By Ledyard King and Mabinty Quarshie, featuring Carrie Lukas, vice president of Independent Women’s Voice and Independent Women’s Network, a project of IWV

LEESBURG, Va. – Ronda Nassib found herself among fed-up parents wanting to know how she and a small band of Northern Virginia activists took on the local school board and sparked a movement that help turn Virginia from blue to red last month.

The parents trekked from suburban communities in Arizona, Texas, Florida and other parts of the country to a retreat in Washington, D.C., in part to hear Nassib and other Fight For Schools members from nearby Loudoun County, Virginia. They wanted to channel parents’ outrage over critical race theory (CRT), curriculum and COVID mandates into political action, the way it had propelled Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin into the Virginia governor’s mansion last month.

ALG Research, a Democratic polling firm that conducted focus groups of Virginia voters after the election, found that many were seething over schools, especially after McAuliffe said in one debate he didn’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach.

“I think that a lot of people didn’t realize just what a kind of cataclysmic shift it was and experience it was for parents who were required to homeschool their kids or do online learning for their kids,” Carrie Lukas, vice president of the conservative Independent Women’s Voice, told USA TODAY. “I think that’s really where this starts. And it was this kind of building frustration.”

Republicans, looking to move past 2020 and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, believe they have found a strategy to retaking Congress without invoking the ire of Trump given Youngkin’s success in Virginia. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., told supporters at a rally hosted by the Independent Women’s Network last month that the GOP would continue to push for parents to have more say in their children’s education. 

Democrats also said that simply saying critical race theory is not taught in any public schools is not an effective counter-messaging tool. 

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