Corey DeAngelis, national director of research at the American Federation for Children (AFC), says parents across party lines share the sentiment that political candidates should advocate for parental rights and school choice, or face defeat in the November midterm elections.
In an interview for NTD at FreedomFest 2022, DeAngelis said school choice is popular and politically advantageous, and that at this moment in the United States, coming out against parental rights in education is akin to political suicide.
“We've seen a lot of victories over the past couple of months, in the primaries in particular," he said. "About 75 percent of the candidates who are supported by AFC Action Fund and our state affiliates moved on to either run-offs or won their primaries outright,” said DeAngelis.
DeAngelis believes that any candidate who wants to win their November midterm election should have parental rights and school choice on their platform, and that Republican candidates supporting school choice are outperforming their rivals.
“At some point, I think if more Republicans start to run on this, Democrats are going to have to start to adopt the policy, too, because it's going to become so politically disastrous that it'll become a nonpartisan issue in time,” he said.
DeAngelis said recently-elected Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory was another example of parents influencing elections and wanting a greater say in their children's education, including school choice.
Youngkin's opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, was endorsed by the teachers union.
“I think Republicans can do well to lean into education more than they have historically. It's a political winner,” said DeAngelis.
AFC had a big victory in Arizona recently with school choice becoming the law of the land, despite teachers unions and Democratic opposition.
“This is what we've been fighting for, for a very long time: to have the funding follow the child to the institution that best meets their family's needs and aligns with their values,” DeAngelis said. “I hope other states will learn from the victory in Arizona and empower families and fund students, not systems."
“The Democrats all voted against it in the [Arizona] Senate and the House, and the teachers unions fought as hard as possible against empowering parents because they want to protect their monopoly," DeAngelis said. "They don't want to have to compete."
School choice is essential because the competition from families being able to choose their schools will force public schools and colleges and universities to have higher educational standards, he said.
“[Teachers unions'] main argument is that they'll say, 'This will destroy the public schools' or 'It'll defund the public schools,' to which I respond, 'Well, why would that happen if you're doing a good job and you're meeting the needs of families?'” said DeAngelis.
Education funding should be used for educating children, not for propping up and protecting particular institutions, whether public or private, he added.
Tax dollars already fund higher education in the form of Pell Grants and veterans' benefits, which is a form of school choice, allowing people to choose public, private, religious, or secular universities, said DeAngelis.
“They saw the private schools were open right away. They saw that the teachers unions were lobbying the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to keep the schools closed,” said DeAngelis.
DeAngelis said Democrats are going to have to change their midterm strategy because even their own polls show parents are not satisfied with the current public education system.
Fourteen percent of respondents said they thought schools were working well or that they were unsure. The other 86 percent said schools needed to change, with 47 percent saying schools need “some changes and improvements" and 22 percent saying schools need “really major reforms."
Another 17 percent said public schools need “a complete overhaul."