Analysis: Democrats fight back as Republicans target education in push for suburbs
Oct 27, 2021 2 mins, 5 secs
Republicans, starting with the ultra-competitive Virginia gubernatorial race, see parents' rights, anger over Covid-19 precautions and the duel over how America's racial history is taught as their much-needed opening to critical suburban voters.

Democrats are fighting back on public education, which has traditionally been a strong political issue for them.

But they must defend their takeover of the suburbs to have any hope in next year's midterm elections and, if it comes to it, prevent a comeback win by ex-President Donald Trump in 2024.

The issue of what America's kids are taught exploded this week in Virginia with Democratic accusations that Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin was blowing a "racist dog whistle" after he ran a misleading ad featuring a mom's concerns about a book her son was taught in school.

He wants to bring his personal culture wars into our classrooms," said the former Democratic governor, who's facing a neck-and-neck race complicated by Biden's struggles to pass his sweeping agenda and declining approval ratings.

Education is not just a political issue.

School board meetings have been interrupted by angry conservative parents who appear to regard themselves as the vanguards of a new political movement.

Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, have waded into issues like transgender kids participating in school sports and the way the history of racism is talked about in classrooms to seek credibility with pro-Trump voters.

Teachers' unions traditionally favor Democrats.

GOP leaders think their message on the issue will connect with their voters and others far beyond Virginia, possibly even spurring a surge in conservative parents running for school board seats that could boost Republicans higher up the ticket next year.

McAuliffe unintentionally amplified the GOP message in a remark in a debate last month that he says was taken out of context.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 30 states have introduced legislation this year that would ban transgender student athletes from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

Florida and Texas have also been at the forefront of efforts to ban the teaching of "Critical Race Theory," which critics say is more about using race as a political wedge issue than an honest debate about US history.

The extent to which CRT is used and taught is regularly blown out of all proportion -- especially since it's mostly been an academic discussion well beyond elementary school classrooms -- and that's especially true on conservative media, where it offers an electric connection direct to the Trump base.

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