Conservative parents said they’re looking to exit public schools after an anemic performance by right-leaning candidates in school board elections this week.
With public school enrollment already dropping across the nation, disillusioned parents said they expect the trend to accelerate after hopes of a red wave quickly dwindled when the votes were counted.
“I hate to say it, but people are giving up at this point.”
Loudoun County’s schools have been engulfed by controversy in recent years, with parents bitterly clashing at board meetings over a range of issues — from transgender bathroom policies to educational priorities to student fentanyl overdoses.
Tensions exploded into view with the arrest of parent Scott Smith during a Loudoun school board meeting in 2021.
The father was placed in handcuffs after recounting the sexual assault of his daughter by a transgender student in a school bathroom and demanding answers.
Smith was later pardoned by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
“A lot of us thought that that was a turning point,” said another local dad whose child will graduate out of the district this year.
“If that didn’t turn your stomach, if that didn’t wake you up, then what hope is there? I’m glad we’re done in a few months. God help those who are just starting out.”
With all nine seats up for grabs this year, left-leaning candidates are poised to hold a 6-3 majority.
“Parents are tired of dealing with it,” she said. “We need candidates who can make radical change. We need to abolish the Department of Education. We need to get rid of the unions’ stranglehold on schools. We need confidence restored in public education. Because right now it’s at an all time low.”
The county’s controversies have continued into 2023, with a student walkout over bathroom gender policies just last week and shock over nine student fentanyl overdoses in a single school in September.
According to the latest data from the National Center for Education, enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools fell by more than a million students with the COVID-19 pandemic’s emergence — from 50.8 million in fall 2019 to 49.4 million in fall 2020.
While a variety of factors fueled the drops, parental dissatisfaction with what some perceive as an outsize progressive influence in public school classrooms has boosted departures.
The Washington Post found that homeschooling has become increasingly popular with disillusioned parents in both liberal and conservative areas.
The outlet found that public school populations dipped by 4% over that span.
But while conservative groups mourned Tuesday’s results, American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten was triumphant.
An avowed progressive, the education leader said the elections were a clear rebuke of advocacy groups seeking to reorient school boards to the right.
Moms for Liberty endorsed roughly 130 candidates across the country, with a sizable majority of them failing to win seats.
“The reality is that the culture war agenda is toxic and hurtful, and that voters agree that the path to a brighter future for kids and families runs through the nation’s communities and public schools,” she wrote on X. “That’s the message tonight, right across the country.”
Others argued that voters were unwilling to align themselves with conservative advocacy groups with controversial stands on issues like abortion and transgender rights.
One Loudoun parent said a decrease in the number of public school families who lean conservative will make it difficult for right-leaning school board candidates to prevail moving forward.
Onderchain argued that only those with the means to exit the system will be able to do so, leaving dissatisfied parents with little choice.
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