by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
What’s the takeaway from Tuesday’s elections? Parent power. After a year-and-a-half of wondering if schools would be open or closed, mask mandates, virtual schooling, Critical Race Theory and being told you should leave education decisions to the experts, parents got a chance to have their say. Hoping to get more input and to banish Critical Race Theory from their child’s schools, parents helped to elect new school board members in states across the country. The exclamation point for the evening, was the election of Glenn Youngkin, a Republican governor in Virginia, a state that President Joe Biden had won by 10 points in 2020. Youngkin won because he listened to the concerns of parents, he opposed Critical Race Theory and he didn’t marginalize parents, as his opponent did.
What do parents want? They want three things.
Parents want to be heard. Why? They are the best advocates for their children. When asked who is best suited to determine where a child should attend school, 77 percent of respondents to a January 2021 Civitas Poll said, “parents or guardians.” Parents know their child. A second thing parents want are options, educational options. That same poll just referenced found that 82 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “that parents should decide where a child attends school.” Third, and lastly, parents want classrooms to be free from politics. An October 2021 Civitas Poll found 75 percent of respondents thought “classroom instruction in [their] local K-12 has become more political in the last five years.” That figure is up 10 percent in just the last four months.
All this parental dissatisfaction and angst has elevated the issue of parental influences and school choice. Parents want to be heard and want to be able to provide their child with an education that is a good fit for them.
Who would have thought; education is now a Republican issue. CRT, masking, school closures, school choice; those issues highlight why parents are energized and why conservatives are winning.
Will lawmakers listen? It’s a bellwether moment.