Education, Parents' Rights Emerge as Key Issues in Florida Governor's Race Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Tuesday, 25 January 2022 11:04 AM
Education and parents’ rights will be prominent issues during Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' reelection campaign in Florida this year, according to a state politician.
"School choice and parents' rights to have a say in their children's education has already shown to be a leading issue in the Virginia election," State Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., a Miami-area Republican, told Politico. "In 2022, this will be a determining factor with voters in Florida.
"While candidates clearly recognize this, you can’t artificially create parent movements."
That seems to be what Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., is attempting to do after Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., in Virginia's gubernatorial race.
In a state President Joe Biden won by 10 points, Youngkin tapped into parents' anger with local school boards over issues such as critical race theory and mask mandates.
Crist, a former governor who's aiming to reclaim the job, launched "Parents for Crist" last week. He said the group will be an "organizing force for our campaign in our mission to protect education."
DeSantis already has been leading efforts to protect parents' rights in Florida. He focused on proposals that would ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, and pushed for schools to remain open when Democrats promoted remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also battled local school boards and the Biden administration when he sought to ban mask mandates in schools and withheld state funding from districts that disobeyed his edict.
"Gov. DeSantis pushed for schools to remain open in 2020 and today it is recognized to have been the right thing to do," Helen Aguirre Ferré, executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement to Politico. "Those who stand up for parent rights and individual liberties will win in 2022."
A key education panel in the Florida Senate last week advanced along party lines the DeSantis-championed "Stop Woke Act," which cracks down on teaching critical race theory.
Critical race theory is defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as the concept in which race is a socially constructed category ingrained in American law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds that the U.S. society is inherently or systemically racist.