Election Day in Virginia sent shockwaves across the nation, with Republicans winning not only the Gubernatorial race, but every statewide race and a majority in the House of Delegates. Many have rightly attributed much of this Republican success to the critical shift in national attention to education issues, for which Virginia has been ground zero in recent months.
As a mother and a former schoolteacher, I’ve been on the frontlines in this fight. But instead of traditional fights for better academics, today’s “mama and papa bears” are fighting multiple radical agendas that have been forced on our schools over the last few years. It’s time to change that.
In the past, political debates over education focused on whether kids were learning in schools and what plans would best help our kids progress academically. Now, the conversation is focused on everything from eliminating advanced math and science classes to infusing radical ideologies in history and civics, dividing kids by race, and debating whether our daughters are safe in school bathrooms.
When the focus of education policy is not on learning, but rather on myriad social experiments and ideological agendas, it is our children who suffer the consequences. And we have seen that with students stagnating and falling behind on education benchmarks across the country. This is unacceptable. We need to make school about education again.
As a single mother to a biracial daughter who attends a public elementary school, I’m concerned by what is happening because I see the impact on my child every day. I don’t want my daughter spending her time at school bombarded with contradictory and inappropriate political messaging about the color of her skin, I want her time to be spent on the educational fundamentals elementary school was designed to teach. Instead of being prejudged, I want her to have the opportunity to excel in the science classes she’s passionate about. And I don’t want to hear her say she doesn’t feel “safe and loved” in our schools because of how politicized they’ve become.
As parents, we don’t want to spend our time debating Critical Race Theory, arguing about mask or vaccine mandates and social experimentation, or worrying about whether our kids are safe inside of their schools. We want our children to learn reading, writing, science, math, and history. This is neither partisan nor controversial: the expectation that our children go to school to focus on learning is as straightforward as it gets.
On Election night in Virginia, we saw suburban parents back Republican candidates in a big way. Suburban counties such as Chesterfield County, where I live, and Loudoun County, which has been at the forefront of the education controversies nationwide over the past year, voiced a clear referendum of the radical policies and statements that have been alienating parents and hurting children.
It is now incumbent upon our political leaders to hear that message and respond accordingly. One important first step is to work to stop special interest groups from negatively influencing our schools. This principally refers to the Teachers Unions, which have been bullying everyone from the CDC to school boards across the country into keeping schools closed and adopting radical curriculums despite the clearly damaging effects for our children. But also includes groups like Panorama Education, run by the son-in-law of Attorney General Merrick Garland. Panorama Education continues to rake in money from school systems across the country by pushing Critical Race Theory into curriculums, even as Garland continues to launch investigations against concerned parents that oppose Critical Race Theory. In both cases, the actions of these groups are appalling and detrimental to our children. The only “special interest” in our education policy should be the interests of our children.
We must also foster an environment that is conducive to school choice. By creating options for families, especially our most vulnerable who are unable to afford to send their children to private schools or to stay home and homeschool, parents will not have to feel trapped and forced into sending their children to a school that does not reflect their values, cannot keep their children safe, and/or cannot meet the educational needs of their children. It will also create an atmosphere of competition, which incentivizes improvement and focus in our struggling public schools.
Parents deserve to know their children are receiving a quality education. They deserve to know that their children are safe in school. They deserve to know that, when their children leave their home and spend eight hours a day in the care of others, they can trust that the time is spent equipping their children with the knowledge, skills, and tools that will enable them to succeed as they progress through life. Parents deserve to know the school they send their children to is focused on education. Let’s make school about education again.