AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
In the closing weeks of the Virginia Governor’s race, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is betting big on one issue in particular to propel him to victory: education. That was on full display at a packed event in Burke, Virginia this past Tuesday, where Youngkin promised to hold school board officials and administrators accountable and presented his education plan for the state.
Specifically, Youngkin called for an investigation into the Loudoun County school board and superintendent after it was recently revealed that school administrators allegedly covered up the sexual assault of a ninth-grade girl in a school bathroom this past May. According to the bombshell report from the Daily Wire, a “gender fluid” male student wearing a skirt entered a girl’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School and raped a female student. The school board and superintendent not only neglected to report that sexual assault to the Virginia Department of Education, as is required by state law, but also allegedly failed to report several other similar cases over the past number of years. Worse, the school board allegedly allowed the offender to re-enroll at nearby Broad Run High School while the investigation was still pending, where he sexually assaulted another female student.
“As a Virginian, I’m heartbroken for these girls and their families,” Youngkin said at the event on Tuesday. “I’m heartbroken at how their government leaders failed them. As a father, I am ignited with an unwavering resolve to not just fix this, but to hold those who have failed our children accountable.”
“The time for closed door conversation and silencing parents is over,” Youngkin continued, adding that “those that are responsible must be fired or resign immediately.”
Youngkin also called out President Biden for ordering the FBI to investigate parents who expressed outrage over such occurrences during school board meetings. One such parent who many on the left labeled a “domestic terrorist” was Scott Smith, the father of the young girl who was raped at Stone Bridge High School. Smith was arrested at a school board meeting earlier this year after he was denied the opportunity to speak following the superintendent’s statement that the school system had “no record” of sexual assault occurring in a bathroom. “Instead of investigating parents, the Department of Justice should be investigating those who have covered up a heinous crime on our students,” Youngkin said.
Youngkin promised that as governor, he would deliver a new direction for education in the commonwealth that would keep students safe and raise standards that have waned in recent years under Democratic governance. In addition to pledging a full investigation of the Loudoun County school board, Youngkin said that he would withhold funding if schools did not hire resource officers. He also said that schools should conduct an annual safety audit in conjunction with local law enforcement, and that schools would have to report crimes to the police and to Virginia Department of Education officials under his watch.
Importantly, Youngkin also pledged to give parents a greater say in the education of their children, something that Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe has expressed opposition to, saying recently that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” A strong proponent of school choice, Youngkin has promised to open 20 new charter schools in Virginia with money from the American Rescue Plan Act, and further insists on complete transparency for parents about what material their kids are taught.
After other issues like crime and the economy dominated the campaign early on, education has taken center stage for both candidates in recent weeks. According to one CBS News poll, 62% of likely voters say that education will be a “major factor” in their voting decision.
While the race remains a dead heat, there are signs that Youngkin’s pivot to focusing on education issues is resonating with Virginia voters. After most polls showed McAuliffe with a 5-7 point advantage in August, Youngkin has effectively pulled even.
It’s likely that Youngkin’s outreach to parents has at least something to do with that, particularly as kids return to schools, many in-person for the first time in over a year. After McAuliffe’s aforementioned comments that parents should not be able to tell schools what to teach, Youngkin launched an initiative called “Parents Matter,” which his campaign website calls “a movement of families, parents, children, and caring neighbors that will stand up to and reject Terry McAuliffe’s attempts to silence parents and stand between them and their children’s education.”
Youngkin has since held several Parents Matter rallies throughout the state, emphasizing that “parents have a fundamental right to be engaged in their kids’ education.” Youngkin also spoke at a “Rally to Save our Schools” in Loudoun County last month, where he again said that schools were failing students in Virginia under new woke policies and curricula like Critical Race Theory and other so-called “equity” initiatives. As part of his “Day One Game Plan,” Youngkin has promised to ban Critical Race Theory and its related ideologies from Virginia public schools.
If Youngkin wins on November 2, it will mark a major victory for Republicans not just in Virginia, but nationally heading into next year’s midterm elections. The Youngkin campaign’s focus on parental rights in education may also provide a roadmap for vulnerable Republicans to shore up their own reelection bids while also unseating Democrats from swing districts. Perhaps most importantly for Republicans, a potential Democratic collapse in what has been a reliably blue state in recent elections would leave many Democrats second-guessing the rising influence of progressive leaders and policies within the party, widening the already obvious rift threatening the Democrat agenda in Washington.