Like the large Hispanic swing to Trump in 2020, there is substantial evidence that another large, predominantly blue, group could swing red under the right conditions in the next election — teachers.
The American left has done its best over the last eight years to change the face of the education system from the inside out, alienating millions of educators in the wake of critical race theory, LGBTQ+ education for minors and massive restrictions on individual freedom to teach, grade and discipline as necessary. There has never been a better opportunity for the right to repair its relationship with teachers, making a massive advance against the cultural and academic erosion in the United States.
It’s strange to think that the left would be losing its grip on public and private school teachers, considering the massive financial investment special interest groups spend annually trying to get their attention. In 2019, almost $4.5 million was spent in an effort by teachers unions to convince educators to vote blue. Education platforms routinely demand that teachers be molded into left-wing activists. Teachers unions praise left-wing politicians and the administration every day ending in “y.” Based on this massive campaign alone, one might expect teachers to swing left by a wide majority.
This isn’t the case — according to an Education Week poll from 2017, only one out of three teachers in the United States consider themselves solidly to the left. That leaves over two million teachers in the moderate, independent or conservative camps. In the last three decades, the moderate and independent teachers have overwhelmingly voted for Democrats in both local and national elections. This could end soon, as the increasingly insane directives implemented by the left have driven teachers away from the Democratic Party in droves.
Critical race theory in both mandated curriculum and racial-equity training has left a sour taste in the mouths of many American teachers. “Teach critical race theory or you’re fired…and a pedophile” doesn’t appear to be a winning strategy. LGBTQ+ lessons in which 1st-grade students are encouraged to masturbate and experiment or list traits that help them decide what gender they want to be don’t go far to win the other two-thirds of educators that don’t subscribe to such a mess.
Teachers are discouraged and often restricted from their freedom to teach, grade and discipline as necessary — and they’re fed up with the lack of support. Thousands of teachers from both red and blue states have begun speaking out about the conditions in their school systems and the effects of leftist policy on their students, parents and communities. Left-leaning publications, policy groups, teacher’s unions, and leading figures have remained largely silent on the concerns from these teachers. In many cases, teachers who question critical race theory are condemned as “racists”, and educators who question the morality of giving sexual education to 10-year-olds are reduced to “transphobes and bigots.”
There has never been a better time for the right to unilaterally reach out to teachers in public and private schools. Much like the Hispanic populations in Florida that were sick of being used as pawns for the Democrat campaigns — sick of seeing their traditional and conservative family values exchanged for cheap slogans and worthless promises, our teachers are increasingly disquieted with the same empty tactics that do little to support them, and less to convince them.
Many teachers in both public and private schools hold traditional and conservative values, though they may not vote red or gold at the moment. I’ve enjoyed countless conversations with fellow teachers who miss the days when personal responsibility was encouraged, when failure was a necessary tool for developing maturity, when socio-political issues were left out of curriculum and when principals weren’t afraid to suspend a violent or derogatory student.
If you could only see the dozens of rolling eyes in the mandated racial equity training, in which teachers are told that it’s their fault black students don’t graduate or that the “destructive system of capitalism” is a pockmark of American evils. The vast majority of teachers don’t want to sit through it, teach it or vote for it. The right has a responsibility to defend the rights and liberties of teachers as much as any free man or woman in our society — perhaps more so, as the futures of our children hang in the balance.
Unfortunately, the right hasn’t quite figured out how to reach teachers, yet. Certainly, some teachers will become so dissatisfied with the left that they voluntarily join the right, but the years of slander from groups like teacher’s unions paint too dark a picture of Republicans for many to simply jump ship. This means that the simple effort of saying “I support education” on the campaign trail isn’t going to reap rewards any more than saying “I love the Hispanic community” worked for Andrew Gillum in Florida.
In order to gain the votes of teachers, we must understand the struggles they’re currently facing in the classroom. Ask your local English teacher why she can’t kick out the student who breaks her lesson every five minutes with obscenities. Ask the 4th grade teachers why she had to hand out a worksheet on Social-Emotional Learning. Get an opinion on the racial equity training from the man forced to sit through twelve grueling hours of it. Encourage these teachers by standing with them, go to school board meetings and advocate for a return to teaching styles that worked when you were in the classroom. We must remember that many teachers are good men and women who desire the freedom to instruct our children to be the best members of American society they can be.
When massive elections in swing districts are decided by hundreds of votes, a coalition of at least two million teachers could very well make a massive difference. With the far-left alienating communities with radical rhetoric, the opportunity to support freedom and liberty in these abandoned groups has never been more open. A bulwark against critical race theory is not built just by parents, but by teachers, students, and administrators united against this racist Marxism. Defending the rights of parents to teach delicate matters, like sex, is aided by your local school. It’s easier for a teacher to say “no” to gross requirements when they have the support of the community.
The time has long since passed for conservatives to invest in education beyond shouting “school choice.” Conservatives offer the freedom to teach great works of literature again, inspiring and challenging the minds of their students. They offer teachers the chance to negotiate individually instead of waiting on the union to agree to terms they don’t like. They support ideological diversity, a meritocracy based on hard work and ethics, and will praise work and success — as opposed to color and gender.
Teachers make a bigger impact on our nation’s youth than any other profession, and welcoming this forsaken community to our foundational principles of liberty and personal responsibility might just be the key to generational change in the United States.
Tony Kinnett is a curriculum developer, educator, and STEM coordinator in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is the co-founder of The Chalkboard Review, an education publication seeking to represent all teachers, and has bylines in Lone Conservative, FEE, and Washington Examiner.