Editor’s note: This commentary from Arkansas State Rep. David Ray appeared last week in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Much has been written about education being the defining issue in this month’s Virginia gubernatorial election between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.
Youngkin, a businessman with no prior political experience, pulled off an upset that few saw coming in a state that has trended strongly toward the Democrats in recent years. He did so in large part by appealing to parents who are dissatisfied over the current state of public education.
Parents were upset by many factors, including the prolonged school closings, even as most of society has returned to some measure of pre-pandemic normal. They were upset that teachers’ unions resisted a return to in-person instruction, even though students had experienced tremendous learning loss throughout the pandemic.
On top of that, many parents were disturbed by the injection of left-wing politics into their kids’ education. The reported teaching of critical race theory and a letter from the National School Boards Association to President Biden essentially accusing concerned parents of being potential domestic terrorists only added fuel to the fire.
Virginia’s recent elections are a strong reminder that states need to give parents more choices in education. In addition to their local traditional public schools, parents and children need the ability to choose an environment that meets their individual needs for a whole host of reasons (academic, values, bullying, learning disabilities, etc.).
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