Republican House Representatives and Virginia parents gathered for a roundtable on Wednesday to discuss the legislation in the Democrats’ proposed Reconciliation package and the future of education nationwide.
Following Republican Glenn Youngkin’s win in the Virginia gubernatorial race Tuesday, education leaders and legislators outlined what they believe comes next as parents continue to fight for a say in their child’s education across the U.S.
“Parents don’t want to pick up mini social justice warriors at the end of the day,” Republican Ranking Member Virginia Foxx said. “They want children who can read, write and add.”
Republican House Representatives and Virginia parents gathered for a roundtable on Wednesday to discuss the Democrats’ proposed Reconciliation package and the future of education nationwide following Glenn Youngkin’s win in the state’s gubernatorial race Tuesday.
Education leaders and legislators outlined what they believe will happen next as parents continue to fight for a say in their children’s education.
“Last night the parents of Virginia stood up and spoke loud and clear,” Republican Chairwoman Elise Stefanik said. “Glenn Youngkin ran on education and he won on education.”
She credited the COVID-19 pandemic’s virtual learning as giving parents a “window” into what their kids are being taught, which gave them a reason to be concerned over their exposure to “radical ideologies” and “inappropriate instructional materials.” Rep. Burgess Owens said the best thing to happen during the pandemic was “the exposure of the total incompetence of our education systems.”
In an Oct. 4 memorandum, Attorney General Merrick Garland called on the FBI to “use its authority” against parents who threaten or use violence against public school officials, citing a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” The action, which was viewed by many as an intimidation tactic, sparked outrage from parents nationwide.
Garland’s memorandum instructing the FBI to mobilize and intervene at local school boards meetings is an “unconscionable” action, Stefanik said.
Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy also criticized Garland’s memorandum as a tactic to intimidate people and said House members would be “crafting a parent’s Bill of Rights, so parents do have a say in what goes on.”
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s refusal to say that parents should be the primary stakeholders in their kids’ education, signaled that the Democratic party “believes that government knows better than parents when it comes to what is right for their kids,” which is “out of touch with the values and experiences of families across America and we saw that clearly in Virginia last night,” Stefanik said.
The Democrats’ Reconciliation bill “doubles down” to drastically expand federal control of education to nationalize America’s elementary schools, she said. The bill gives the Biden administration complete control over early education standards, including standards relating to children’s social and emotional development, she added.
For example, government requirements under the proposed bill would driving costs up by 50 percent or more by requiring government subsidized providers to pay caretakers “living wages” meaning $27 for a single mom in Mississippi and $39 in Boston and would require all pre-k workers to have a bachelor’s degrees, according to a recent analysis from the Heritage Foundation.
“Make no mistake, the democrats bill takes away choices from parents on how, where and what they want their kids to learn,” Stefanik warned. “It also limits preschool options to those that will take direction from the Biden Administration on what to teach.”
“This spending bill gives the government federal control of education, less parental choice, more power to the unions,” said Republican Ranking Member Virginia Foxx for the Education and Labor Committee. “The Virginia election I think spoke very loudly to this. If you have a federal takeover of education, what you’re going to have is drag queen story hour, instead of Madeleine, you’re going to have “Thankstaking” not Thanksgiving, you’re going to have the pledge of allegiance to the progressive flag, not the American flag.”
“Parents don’t want to pick up mini social justice warriors at the end of the day,” she added. “They want children who can read, write and add.”
Glenn Youngkin campaigned on empowering parents and Terry McAuliffe supported union leaders, who “aren’t even speaking for the children,” Loudoun County parent, Brandon Michon said.
Michon went viral for his speech at a Loudoun County school board meeting on Jan. 26 where he gave an impassioned speech demanding the school board “figure it out” regarding its COVID-19 mitigation policies so kids could go back to in-person school. When he brought his son to the meeting to speak before him, he told the board he wanted to go to in-person class to meet friends, but when Michon saw the school board members looking down at their phones, it sparked passion in him to call for accountability from elected officials.
“I think Virginians set a road map for education and parent involvement in the future,” Michon said. “All parents can care about the education of their children and I’ve been very vocal about this… Republicans, Democrats, Independents, I don’t care about your religious faith, I don’t care about your sexual orientation, we all care about children’s education and that’s what has transcended the political divide in Virginia.”
“Parents matter, this has become a movement and this movement goes beyond yesterday’s election, this is going to be something that will continue to create waves throughout the country,” he added.
Ginny Gentles, an Arlington County resident and advocate for school choice criticized the Democrats’ plan to expand the “failed model” of the education system.
“If you funnel children into federally regulated universal preschool system that’s going to result in a union-driven disruption,” Gentles said. “If students are leaving the traditional public school they’re going to need to unionize down to preschool to keep up their membership numbers. Teachers unions strive to expand their political power but the pandemic proved that union centered providers will fail parents and students.”
She said school choice policies empower parents rather than government bureaucrats to make decisions regarding their children’s education.
“The other side’s proposed solutions of creating more bureaucracy and pouring more money into failing schools is not the answer,” Rep. Julia Letlow said. “In addition, parents should be able to choose a curriculum for their child that fits with their values and their beliefs and not have one forced on them or fear indoctrination by a federal agenda.”
Growing up in the 60s during the era of the KKK, Jim Crow and segregation, Owens said he had a different perspective on education, but his father was a college educator for 40 years and his mom was a junior high school teacher, so “education was everything.”
“Because of that community that I grew up in, we believed the American dream,” Owens said. “What we’re now realizing over the last few decades, is that we’ve been under attack, our kids have been under attack” but parents and lawmakers are “now standing up saying we’re not going to let that happen.”
People are paying attention to what their kids are learning, asking questions, filing public records requests and it’s not going away, said Nicole Neily, president & founder of Parents Defending Education
“The cavalry is coming,” Neily said. “We saw this last night and we are seeing this around the country… people are mad and they are awoke and I think what’s exciting is this is a really unusual group of people that have come out.”
“This is not just a bunch of conservatives,” she added. “These are people, I mean probably 10 or 15 percent of the people we hear from are people who say, ‘I’m a lifelong Democrat, but I don’t like this.’”