The media has promoted the GOP hysteria that schools are subjecting students to bizarre pedagogy designed to make them feel guilty of racism. But polling data shows that most parents want teachers to discuss race and don’t want schools to ban books. Likewise, the recent recall of several progressive school board members in San Francisco may have had much more to do with parents’ frustration with board members. priorities than with their political ideology. (Perhaps they should have been more worried about catching up with kids on basic academic subjects than renaming schools?)
On a related issue, most parents did not find fault with the school’s covid policies. In fact, as politicians have lifted restrictions, many parents have expressed concern about the repeal of mask mandates. Still, experts say parental anger over school closings has thrown off Virginia governor’s race for GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin. Hmm, maybe not.
Democratic data firm TargetSmart did an in-depth analysis of the Virginia results and found, “County-level data shows no correlation between school closings and vote swings for Republicans. Of Virginia’s top 10 ranked counties by days with in-person education in the 2020-21 school year, 6 of the 10 saw a bigger swing to Republicans than the state’s average swing of 5.3 %”. The pollsters also determined, “The biggest shifts toward Republicans occurred in southwestern Virginia, where schools were open for in-person instruction for most of the year.”
And what about running instruction in the classroom (even if it wasn’t technically CRT)? Nor does it explain the turn to the Republicans. Instead, TargetSmart reports that there was extremely high turnout among older — and therefore more conservative — voters. “Voters age 65 and older make up about 15.9% of Virginia’s population according to the census, but accounted for 31.9% of all votes cast in 2021,” the pollsters explain.
They add, “This ‘money push’ is an untold story that fundamentally undermines the conventional wisdom that COVID-19 protocols in schools and fears about critical race theory in the curriculum determined the outcome of the ‘election. Looking ahead to future elections, particularly the November midterms, this bloc of senior voters will likely continue to run and have a significant impact on the electorate as a whole. (This segment of the electorate might be interested in the medium-term program presented by Florida Sen. Rick Scott, which would hit both Medicare and Social Security.)
It wouldn’t be the first time mainstream coverage has been hijacked by right-wing hysteria. Democrats who concluded that voters were rebelling against the “revival” might want to reconsider. Indeed, Democrats might want to learn an entirely different lesson on the school question.
Democrats should welcome the debate over the politicization of schools. Republicans have turned schools into a battleground for their extreme social outlook. They denied racism in American history, attempted to ban books, and persecuted transgender and gay students. Democrats should cry foul and insist that federal and state governments stay out of local school board business. (Wasn’t that the GOP view for decades?) Instead, Democrats should tackle the real problem: Students who have fallen far behind due to a lack of time in class. It will require funding, which Republicans will surely oppose, to expand tutoring and summer schools and to raise teachers‘ salaries.
Republicans may talk good game on classroom education, but they have long refused to pay for quality education. Democrats, on the other hand, have passed legislation to fund schools to handle everything from improving ventilation to making masks available before vaccinations are available for children. More than 99% of schools are operating in person through these programs, which Republicans have consistently opposed.
It’s not easy to tell the difference between what voters really care about and what supporters would like us to think they care about. In this case, voters did not rebel against a sensible school administration; Democrats can retain their traditional edge on education.