Virginia GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Challenges Opponents To Join The Pledge To Reopen Schools

Virginia GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Challenges Opponents To Join The Pledge To Reopen Schools

Virginia businessman and Republican candidate for governor Pete Snyder is challenging all statewide office-seekers to sign his pledge to reopen schools held hostage by teachers unions.

“Nothing has united Republican, Democrat, and Independent families in Virginia more than the need for our children to be back in school,” Snyder said in a statement Monday. “Unfortunately, career politicians beholden to special interest and teachers unions have kept students out of the classroom.”

Snyder is challenging candidates to sign on with a tweet that features themselves holding the placard below, which reads: “I, _______, pledge to stand up to the teachers union and support opening our schools now, five days a week with a teacher in every classroom.”

“I hope all Republican and Democrat candidates running for office this year can join me by putting the interest of Virginia children, parents, and teachers ahead of special interests and the teachers union,” Synder said.

As teachers unions nationwide resist a return to classrooms, schools in Virginia have been hit especially hard by the closures where unions have been particularly defiant.

In January, a bill sponsored by Republicans in the Virginia Senate to force schools to offer in-person learning in addition to virtual options drew ferocious pushback from the teachers unions, which warned their members would die.

“We can recover from a loss of learning, but we can’t recover from a loss of life,” Virginia Education Association President James J. Fedderman said in February in an interview with a local television station. The comment came just days after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists released a report, which concluded, “[T]here has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.” The CDC also made clear last month that full vaccination for teachers was unnecessary for students to return for in-person instruction.

“Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky at a February press briefing. “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.”

Thousands of emails obtained through state Freedom of Information Act requests by National Review revealed broad collusion between Democratic lawmakers and the teachers unions fighting to keep schools closed.

Snyder’s push to put school openings front and center in the statewide race is welcome news to parents fighting for their children’s return to the classroom.

“I’m glad Pete Snyder is standing up to the teachers unions,” said the Independent Women’s Forum’s Director of Center for Progress and Innovation Julie Gunlock, who added that her town’s superintendent in Alexandria declared that opening schools five days a week this fall would be “almost impossible.”

“Meanwhile, private schools in Alexandria have been opened since last year,” Gunlock said. “We need strong leadership in Richmond to force these union puppets to act responsibly and get kids and teachers back in the classroom.”

The map below from the Virginia Department of Education outlines the extent to which each county has reopened its classrooms. As of this writing Monday, 31 divisions see all students in the classroom at least four days a week. Forty-eight divisions only send students into the brick-and-mortar classroom a minimum of four days a week, primarily among those who are younger, while employing a hybrid or fully remote system for others. Thirty-three divisions are using a hybrid model with no students meeting the four-days-a-week threshold for in-person learning, and nine divisions see a mix between full remote learning and a hybrid.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s COVID-19 cases continue to follow the nationwide trend of decline, shown in the chart below from the state Department of Health:

Snyder sent his pledge to reopen schools this week to all candidates vying for the governor’s mansion in both major parties.

A poll out last month from the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University shows Snyder behind in an open race with 55 percent of Republicans still undecided. State Sen. Amanda Chase is the current Republican frontrunner with 17 percent support, followed by former Virginia Speaker of the House Kirk Cox at 10 percent and Snyder with 6.

On the Democratic side, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is running ahead with 26 percent, with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax behind at 12 percent, and former state Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy tied with state Sen. Jennifer McClellan at 4 percent. Forty-nine percent of Democratic voters, however, also said they were undecided.

Tristan Justice is a staff writer at The Federalist focusing on the 2020 presidential campaigns. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at [email protected]
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