McAuliffe Calls Critical Race Theory a 'Right-Wing Conspiracy.' His Union Ally Says It's Needed to 'Teach the Truth'

Teachers' union backing McAuliffe stands by 'anti-racism' curriculums

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D.) / Getty Images
June 29, 2021

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe calls critical race theory a "right-wing conspiracy." One of his largest campaign backers says it's needed to "teach the truth."

McAuliffe in June dismissed concerns over the teaching of critical race theory in Virginia schools as a "right-wing conspiracy … totally made up by Donald Trump" and Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin. Just one week later, however, National Education Association (NEA) president Becky Pringle said her educators "are not going to back down" from including critical race theory in public school curriculum.

"We are not going to be afraid to teach it, because we know that to not teach it, we are not telling the truth," Pringle told CBS News.

The NEA has long supported McAuliffe, contributing at least $125,000 to his campaign committees since 2013. The union's Virginia affiliate also endorsed McAuliffe in June, touting the Democrat's focus on "moving us to educational equity." McAuliffe's deep ties to the NEA could hurt his standing with suburban voters as Virginia parents push back against teachers' unions and local school districts that have defended critical race theory and impeded in-person learning. Youngkin has placed his opposition to the controversial curriculum at the center of his campaign, pledging to "make sure our kids learn real math, not a political ideology" as governor.

Parents Defending Education outreach director Erika Sanzi, a former NEA educator and mother of three, called the union's embrace of critical race theory "a major red flag."

"They are not and never have been in the business of putting the best interests of students first," Sanzi told the Washington Free Beacon.

Neither McAuliffe nor the NEA returned a request for comment.

In addition to Pringle's pledge to fight for critical race theory, the NEA has partnered with the New York Times to distribute copies of the controversial 1619 Project "to educators and activists around the country to help give us a deeper understanding of systemic racism and its impact." NEA delegates in 2019 also directed the union to "incorporate the concept of 'White Fragility' into NEA trainings/staff development" and "educate members and the general public about the importance of reparations" at a total cost of $113,500. 

But the NEA is not the only major teachers' union backing McAuliffe while championing critical race theory. 

The American Federation of Teachers in April sent the Democrat $25,000 just days before union president Randi Weingarten defended teaching the 1619 Project in public classrooms. Weingarten called the project a "factual version of oppression in America," despite objections from prominent historians over its numerous "errors and distortions." Months earlier, the union leader pledged to send lesson plans stemming from the 1619 Project "directly to educators."

McAuliffe will face Youngkin in November after winning his party's contentious June primary by 42 points. His campaign entered June with $3.3 million on hand, compared with Youngkin's $4.4 million.