Republicans see education as winning issue in 2024 – The Hill
Prospective GOP candidates for president are leaning heavily into education amid concerns over issues like parental rights and the politicization of school curriculums.
Underscoring how critical an issue it is for Republicans, former President Trump unveiled his education platform on Thursday, calling for cutting federal funds to any education program that involves “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.”
The move comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), both seen as top potential challengers to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, have made headlines in recent weeks with a series of education-related actions.
DeSantis sparked controversy most recently by rejecting an Advance Placement African American studies course earlier this month, while Youngkin launched an investigation into multiple northern Virginia schools for not giving students the news that they had qualified for National Merit Scholarships in a timely fashion.
Their actions come as potential GOP candidates search for winning issues after a disappointing midterm election. They also suggest that Republicans will take a page out of Youngkin’s playbook, after he made school issues a winning platform in Virginia’s gubernatorial race in 2021.
“You can look at the way Glenn Youngkin became governor of Virginia,” said Republican strategist Alex Stroman. “I would say it was largely because of out-of-control school districts and kind of the climate that was born out of what was happening with COVID and some of the responses and parents starting to pay attention to education because they were forced to.”
Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign had nine different education models to target nine different types of education voters.
“It was a very sophisticated, deliberate goal to make education the forefront,” said Kristin Davison, a political adviser to Youngkin. “We made a decision very early on in 2021 that we were going to go on offense on education because Republicans always played defense, and it wasn’t an easy decision and all of these people said we were crazy, but it ended up working out.”
Youngkin notably zeroed in on his opponent, former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, for saying that he did not believe parents should be telling schools what they should teach.
The Virginia governor’s supporters credit him for writing the GOP playbook on education after the party had struggled for years to go on offense on the issue.
“Gov. Youngkin put education on the map for Republicans,” said one GOP strategist. “He was the first Republican candidate to have education be a central part of his campaign platform and win.”
“All 2024 potential candidates saw what Glenn did in 2021,” the strategist said.
Education has also catapulted DeSantis, who is viewed as a potential replacement for Trump, into the spotlight.
Like Youngkin, DeSantis used his coronavirus response as a way to mold his own policy on education in the Sunshine State.
“If you look at Ron DeSantis’s meteoric rise among Republican base voters, it’d be the same thing,” Stroman said. “It was COVID policies, but …….