After education issues proved crucial to Republicans' upset victories in Virginia, GOP lawmakers are turning their attention to Democratic plans to put the federal government in charge of education.
Buried in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act is a plan to nationalize preschool programs and place them under the direction of the Education Department. The bill would require governors to submit learning standards for preschoolers for the secretary of education's approval, which detractors say would further the Biden administration's reach into public schools across the country.
According to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), the plan to increase federal oversight of preschools is a natural extension of Democrats' "far-left socialist tax and spending spree."
"It gives the Biden administration complete control to approve the early education standards being taught to three to four years olds," Stefanik said at a roundtable Wednesday hosted by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.). She pointed to Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin's (R.) successful appeal to parents to show that the Biden administration is "out of touch" with what Americans want in schools.
The Biden administration has repeatedly tried to extend federal control over public education. The Education Department in April proposed a rule to prioritize federal funding for education groups that help schools create lessons for elementary students based on "antiracism" and the New York Times‘s controversial 1619 Project. The Washington Free Beacon reported last month that the White House communicated with the National School Boards Association before the group petitioned the Justice Department to investigate concerned parents, whom it likened to "domestic terrorists."
Stefanik also noted that Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in September refused to say whether parents were a "primary stakeholder" in their children's education. The round table discussion was focused on the Biden administration's attempts to keep parents out of children's education. Also present were Republican representatives Virginia Foxx (N.C.), Julia Letlow (La.), and Burgess Owens (Utah).
Foxx slammed Democrats for focusing on radical social issues rather than falling test scores.
"If you have a federal takeover of education, what you're going to have is drag queen story hour instead of a math one," she said.
Some speakers at Wednesday's event seemed buoyed by Youngkin's win over Democratic nominee and former governor Terry McAuliffe, who drew ire for saying parents shouldn't have a say in what their children learn.
"It's just the clear optics that McAuliffe had Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation for Teachers union, at his final rally. And then he lost," Ginny Gentiles, a school choice advocate said. "That is very clear evidence that that power was surpassed by the power of parents who want something different."
Still, Parents Defending Education founder Nicki Neily warned that Youngkin's victory will not stop Democrats from attempting to radicalize education.
"As we saw in the House and Senate Judiciary oversight hearings, I do not think they will be walking this back. We are seeing them double down," Neily said.
None of Virginia's Democratic representatives responded to a Free Beacon inquiry regarding their stance on the education items in the legislation.
The Build Back Better Act has hit repeated snags on the way to the House floor. Whether or not it comes to a vote, however, Stefanik says the reconciliation bill misses the mark.
"Today's Democratic Party believes that the government knows better than parents when it comes to what is right for their kids," Stefanik said. "We know that is not a message that resonates with America."