While there is no shortage of issues to consider when marking ballots on Election Day, education matters should be high on the list. All citizens, taxpayers, and parents, of course, have a stake in righting our wayward educational ship. Fortunately, the political angle has been front and center since parent-friendly Republican Glenn Youngkin beat out establishment Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial election just one year ago.
Many polls of late have shown that our worsening educational malaise is indeed on voters’ minds. A survey by the American Federation of Teachers, the results of which were released in May, revealed that 39 percent of voters reported that they have more confidence in Republicans on education matters, compared with 38 percent for Democrats. While the Republican edge is hardly overwhelming, it still is important, as Democrats have always prevailed in public opinion because of the perception that they’re the education party.
The AFT poll also found that 60 percent of voters in states with competitive U.S. Senate races this year “are dissatisfied with the way racial issues are taught in schools.” On sexual issues, 58 percent are unhappy with the way schools are handling them.
AFT president Randi Weingarten has constantly vilified Republicans for bringing politics into the classroom. But most survey respondents don’t agree, saying that Democrats are “more responsible for politicizing education and making education too much a part of the culture war” than Republicans, 33 percent to 28 percent.
A July Gallup poll found only 28 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in public schools, down from 41 percent in 2020—a significant drop.
Then in September, the results of a survey commissioned by the National Coalition for Public School Options found that while 71 percent of parents surveyed sent their children to their local public school, 61 percent believe those schools are headed in the wrong direction. Also, by a 54-13 margin, voters say they would be more likely to back a candidate who supports educational freedom, where tax dollars follow the student to a school of the parents’ choosing.
The National Education Association responded to parent dissatisfaction, laughably maintaining in a September 29 post on its website, that “Parents and Educators Want the Same Thing.” The union insists that parents are against so-called book bans, and that they are in favor of school libraries stocking books like Gender Queer, in which the protagonist says, “I can’t wait to have your c**k in my mouth — I’m going to give you the bl*w j*b of your life. Then I want you inside me.”
The American Federation of Teachers, ignoring the results of its own polling, is also on the stump, recently embarking on a nationwide get-out-the-vote bus tour “to support candidates fighting for freedom and democracy” as opposed to those who are “trying to ban books” and “censor history.” The AFT is also putting its money where its twisted mouth is. In September, the union awarded more than $1.5 million to 27 state and local affiliates for the purpose of organizing “parents and educators, providing training to support advocacy campaigns, and increasing collaboration among union affiliates and other organizations in communities.”
Even Joe Biden’s Department of Education has found religion, creating a “parents council.” But as Erica Sanzi, director of outreach at Parents Defending Education, points out, it is a joke, albeit not a very funny one. The council consists of supporters of critical race theory in schools, but no opponents. She also writes that organization leaders who applauded and defended the National School Boards Association letter that called parents domestic terrorists were asked to participate; those unfairly smeared by that lie were not.
There’s no doubt that the 2022 elections are set to have an “outsized impact on education” nationally with 36 states electing a governor, 26 of which have governance structures where the governor appoints at least one member to the state board of education. Also, 7 states are electing school superintendents, 8 states are electing board of education members, and there are scores of education-related measures on state ballots as well. Additionally, conservatives are running for local school board seats across the country in unprecedented numbers.
One of the more high-profile races is in Florida, where Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor turned Democrat, is going up against family-friendly sitting governor Ron DeSantis. The choice here is stark, as Crist chose Miami-Dade County teachers union president Karla Hernandez-Mats as his running mate. Always good for a laugh, Randi Weingarten could not contain her glee at the prospect of a teacher unionista being in a position of political power. She tweeted, “The contrast couldn’t be more clear. DeSantis wants to fight culture wars and politicize schools. While @KarlaForFlorida wants to make sure teachers have the support and resources to focus on #WhatKidsNeed.”
Well, she sure got the “more clear” part right. It’s also worth noting that in August, the American Federation of Teachers contributed $500,000 to Crist’s campaign.
In a similar vein, Democrat John Fetterman, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, told the state teachers union that, if elected, he would be a staunch ally. Speaking at a Pennsylvania State Education Association event in January, he said, “I’m not going to sit up here and pretend that I know exactly what’s needed, I’m going to turn to you. If you send me to Washington, D.C., you’ll be the first people that I call and want to sit down and meet with and find out what you need.” On the other hand, Mehmet Oz, Fetterman’s opponent, stated that “the extreme left wants to use our schools to indoctrinate our children with an anti-American ideology”—and that “he’ll fight to block that from happening.”
In Washington state, sitting Senator Patty Murray has a lead—one that is shrinking—over Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley. Whereas Murray refused to criticize the horrendous COVID-related school shutdowns and turned a blind eye to the recent Seattle teachers’ strike, Smiley has released a detailed education plan, which would “expand school choice for low-income families, provide curriculum transparency, and reroute some U.S. Education Department dollars to higher teacher pay.” The broader Smiley message is that “educators need to get back to teaching ‘the basics’ rather than ‘divisive’ topics—a sentiment that polls show resonates loudly with parents across the political spectrum.”
It’s important to note that while in the great majority of political races, conservative candidates are the party of parents, some liberals have seen the light. In the Pennsylvania governor’s race, Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro supports “lifeline scholarships,” which would allow “children attending the state’s poorest-performing schools to access money to pay for tutoring or tuition at a different public or private school. The pending bill would cover about 191,000 children,—the vast majority of whom come from low-income families. His opponent, Republican Doug Mastriano, also favors the scholarship program, but has run afoul of many parents and others, by stating that he’d like to cut education spending in the state by 50 percent.
In mid-October, responding to a candidate survey, Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker reversed himself on school choice, answering yes to the question: “Do you support Illinois’ tax credit scholarship program that provides financial support for students to attend private and parochial schools?”
In Georgia, the state teachers union is supporting Republican schools Superintendent Richard Woods because Alisha Thomas Searcy, his Democratic challenger, has “a long history of advocating for taxpayer funding of private schools that we cannot overlook,” Georgia teacher union president Lisa Morgan asserted.
With the damaging school shutdowns and the proliferation of radical and sexualized curricula, the just released NAEP scores are revelatory. Just 26 percent of eighth grade students are proficient in math and 31 percent are proficient in reading. The report’s authors write, “The national average score declines in mathematics for fourth- and eighth-graders were the largest ever recorded in that subject.”
As such, it behooves every sentient American to vote on November 8. While the failing government school/teacher union cartel is certainly not the only issue to be considered, it must be a high priority. Children—who are the future of the country—are depending on voters to set things straight.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared at For Kids and Country.