Friday, November 26, 2021

After Virginia, the GOP escalates the debate on race and education

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans plan to vehemently oppose the race and diversity curriculum — increasing parental frustration about public schools — as a core part of their strategy in the 2022 midterm elections, a message A coordinated effort to supercharge the U.S. that mobilizes the right—voters swaying in Virginia this week and which Democrats dismissed as race-baiting.

Coming out of Tuesday’s election, in which Republican Glenn Youngkin Won the office of governor after aligning with conservative parent groups, with the GOP indicating that it saw the fight on teaching about racism as a political winner. Indiana Representative. Jim Banks, the chairman of the conservative House Study Committee, issued a memo suggesting that “Republicans can and should be the party of the parent.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, while opposing the teaching of “Critical Race Theory,” declared support for a “Parental Rights Bill,” an academic framework about systemic racism that has been a part of American history about race. Teaching has become a catch-all phrase.

“Parents are outraged at what they see as inappropriate social engineering and an irresponsible bureaucracy in schools,” said Phil Cox, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

Democrats were wrestling with how to counter this message. Some dismissed it, saying it would not have much appeal to the GOP’s most conservative base. Others argued that the party ignores the power of cultural and racially divisive debate at its own peril.

He pointed to Republicans’ use of the slogan “Defy the Police” to grab Democrats and try to alert white, suburban voters after demonstrations against police brutality and racism began in Minneapolis after the killing of George Floyd. Of. Some Democrats blame the phrase some in the party actually supported for contributing to the loss in the House race last year.

If the party does not get an effective response, it could lose its narrow majority in both houses of Congress next November.

The debate comes as the racial justice movement that grew in 2020 is resonating with the loss – a defeated ballot question On the rebuilding of policing in Minneapolis, and a series of local elections where voters turned away from the candidates who were most vocal about fighting institutional racism.

“It happened because of the backlash against what happened last year,” said Bernice King, daughter of the late civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who runs the King Center in Atlanta.

King warned that efforts to hold back social justice progress “is not something we should sleep on.”

“We have to be constantly vigilant, constantly aware,” she said, “and collectively apply the necessary pressure where it needs to be applied to ensure that this nation continues to progress.”

Banks’ memo included a series of recommendations for how Republicans aim to mobilize parents next year, and several openly touched on race. He proposed a ban on federal funding supporting the critical race theory and called for legislation to ensure that schools are spending money on gifted and talented and advanced placement programs “to provide diversity, equity and inclusion administrators”. Instead of exploding.”

Democrats plan to counter such efforts, noting that the underlying goal of many top Republicans is diverting government funding from public schools and giving it to private and religious alternatives. They also see that the tussle of the school culture war can alienate most voters because the majority of the country’s children attend public schools.

“I think Republicans will continue to try to divide us and not answer real questions about education,” said Marshall Cohen, political director of the Democratic Governors Association. “Like their plan to cut public school funding and give it to private schools.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused Republicans of “trying to use our children as political footballs.” But Jean-Pierre also took criticism from conservatives that critical race theory teaches white children to be ashamed of their country.

“Great countries are honest, right? They have to be honest with themselves about history, which is good and bad,” she told reporters. “And our kids should be proud to be Americans after learning that history “

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Most schools do not teach Critical Race Theory, which focuses on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they serve to uphold the dominance of white people.

But parents who organize events across the country say they see plenty of examples of how schools are transforming the way they teach history and gender issues — which equate to some profound social changes. which they do not support.

And concern over what students are being taught – especially distance learning after the coronavirus pandemic exposed a large swath of parents to the curriculum – has led to other objections. Regarding the action taken by schools and school boards. Including COVID safety protocols and policies regarding transgender students.

“I’m sure most people have no problem teaching history in a balanced way,” said Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson. “But when you say Critical Race Theory, and you say it’s attacking us and making our kids feel bad about themselves, that’s an appeal that’s tempting. And, unfortunately for Democrats, So, when someone accuses you of it, it’s hard to defend it.”

Democrats were wiped out Tuesday in a low-profile race in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where key race theory was a major issue at controversial school board meetings slated for the summer and fall.

Patrice Tisdale, the Jamaican-born candidate for magisterial district judge, said she felt the political climate was racially charged. He heard “dog whistles” from voters who called him “antifa” and accused him of defaming the police, she said. While campaigning in the neighborhood in the final weeks of the election, a voter asked Tisdale if she believed in the critical race theory.

“I said, ‘What does this have to do with my election? Tisdale recalled, a lawyer who lost her race. “I’m running to be the judge myself and that was his question.”

The issue also had weight in Virginia. A majority of voters there — 7 in 10 — said racism is a serious problem in American society, according to AP VoteCast, a poll of Tuesday’s voters. But 44% of voters said public schools focus “too much” on racism in the US, while 30% said they focus “too little” on racism.

The division was clear along party lines: 78% of Youngkin’s voters focused on racism in schools, while 55% of his rival Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s voters said it was too low.

Youngkin’s strategist Jeff Roe described the campaign’s message on education as a broad, overarching issue that allowed the candidate to speak to a diverse group of voters—some critically concerned about race theory, others accelerated math classes. , are concerned about school safety and the elimination of school choice.

“It was about parental wisdom,” he said.

McAuliffe came under attack last week, portraying Republicans as wanting to ban the books. He accused Youngkin of trying to “silence up” black writers during a flare-up over whether the themes in Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel “Bewaved” were too explicit. McAuliffe was still a state president who lost the easily run gubernatorial race last year to Joe Biden.

Republican Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer equated the school to “parental rights” and a movement to protect the race.

Emmer, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said, “The way it was handled in Virginia, it was clearly about parents, mothers and fathers, that we want to have a say in our child’s education. ”

It didn’t bother some Democrats, who see the GOP argument as constructed and fleeting.

“Republicans are very good at creating issues,” slammed Democratic Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabeno.

“We have to address that, and then they’ll build something else.”


Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa; Morrison from New York. Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jill Colvin in New York and Kevin Freaking, Marie Claire Jalonik and Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.


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