Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory this week was fueled, at least in part, by COVID-19 school shutdowns that energized suburban parents to confront the state’s Democratic establishment.
While network exit polls did not ask specifically about school shutdown, nearly 25% of Virginia voters told the exit pollsters that parents should have “a lot” of say about what goes on in their children’s schools.
Mr. Youngkin was a Republican who made parental right a central part of his campaign and edged out Terry McAuliffe by 6 points according to exit polls.
When the pandemic struck last year, governors across the U.S. used their emergency powers to close public schools and close local businesses. This caused confusion and frustration for parents.
Millions upon millions of parents were on the unemployment lines, including 3,000,000 women who had to choose between caring for their children and their jobs.
From restaurant managers to grocery store clerks, parents had to figure how to get to work while ensuring their children attended Zoom classes at the home.
K-12 online learning began to collapse, and parents noticed their children were falling behind academically and hurting emotionally.
According to research released in September by the Brookings Institution, children who did not receive in-person school instruction over the last 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic were stymied academically and suffered increased depression, stress and anxiety. Brookings pointed out that college enrollment was also affected by the shutdowns, which could lead to long-term economic setbacks.
About 69% of parents were concerned about the amount of in-person schooling their kids missed, according to an NPR poll conducted with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Schools were closed longer in the U.S. than in other western countries. The majority of schools in the United States that were run by Democrats were kept closed for longer periods than those managed by Republicans.
Virginia ranked seventh for having the fewest days of in-school instruction last year out of all 50 states, according to the website Burbio.
By March last year, most students in Northern Virginia’s public schools had not been taught in an in-person setting for over a year. Teachers and unions supported closing schools, claiming that it was too risky to re-start learning in-person.
Parents were upset by this line drawn in the sand from local and state officials as they worried that their children would fall behind academically.
Parents created activist organizations such as the Open Fairfax County Public Schools Coalition or the Northern Virginia Parent Student Alliance in an effort to press school officials to resume in-person instruction.
Saundra Davis, a co-founder of Open FCPS Coalition, told Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingrahm in July her organization is a bi-partisan group of parents who say that Fairfax County refused to re-open its schools but paid more attention to “other things like their pet projects and social justice issues.”
” You’ll be shocked to learn that I am a Democrat. We are a grassroots bipartisan organization and everyone on the board has been writing letters. We have spoken with them personally and we have gone to them. “I’ve tried to warn the them that there’s going to be a bipartisan tsunami coming their way,” Ms. Davis stated. They don’t even look at us in the eyes. They don’t reply to us. They don’t write us back.
Other families pulled their children out of the public school system. Fairfax County, the most populous county in the commonwealth saw a 5 percent dip after more than 10,000 students had withdrawn from the school system since the beginning of the pandemic. Nearby Arlington County experienced a 3.9% drop , while Loudoun County saw a 3.4% 3_ decrease.
School districts were faced with a dilemma between parents who want schools to reopen and children who want to be notified. Teachers who slow-walked the process of reopening schools in the name safety were not being able to satisfy their students, said Elaine Luria (Virginia Democrat).
” I believe that schools were able to adapt and do the best under these circumstances. She said that while there were some learning losses due to the fact that children weren’t able to meet their teachers face-to-face during COVID, it was an unprecedented time.
Ms. Luria said, “I have been in close contact with our local school boards to understand all of the things they are doing to reduce the time students were not personally face-toface in the classroom during COVID .”
The parental backlash against school closings, which were supported by Democratic leaders, spanned from coast to coast.
Tyler Sandberg, vice president of the educational reform nonprofit Ready Colorado, said that the parent-driven election victories in Colorado and Virginia this week came primarily from moms and dads who were frustrated at how public schools handled COVID-19 lockdowns.
” There has been a lot media attention to masks and critical-race theory nationally, but ultimately it was when teachers’ unions closed schools beyond all reason that the fire started,” Mr. Sandberg said to The Washington Times. “In Colorado, pot shops were still open , but schools were shut
Correction: This article has been corrected to remove the reference to the teacher’s union in Rep. Luria’s response.
Sean M. Salai contributed this report.