Loudoun County school culture war explosion fuels Virginia governor’s race

Jhe Loudoun County Public Schools building was recently the scene of a heated board meeting against transgender politics and critical race theory, which resulted in an arrest.

This week, the exurban school center in Washington, DC, was the backdrop for Republican gubernatorial candidate of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, as he announced the first phase of his education plan.

Rallying with parents and educators who have long fought with the school board, Youngkin called on the county and pledged to issue an executive order banning the teaching of critical race theory on his first day in office, protect advanced math classes and appoint a new secretary of education.

“The classroom is not the place for a political agenda,” Youngkin said. “Our children should not be the victims of the culture war of liberal left progressives.”

It was the most glaring sign yet of how culture war issues define Republican political strategy in the competitive race for governor as well as among Republicans nationally.

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Critical race theory began as an academic framework with Marxist roots to examine racism and has evolved into a descriptor of the agenda and policies that frame individuals and society through the lens of race and oppressors. According to EdWeek, at least five states have signed bills limiting how teachers can discuss racism or sexism in the classroom in an effort to ban critical race theory, and more than a dozen others. Federal and state anti-critical race theory proposals were introduced. .

Youngkin, a first-time candidate who previously served as co-CEO of private equity firm Carlyle Group, insisted his focus and attention on burning school issues was not purely a strategy. Politics.

“I think about what’s right and what’s wrong and what solutions we have,” Youngkin told The Washington Examiner in an interview Wednesday. “And that’s a real difference between me and my opponent,” said former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is seeking a second non-consecutive term, “because he will say whatever he needs to say to anybody. to get a vote.”

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during a rally outside the Loudoun County Public Schools building on June 30, 2021. (Emily Brooks/Washington Examiner) (Emily Brooks/Washington Examiner)

However, Youngkin’s interest in the issue is encouraging to those who have long pushed conservative politicians to put social issues at the heart of their election strategy.

“Critical race theory, gender ideology, sports for boys and girls, all woke up a sleeping giant,” said Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project. “These kinds of issues only work in politics when politicians lead them, when they take charge, take charge and make them a political issue. There have been a lot of moves that have been stifled in the past where there’s a lot of public support for it among voters and the people, but the politicians don’t want to follow, and so it’s not going anywhere.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll this month suggested that voters nationwide who oppose teaching critical race theory in schools had stronger opinions than those who support it: 29% strongly opposed and 7% somewhat opposed, compared to 16% strongly in favor and 16% somewhat supportive of the critical race theory being taught.

Besides being the most competitive gubernatorial race this year, Virginia’s November election could bring at least one of the state’s legislative chambers back under Republican control. If Republicans are successful in the state, it could provide a plan for Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections.

But the focus on divisive cultural issues could be a risk for Youngkin in Virginia, a state that hasn’t elected a Republican to statewide office since 2009.

“I wonder if that’s the right approach in a place like Northern Virginia, a rapidly changing region that has become much more Democratic in recent years and where sharp Republican cultural messages may very well go too far,” he said. said Kyle Kondik. , editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Youngkin faces the challenge of trying to identify and critique progressive excesses in schools, but without looking like Dick Black while he does it.”

So far, McAuliffe has tried to brush off the cultural war school problem and recently called critical race theory a “right-wing conspiracy” that was “manufactured by Donald Trump and Glenn Youngkin.”

Youngkin scoffed at this. “The absolute structure of critical race theory was actually reflected in the program,” he told the Washington Examiner. “Terry doesn’t listen to parents. He doesn’t care what the parents think. He is completely disconnected from what is happening in our schools. And oh, by the way, it reflects someone who lowered standards and then saw our children’s academic performance decline.

Loudoun County has become “ground zero in the fight to get our schools back on a curriculum that prepares students for the future,” as Youngkin put it. Last week, parents and activists in Northern Virginia flooded a Loudoun County school board meeting on transgender politics and critical race theory.

At the meeting, policy proposal 8040 was at issue, which, in part, requires staff to use students’ preferred gender pronouns and allows students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. . The policy was drafted to comply with a state-level law passed last year that requires local school boards to adopt policies that are “consistent with but may be more comprehensive than” the Department of Education’s model policies. State-Level Education on Transgender Students.

(Emily Brooks/Washington Examiner)

“There are solutions to allow all our children to feel safe and to be accepted. And I think those solutions haven’t been found yet,” Youngkin said when asked about transgender politics. “We’re moving through solutions that haven’t really been thought through.”

The reunion follows a Virginia court ruling that Loudoun County Elementary School teacher Tanner Cross should be reinstated after objecting to the use of transgender students’ preferred pronouns, and the school district has declared its intention to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Public commentators railed against the proposed policy and Cross’ treatment, while adding criticism to what they described as “critical race theory” in the school system. Council members eventually interrupted the debate, angering the rowdy crowd, and one man was arrested after refusing to leave.

Youngkin said the incident was “a reflection of the emotion people have” about the issue, but wished “people just didn’t take that position. … We have to obey the law. But he argued council members had “mishandled” the meeting and that the rules they put in place were “childish”.

Acting Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler has repeatedly said the district does not teach critical race theory, but activists point to state regulations enacted earlier this year that direct the Department of Education to require those with teaching licenses to pass “cultural” assessments. skill.”

The problem is not limited to Loudoun. The week before the Loudoun explosion, nine speakers protested critical race theory at a Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools meeting and called on board members to take a stand on the theory.

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While McAuliffe says Youngkin embraces a conspiracy, other Democrats in the state accuse him of endangering advocates of controversial policies.

“Youngkin and his political allies should stop playing politics with the education of our students,” Loudoun County School Board Vice Chairperson Atoosa Reaser said Wednesday at a Democratic Party press conference. of Virginia. “The use of our students and our families as political pawns is despicable. The threats of violence against school board members are horrific and real.

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Keywords: News, Virginia, Campaign, Campaigns, Terry McAuliffe, Critical Race Theory, Transgender

Original author: Emily Brooks

Original location: Loudoun County school culture war explosion fuels Virginia governor’s race

Carol C. Reed