Betsy DeVos: Youngkin win will further fuel the 'parent groundswell' for education freedom

DeVos on Virginia election: ‘Very encouraged’ by parents being engaged

Former education secretary Betsy DeVos addresses parental empowerment as the future of education weighs on the Virginia race.

EXCLUSIVE: Former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told Fox News that the victory of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday will fuel the movement for parental rights and school choice, likely giving Republicans an edge in the 2022 midterm elections.

“I think yesterday’s results are a big warning shot across the bow to Democrats,” DeVos told Fox News in an interview on Wednesday. She urged Democrats to embrace school choice and buck their party’s preference for teachers unions. She also noted that Republicans who have been tepid about school choice in the past should reevaluate their stances on the issue.

“I absolutely think that Virginia is a very real example of what has been building now for some time,” she added. “Any elected official had better take a serious look at what is going on there and consider how they can be with and for students in the future, not with and for systems and special interests.”

Youngkin rally in Virginia. 
(REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz)

DeVos noted that Youngkin campaigned on pivotal education issues, including higher standards, parental rights, school choice and a ban on lessons based on critical race theory (CRT).

Many parents have opposed CRT – a framework that involves deconstructing aspects of society to discover systemic racism beneath the surface – as divisive and racist, a criticism DeVos echoed. 

“Critical race theory is ill-conceived and it is outright racism itself,” she told Fox News. While Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin’s Democratic opponent, had claimed that CRT is not taught in schools, DeVos referenced ways that Virginia’s Department of Education has promoted CRT. 

McAuliffe himself lamented the proportion of White teachers in Virginia schools, presenting a plan to “diversify” the teacher base in remarks that a Black civil rights leader condemned as “racist” and “insulting.”

DeVos also noted McAuliffe’s infamous statement, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Finally, she faulted the Democrat for bringing in Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, as his “closing act” at a rally the day before the election. 

This move “totally encapsulated” the idea that the election was a choice between “Youngkin for parents and students and McAuliffe for teachers unions and their checkbooks,” DeVos said.

Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

She predicted that Youngkin’s victory will further encourage the parent movement.

“The parent groundswell, I believe, is going to be fueled even further by what we’ve seen unfold in Virginia and what we’re seeing unfold at local levels with school boards that are totally non-responsive,” the former education secretary said. 

She said parents are “revolting against a system that has been totally self-serving.”

DeVos explained how the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the status quo in education.

“Parents have seen more about what’s going on in their kids’ classrooms in a distance-learning environment,” she said. She claimed that left-wing politics has slowly permeated classrooms over time, and noted that many parents are discovering it for the first time. “The last year and a half has revealed to many more families that while they thought they were in charge, they clearly have not been.”

DeVos cited the lockdowns, mask mandates from teachers unions and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She also cited the National School Boards Association letter that compared parents protesting at school boards to domestic terrorists and the Department of Justice memo urging investigations into potential threats at school boards, ostensibly built on that letter. While the NSBA withdrew the letter and apologized, activists say the letter will have long-lasting effects.

Concerned parents and school choice advocates aren’t just speaking up at school board meetings, either. DeVos told Fox News that “we’ve already seen 21 states since the beginning of this calendar year pass new school choice programs or dramatically expand existing ones.” 

Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin faced off in the 2021 Virginia governor’s race.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images  |  Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images )

DeVos, who had been involved in the school choice movement for decades before becoming education secretary, said the movement’s growth has skyrocketed in recent months.

“I’ve been involved in the parental empowerment, school choice movement for 35 years,” she noted. “This last year and a half, the momentum has built in ways that nobody could have predicted pre-pandemic.”

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