Education

McAuliffe vs. Youngkin Is a Glimpse at Education Battles To Come

The governor’s race could be an opening for the culture war, or an opportunity for school choice policies that offer just about everybody what they want.

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Whoever comes out on top in the Virginia governor's race, one undisputed winner is education as a galvanizing issue. In a state shifting blue, Democrat Terry McAuliffe was the favorite to win—right up until parents loudly challenged public school polices and the candidate essentially told them to sit down and shut up. That arrogant jibe made Republican Glenn Youngkin, with his focus on education concerns, a serious contender. The question is whether that means just another opening for the culture war, or an opportunity to gain support for school choice policies that offer just about everybody what they want.

In recent months, an ordeal of controversial pandemic policy and creeping politicization of school curricula with social justice ideology resulted in protests at school board meetings across the country.

"Constituents have shown up at normally placid meetings to voice dissent of everything from mask mandate policies – or the lack of them – to teaching critical race theory and policies around transgender students," noted CNN.

Unaccustomed debate prompted the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to ask for federal intervention against angry parents, a move its own board of directors repudiated as state associations disaffiliated from the national organization. In Virginia, where protests were especially vitriolic and school board members denied knowledge of a sexual assault in a Loudon County school bathroom, Terry McAuliffe decided to do the NSBA one better in a manner guaranteed to infuriate the public.

"I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," McAuliffe huffed during a September 28 debate against Youngkin. Suddenly, he was no longer the obvious favorite to win.

"Polls show Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin are neck-and-neck in the race for Virginia governor," a local CBS station reported in mid-October. "With just two weeks until Election Day, education is proving to be a top issue for voters." The piece pointed to the frustration parents felt with being maligned by public school bureaucrats when they raise concerns over masking or racialized curricula.

Averages of polls at both FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics showed Youngkin moving from behind to a very slight edge over McAuliffe as the education controversy broke. Voters told Monmouth University pollsters that education was the second-most important issue to them, with Youngkin favored by one point on the matter. A late October poll by Cygnal gave Youngkin a strong lead over McAuliffe among parents of K-12 children—no surprise when 78 percent of parents say they should have a major say in what their kids are taught.

Youngkin improved his odds in the gubernatorial race by emphasizing education. But he did so in two ways that aren't necessarily compatible: His website pledges him to "Ridding Political Agendas from the Classroom by Banning Critical Race Theory" but also to "Creating at least 20 New Innovation Charter Schools across the K-12 Spectrum to Provide Choice." The first option is guaranteed to please parents and students offended by racialized lessons, but to alienate those who think schools gloss over America's faults and by doing so continue the culture war over schools into the future. The second policy would allow both constituencies to go their own ways with schools that cater to divergent preferences and might actually put an end to classroom battles.

At the moment, Virginia parents unhappy with public schools have limited options. The state offers only eight charter schools with little autonomy. There's also a modest tax-credit program for donations supporting private-school tuition. The state is considered "moderate" in terms of burdensome regulation on homeschoolers, leaving that as a possibility for families. And, of course, those able to afford private school tuition on top of taxes for public schools can always opt out of classroom battles.

Among the people with such resources is Terry McAuliffe, who sent his children to a pricey private school even while he opposed making such options available to people without means. As governor from 2014 to 2018 (Virginia doesn't permit consecutive terms) he vetoed legislation that would have eased the creation of new charter schools and that would have allowed families to use education savings accounts to pay for services that they choose themselves.

That demand exists for education options is obvious from growth in homeschooling and private schooling even as public-school enrollment declines. That's impressive given that Virginia families exiting the government system must still pay to support its institutions. 

But Virginia's families don't all want the same thing. Some opt for homeschooling because they fear possible infection with COVID-19 and oppose the in-person instruction favored by other families. And a few of the nastier battles over curriculum have taken place between parents on opposite sides of the ideological divide. It's difficult, if not impossible, for government-run schools to simultaneously accommodate families ready to return to normal life and those who want to continue pandemic-inspired social distancing. It's even more challenging to craft lessons for families insisting on race neutrality in the classroom that will appeal to those who favor an "anti-racist" agenda. Politicians like Youngkin and McAuliffe can either pick sides in these battles and hope that they'll ultimately triumph, or they can offer a way out of endless culture war by letting students escape the battleground.

School choice offers an exit ramp from school board battles and conflicts among parents by letting funding follow students to the education that families want for their kids. Neighbors with different preferences can peacefully choose options that suit them without any need for disagreement. Increasingly, people seem to understand that fighting over government monopolies is a dead end and that choice is the way to go.

"Public support for school choice is at an all-time high," Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children, commented in June. In polling by his organization, 74 percent of respondents supported letting parents "use the tax dollars designated for their child's education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs."

In September, 74 percent of school parents polled by EdChoice supported education savings accounts, 70 percent supported school vouchers, and the same percentage favored charter schools. Choice is slightly more popular among the Virginians who vote this week. 

The race for governor between Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin shows that parents refuse to be pushed aside when it comes to their kids' education. It will undoubtedly fuel an emphasis on education as a campaign issue in political races across the country. If done right, the battle in Virginia won't result in winner-take-all victory, but in outcomes that benefit everybody.

NEXT: Yes, It Was An 'Evil Empire'

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  1. Polls don't matter; 'counting' ballots does.

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  2. Don't believe anyone who tells you Youngkin has a chance. McAuliffe is definitely going to win this.

    #LibertariansForCRTInPublicSchools

    1. Among the dems I know (most of my family and friends), enthusiasm for McAwful ranks somewhere between getting a root canal and colonoscopy, and I know of at least a few Biden voters who plan to vote for Youngkin. Not good signs for team blue…

    2. What an odd hashtag given that libertarians are anti-public school in general.

      1. Fuck off and die, asshole.

      2. Government schools suck. They help produce communists. Like you.

  3. CRT is McAwful.

  4. Dems are only pro-choice when it comes to aborting the baby, if you keep it that will be your last choice you get to make for your kid.

    1. In other words, a woman's right to choose ends at her lady lips.

  5. What is being described as an "anti-racist" curricula is bigoted or at least prejudicial against against caucasians. How, exactly that is acceptable to be taught in government run schools, no matter who wants it?

    Secondly, there are people on the Left who do not think there should be any options to escape public schools and what is being taught in them. They would like private schooling outlawed. Like it or not, school choice is a culture war issue in itself, and the weird notion Reason's staff has that libertarian ideas are neutral in the culture wars is delusional.

    1. MR exactly. School choice isn't leaving the battlefield; it's just a different battle. Besides, "School choice offers an exit ramp from school board battles and conflicts among parents by letting funding follow students to the education that families want for their kids" is PIPE DREAM. Why would the new school be exempt from the same fights? Do we really want a bunch of lefty schools teaching that whitey is evil, even if we have a bunch of righty schools not teaching that at all? What kind of recipe is that for a successful country. We need EVERYONE not being taught that whitey is evil.

    2. Sure, there are leftists who believe that garbage. But not nearly enough of them to save your statement here from being called a strawman argument.

      Facts about what white people have done are no more bigoted than facts about what any other person of any racial background has done. Facts are just facts. History is history. Since the US has a long and tarnished history of teaching it's children whitewashed lies about the civil war, it's no wonder so many people are upset when there's a push to teach facts.

      School choice is only a "culture war issue" because certain groups of conservatives have issues with subjects like biology (evolution) and history (slavery and its role in the Civil War and many atrocities since.) I for one don't give a crap if conservatives want to teach their children garbage, but I also don't think the taxpayers should fund it.

      1. Looks like you brought your own strawman to the fight?

        Who is opposed to teaching facts? Be specific about what facts are taught in within CRT that are not currently being taught and that conservatives are opposed to.

      2. Fuck off and die, asshole.

  6. "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," McAuliffe

    Statements like this from politicians should be career ending. I cannot fathom how a someone could continue supporting after this.

    Same goes for "We have to pass this to see what's in it" bullshit.

    1. > I cannot fathom how a someone could continue supporting after this.

      Because there are people out there who are true believers in the power of Experts (tm).

      1. Well the record of "experts" has been unblemished lately lol.

        1. As in "wrong about everything" unblemished.

          1. We value consistency . . .

  7. All you have to know is that McAuliffe is all in favor of school choice. He sent his kids to private schools.

    1. He is in the ruling class. He is no pleb.

      1. Choice for me but not for thee!

    2. More evidence the modern Democratic Party represents the wealthy, well-connected elite — making them the obvious choice for Koch / Reason libertarians.

      #OBLsFirstLaw

  8. "It's even more challenging to craft lessons for families insisting on race neutrality in the classroom that will appeal to those who favor an "anti-racist" agenda. "

    I mean, sure. There is no pleasing everybody. And it is a pity that "Indoctrinating the Next Generation" is, and always will be, a battleground for opposing viewpoints.

    Nevertheless, this conceit is pretty weak tea. When you strip out the labels, and terms that have become political touchstones, and ask things like, "Would you prefer a society that guarantees equal outcomes for all individuals, or equal opportunities for all individuals", they overwhelmingly reject the basic teachings of CRT. It is noteworthy that the only way these people can actually sell this BS in schools is by denying it is taught, or hiding it behind false choices and deceptive practices.

    So, sure, it is a "tragedy" that the minority of people who really do want their kids learning this crypto-marxist theology aren't getting their way. But so long as we have a centralized school system, those people are going to have to pund sand indoctrinate their kids at home.

    1. pund sand

      Way to get it down to the nitty gritty. These people need to learn that life is no day at the beach.

      1. Youngkin didn’t need to bring up CRT at all, Virginia Public schools have been an epic failure since even before COVID. All but two of families we know with kids the same age as ours who started in the public schools are now sending them to private.

    2. It's even more challenging to craft lessons for families insisting on race neutrality in the classroom that will appeal to those who favor an "anti-racist" agenda.

      How is this even a statement? I don't think a lesson on WWII should try to appeal to Nazis, and I don't think that a lesson on American history should try to appeal to America's version of racist communists.

      1. Yeah, some things are just wrong and bad. And the ideas that people are labeling "CRT" are definitely in that category. We don't need to pander to any flavor of racists. Unfortunately, racism has become a rather popular idea again among many on the left.

        1. Racism has always been an integral part of leftism.

      2. I don't think a lesson on WWII should try to appeal to Nazis

        Misek would disagree.

  9. The Reason article is dumb. I take the comments on homeschooling as a smear against those who choose homeschool, "afraid" of the Rona? Most people who homeschool have a better idea how to teach their kids than government school, not hard to envision really. Why spend ink mischaracterizing it as some kind of irrationality.

    Then, the article comes to the quick conclusion about school choice, without digging into the grift of public/private/charter whatever, which involves rather a lot of money. After all, everyone has school choice, they can enroll their kid in the same school as the governor. School choice, in the lexicon of Reason style libertarians, means tax money getting channeled to non-teacher-union education, perhaps laudable, but decidedly not very small government. I mean, sure, taxpayers paying for my kids private school education would be nice.

    Separation of school and state. The time has never been better to argue this point.

    1. And some people homeschool because they are scared of the world. I really don't think Tucille is trying to be negative about homeschooling. I'm pretty sure he has homeschooled his own kids.

    2. IANALibertarian.

      The primary argument against defunding public schools is that it pulls the rug out from under a very large number of American families who depend on tax-funded schools. Draining away the "share" of taxes each child represents would bankrupt the public school system and leave those students whose families cannot afford the additional money to send their kids to private schools with sub-par education. If it came to a choice between my taxes funding rich privates or just not funding schools from taxes at all, I'd choose the latter. As a childless adult, I see zero value in funding a private education for another person's kid. But as an American, I do benefit from a minimal level of education for the vast majority of children, which a defunded public school system likely could not provide.

  10. What hasn't been discussed is how VA Democrats bowed to the teacher's unions in keeping Virginia public school students on Zoom classes for over a year. McAuliffe will do the same thing if elected and they tell him to do it. That's a much bigger issue than CRT.

  11. If the folks in Virginia have already missed Donald Trump they can vote for his desciple, Glenn Youngkin. Not complicated.

    1. I know of several Biden voters who plan to vote for Youngkin, so it’s nice to see that the DNC hasn’t yet brainwashed all Virginians like you.

  12. I give Youngkin a 25% chance of winning.

    Sure, it looks 50/50, but I also have to consider that it’s 50/50 democrats will cheat and give McAuiliffe the win anyway, so 25%.

    1. >>cheat

      if you call it fortify even Time Magazine will let it slide

    2. You know they say all men are created equal, but you look at McAuliffe and you look at Youngkin, and you can see that statement is not true. See normally if you go one on one with another politician, you got a 50/50 chance of winning. But McAuliffe's a democrat cheat and he's not normal, so you got a 25% at best at beating him. And then you add Paul Davis to the mix, the chances of winning drastic go down. See the three way at the governor race, Youngkin's got a 33 1/3 chance of winning. But McAuliffe, McAuliffe's got a 66 2/3 chance of winning, cause Paul Davis knows he can't beat McAuliffe, and he's not even gonna try. So you take Youngkin's 33 1/3 chance minus McAuliffe's 25% chance and he's got an 8 1/3 chance of winning the governor race. But then you take McAuliffe's 75% chance of winning, if they was to go one on one, and then add 66 2/3 percents, McAuliffe's got a 141 2/3 chance of winning the governor race. See Youngkin, the numbers don't lie, and they spell disaster for you at Sacrifice.

  13. If, by some miracle, Youngkin wins, the Democrats will immediately start shrieking about rampant voter fraud and Russian hacking. Then the GOP should immediately (ideally with straight faces) call for a recount and forensic audit. That's all I want for Christmas.

    1. From what I’ve seen, McAsshole will lose, or if he does win, it will be by a razor thin margin after several recounts that include forgotten ballots that somehow magically appear.

      1. The polls may show that Youngkin is ahead, but everyone knows those numbers don't reflect graveyard and nursing home residents. Therefore, racist.

  14. extra-fortification required.

  15. If we are going to fund education, then the funding must be tied to the student who we are paying to be educated. The funding should not be tied to a government program we call public schools.

    If a parent and their child decide that they prefer a specific type of education over another option then they should have the right to choose for themselves.

    Choice should not be limited to the wealthy and powerful. Too long these elitists are limiting the choice for others, but reserving the choice for themselves.

    1. As a taxpayer, I choose to not fund private schools for wealthy white children. If we're doing "school choice," let's make it a real choice.

      1. Fuck off and die, asshole.

  16. The only people promoting CRT are those who want to use it to politicize the classroom against the wishes of parents. Banning CRT from the government schools no more keeps things political, and no more thwarts any parents, than banning teacher-led prayer does.

    1. #1 - CRT isn't taught in K-12. Go read up on what CRT actually is.
      #2 - Banning CRT from "government schools" means that it cannot be taught where it belongs--in the university environment largely for post-grad students specializing in subjects related to race.

      Government sponsored prayer in schools violates the Constitution. Teaching post-grad level theories on the impact of slavery and racism in American society does not.

      1. Fuck off and die, asshole.
        And you're a lying piece of lefty shit besides.

  17. I realize that the libertarian bias of Reason.com is to oppose public education because, let's face it, the libertarian position is to oppose pretty much public anything beyond the military industrial complex, police & courts.

    Personally, I recognize the obvious truth that, for all of the weaknesses of the public school systems in many communities, responsible parents will work to ensure their children get the best opportunities those parents can manage for them. They will try to ensure that their kids study & work at getting an education. Those parents will undoubtedly benefit from a voucher type system until such a time as the libertarian position gathers enough strength to eliminate anyone having to pay taxes to educate some other persons children. At which point those responsible parents will just have to hope that they have been fortunate enough in life to afford private schooling.

    However, from the get-go of a voucher system, the children of irresponsible parents (of which there are too many, & poor Ethan Couch is in but one category) will have to suffer for their parent's ineptitudes & we, as a society will pay for it in lost productivity & increased incarceration expenses.

    Oh, but then I forget, the libertarians also support private prisons which will use convict labor to make a profit, thereby eliminating the cost of incarceration & the need for parole boards. I guess the libertarian dictum against an assault on person or property only applies to "good" people, once it has been determined that someone is a "bad" person then they lose the right to those basic protections. & we all know that there are really so many "bad" people out there. But then, while all of these issues are interrelated, I digress.

    1. Oh hey... slavery worked out so well for us as a country the first time around, amirite?!

      1. Fuck off and die.

    2. "I realize that the libertarian bias of Reason.com is to oppose public education because, let's face it, the libertarian position is to oppose pretty much public anything beyond the military industrial complex, police & courts..."

      I realize:
      You.
      Are.
      Full.
      Of.
      Shit.
      Fuck off and die.

  18. "Ridding Political Agendas from the Classroom by Banning Critical Race Theory"

    Given that "Critical Race Theory" isn't being taught anywhere in the US in K-12, this statement itself is supporting the injection of a (conservative, racist) political agenda into the classroom.

    What this dog whistle actually says is that ideas, like "slavery is bad" and "the American Civil War was primarily about preserving slavery", cannot be taught in classrooms.

    While I don't expect anything less of a pro-Trump GOP candidate for governor of a former Confederate state, I would like to think Reason wouldn't also omit key facts from its own reporting when those facts run counter to its bias.

    1. Here comes the gaslight man.

      1. 1) It isn’t happening.
        2) It is happening but it isn’t what you think.
        ^ he’s at 2).

        1. 3) it is happening but it's not widespread or that bad.
          4) It is happening but it's actually a good thing!
          5) we can't do anything about it!
          6) it's a nothing burger

          1. He's full of shit.

    2. Fuck off and die.

  19. As well as ideas such as denial of school choice to redlined African Americans is inherently racist.

    Also, the civil war was not about slavery. Slavery was a proximate cause not the root cause. You are helping to dumb down society.

  20. But Tuccille, what happens if the pro-choice guy mean-tweets? Do you revert to your assholic 'no mean tweets' position regardless of policy and actions?
    I mean tweets Trump all, right, asshole?

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