Critical Race Theory Remains Huge Focus of Nationwide Political Races

Community activists and parents recently gathered outside a Loudoun County School Board meeting in Virginia to demand “an end to the racist and divisive ideologies being infused into the government schools.” 

Loudoun County became the epicenter for parental activism seeking more parental say and control over what is being taught in classrooms in recent years, steering debates over the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), which has spread across the rest of the U.S. 

“Parents woke up and realized that their school systems, the administrators, the school boards, are more focused on politics than they are doing their jobs,” said executive director of Fight For Schools, Ian Prior. 

Parental activism in Loudoun County has been credited for propelling Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin to victory in last year’s gubernatorial election, along with Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares in Virginia. Sears is an immigrant military veteran and the first Black woman elected statewide.

On his first day in office, Youngkin signed an executive order to “end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, and to raise academic standards.”

Moms for Liberty and Army of Parents, two other parent advocacy groups, also joined the protest, accompanied by retired Navy Captain Hung Cao, who is running for Virginia’s 10th congressional district as a Republican candidate.

“As your congressman, I will take all the political agenda out of the schools,” said Cao. “I will do that so that you, the parents, have control over what your parent do, what they learn.”

Nearby the protest, another group held a demonstration dubbed the “EmbRACE don’t erase Protest.” In a statement on the Facebook event for the rally, the hosts wrote, “Now we MUST show why social-emotional learning, CRT, and talking about race and racism is important. We cannot let this anti-education rhetoric to go unchallenged. We must stand up for our Black and POC students.”

Education remains hot button issue across the U.S. 

Nevada gubernatorial candidate, Republican nominee Joe Lombardo is locked in a tight race with his Democrat opponent, Governor Steve Sisolak, and is throwing the book at him on the issue of education.

Lombardo, neck and neck in the polls with Sisolak, has been slamming the incumbent governor in recent weeks, criticizing him on curriculum claims, pandemic-area school closures, and school safety while pushing “parents’ rights.”

The Republican candidate appears to have taken a page out of Virginia Governor Youngkin’s playbook as a candidate who flipped a traditionally blue state to red by pushing parent rights and education issues in the campaign’s final weeks. GOP attempts to make education policy issues a campaign focus have been pushed further into the spotlight by Lombardo. 

Lombardo, who, like Youngkin, is a first-time candidate, won the governor’s position in a state carried by President Joe Biden by ten percentage points in the 2020 election by keeping critical race theory and growing frustration over pandemic school closures key talking points. Youngkin’s focus inspired his base without alienating more moderate voters and won him enough suburban and women voters to grab victory from his Democrat opponent, former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

The sheriff of Nevada’s most populous county, Lombardo, brought Gov. Youngkin to help him seal his race. “I want to be considered the education governor,” said Lombardo at one of two campaign events primarily focused on education. 

“He’s got the title of the education governor,” said Lombardo, who attended both events. “But I’m going to take it away from him.”

Following his primary win, Lombardo has focused on a trio of “kitchen table issues” — crime, education, and the economy — increasingly zeroing on education while ramping up attacks on Sisolak about altering funding for a popular reading program, the increasing public school violence across the state, pandemic school closures, and what Lombardo termed the pervasiveness of “social-reform curriculum.” 

Lombardo and his campaign equate the “social-reform curriculum” to “teaching kids what to think instead of how to think.”

Republicans across the United States have focused on CRT, pushing it into the spotlight in recent years, prompting parents to have more involvement in how much say parents should have over what their children are taught in the classroom. This has inspired a growing “parents’ rights” movement.

According to Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights, “Everyone’s talking about the economy, it’s key to Nevadans, but the second-most important issue is education. And just like Youngkin did in Virginia, it looks like Lombardo here in Nevada is going to be pulling the same card in trying to address the issues that have the most impact on Nevada voters.”