For the first time in a generation, Republicans are competitive with Democrats when it comes to the issue of education.
If you have kids, you are much more likely to make school policy a top voting priority than if you don’t have any children.
That was hammered home to me during the pandemic. Most old people cared more about their own well-being than they cared about the mental and physical health of the country’s school children.
This is not a new dynamic. We spend far more money on Social Security and Medicare than we do on education in this country. Let’s face it – old people vote for their self-interests and most young people don’t vote at all.
For as long as I have been involved in politics, Democrats have dominated on education policy, because they have been much more willing to spend public money on education and because their closest allies are the teachers unions, an extremely effective special interest group.
Not that long ago, being closely identified with the teachers unions was a net positive. That all ended during the pandemic.
It’s become clear that the unions weren’t looking out for the kids at all. They lobbied the Biden White House to keep kids out of school, they collaborated with their fellow travelers at the CDC to keep them masked (which led to a plethora of learning and socialization problems), and they pushed for vaccine mandates.
Off-year elections in New Jersey and Virginia showed a backlash against both the Democrats and the teachers unions. Former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe unwisely campaigned with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and lost an election that centered on how the Democrats mishandled school closures. In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was so freaked out about his narrow victory that he immediately lifted all restrictions on his schools.
Most, but not all, Democrats have learned the lesson of the 2021 elections. Many are trying to memory-hole what they and their colleagues did to the children during the pandemic. But reminders persist. For example, in Washington, D.C., and in New Orleans, schools are still threatening that kids won’t be able to go back to school unless they are fully vaccinated. In both school districts, the vast majority of the unvaccinated are African-American. This policy should be seen as cruelly racist – but because the Democrats are the ones implementing the policy, they get a pass in the media.
Republicans will continue to win on the education issue because the Democrats are hopelessly devoted to the unions and to a model of education that doesn’t work for most kids. They should continue to press their advantage by pushing for policies that give more power to parents to decide what is best for their kids and their education.
This includes supporting policies that allow education spending to follow the children and not go directly into the hands of the public-school bureaucracy.
America’s public schools weren’t doing that well before the pandemic hit. Now, they have become a disaster, a cesspool of woke indoctrination and substandard teaching that has left a generation of school children far behind their private-school peers.
Kids around the country are going back to school. This is a good time to remind their parents that Republicans have a real plan to improve education in this country, and it is not in any way endorsed by the unions that kept your kids at home and in masks last year.
Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).
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