, trailing behind more liberal states like California, Illinois, and Vermont. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

“Texas could improve its ranking by establishing K–12 education savings accounts, making it easier for more charter schools to open and operate, and giving families more choices among traditional public schools,” noted the Heritage Foundation report.

Cruz called school choice “the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” a remark that drew laughter from the audience at the event, the Texas Tribune Festival held in Austin, Texas.

“People who have gotten a good education can laugh at that,” responded Cruz, “but you know, it’s interesting, if you go into the inner cities, and you ask African American parents, you ask Hispanic parents, ‘Do they support school choice?’ 60, 70, 80% of them support it.”

“So I get in Austin when folks have money and they feel quite comfortable, they can oppose choice,” Cruz added. “But my view is don’t trap kids.”

Referring to the recent state senate impeachment trial for Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, which resulted in the Republican attorney general being acquitted, Cruz said, “I hope the political disagreements that we see playing out in Austin don’t get in the way of Texas stepping forward and leading on school choice.”

Asked by an audience member about the recent media focus on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Cruz was critical of the “concerted media effort.”

“The way the media has attacked this issue has been utterly hypocritical and one-sided,” he said.

“The people going after Clarence Thomas hate Clarence Thomas because number one, they hate his jurisprudence, but there’s also, there’s a particular hatred that the left has for a black man who dares to be a conservative.”

He contrasted how the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was treated to further his point, noting that, “The left didn’t insult and vilify Scalia the way they do Thomas.”

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.