Virginia Republicans Seize on Parental Rights in Weeks of Final Race
20:26 GMT 08.10.2021 (Updated: 20:27 GMT 08.10.2021)
Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin wasted no time zeroing in on education and parents’ rights issues ahead of November elections.
Youngkin and his Republican allies immediately turned a comment made by his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, into an ad during the second and final debate between the two at last week’s gubernatorial debate, in which he said he did not believe parents should tell schools what to teach students.
“I'm not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision," McAuliffe said over what should be taught in schools.
"I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," the former governor later added.
The comments, after getting considerable publicity within conservative media — in less than 24 hours of the soundbite being seized by Youngkin’s team — quickly became a Youngkin ad that’s already become a staple of the candidate’s pitch in the closing weeks of the race.
"If you had any doubt… any doubt whatsoever… about Terry McAuliffe's principles, he laid them bare last week when he said, he said parents do not have a right to be involved in their kid's education," Youngkin said earlier this month.
Youngkin’s campaign hopes to focus on education issues, ranging from what should be taught in public schools to issues that conservatives sounded off on — in particular critical race theory, transgender rights at schools and debates over mask mandates.
The ultimate goal, however, is to cut into McAuliffe's support with swing voters in key areas like the vote-rich Northern Virginia suburbs near Washington, DC.
Republicans and conservatives in the state have pointed to the effect lockdowns, which they tie to Democratic leadership in Virginia, have had on the state’s students.
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The Virginia Department of Education released data that revealed test scores dropped significantly during the pandemic, with one Republican operative blaming Democrats for the mediocre test grades for not allowing kids back into school immediately.
Youngkin’s campaign reportedly fired back at McAuliffe’s comments after the debate, saying they would have “serious ramifications.”
“It spans beyond Republicans,” the spokesperson said. “It’s folks that care about education.”
McAuliffe and his allies are brushing off the attacks from the other side, pointing to a study conducted by the Virginia Education Association that found that Youngkin’s economic plan would lead to roughly $54 billion in lost aid to public schools.
“I’m not quite sure the point that Glenn’s trying to make,” McAuliffe said during a press call earlier this week.
“We have school boards and the state board of education that makes these important decisions, and of course, parents are involved and electing members to the school board. That’s how it works here in Virginia.”
A Washington Post-Schar School survey released last month found that 45 percent of voters said they trusted McAuliffe to do a better job of handling education, while 37 percent said the same about Youngkin.
“Why are we doing this to our students? All we want to do is give them a quality education,” McAuliffe told CNN during an interview aired Wednesday, in which he labeled Youngkin as a “dog whistle.”
“They’re desperate. This all goes back to critical race theory, which is not taught here in Virginia.”