Glenn Youngkin won election as Governor of Virginia in considerable part because he championed the right of parents to be involved in their children’s education. His opponent, Terry McAuliffe, struck the opposite note when he told an interviewer that “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions. I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
This was widely viewed as a gaffe, but McAuliffe declined more than one subsequent opportunity to walk back or soften his comments. He meant what he said.
Why did McAuliffe stick to his anti-parent guns? Because what he said, is what the Democrat base believes. A large majority of Democrats, especially activist Democrats, really do think that parents should be excluded from a meaningful role in public education.
We saw evidence of this when Governor Youngkin addressed the Virginia legislature on Monday. He said that his administration would protect the rights of parents with regard to their children’s “education, upbringing and care.” This was greeted with a standing ovation from Republicans, and stony silence from Democrats. The video below is all good, but the relevant portion begins at 6:56:
You might think that Democrats, stung by electoral defeat, would at least pay lip service to parents’ rights. But they don’t. Why?
Because the belief that teachers and administrators–i.e., the teachers’ unions–should control public education to the exclusion of parents and other interested parties is fundamental to the Democrats’ worldview. In September, my organization asked Minnesota registered voters the question: “Who do you trust the most to decide what gets taught to our children in Minnesota’s public schools?” Potential answers were a) Parents, b) Teachers and principals, c) School boards, and d) Elected officials at the state level.
Republicans and independents trust parents: 69% of Republicans and 44% of Independents said they trust parents the most, while only 16% of Republicans and 40% of Independents place their confidence in teachers and principals. But Democrats see education issues from a very different perspective. Only 18% of Democrats told our pollster that they trust parents, while 54% said that teachers and principals should decide what is taught in the public schools.
That stark contrast–69% vs. 18%–explains much about the current divisions in our politics. Parental involvement in education is a winning issue for Republicans, as we saw in Virginia and are likely to see in more states in 2022. But the Democrats are locked in: beholden to the teachers’ unions more than to any other constituency, except perhaps tech billionaires, they are committed to an anti-parent ideology. This is why Terry McAuliffe refused to back down, and this is why Democrats in Virginia’s legislature can’t clap for parents’ rights even after suffering a stinging electoral defeat.
Watch for the battle over parents’ rights to be a defining issue in the 2022 midterms, with the Republicans holding a decisive edge if, like Glenn Youngkin, they are smart enough to use it.