American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks to the audience at the annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers Friday, July 13, 2018 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. | Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Democrats are sharpening a political message on schools that they hope resonates with swing voters and responds to GOP-led attacks against classroom lessons on history, race and sexuality during the blistering summer runup to November’s midterm elections.
Armed with fresh polling data and focus group research — plus the deep pockets of labor unions — liberals’ school-focused lines of attack seek to hone in on support for students, school spending and recovering from two years of virus-disrupted education.
Yet the messaging strategy from party influencers and pollsters is emerging as Democrats’ traditional hold on education policy slips from their grasp, all while the party struggles to respond to waves of red state legislation aiming to control curriculum and bolster parent influence in classrooms.
Recent polling from one advocacy group shows parents and voters of color in dozens of congressional battlegrounds are significantly more likely to trust Republicans on education policy.
“Democrats can make up for lost ground by refocusing on the education issues voters care about the most, drawing contrast to Republicans’ focus on culture wars and book banning,” said a polling memo released Wednesday by the Education Reform Now advocacy group and Impact Research. “Voters are frustrated with a lack of leadership on education — from both parties, but especially from Democrats.”
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