Since early 2021, a wave of right-wing organizations–funded by ultra wealthy donors they keep secret from the public–have sought to take political advantage of the challenges families have faced in their childrens’ education due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
By design, we often don’t know the identities of these groups’ major funders, but they have significant ties to major school privatization proponents, such as billionaires Charles Koch and Betsy DeVos. Many of these dark money anti-public school groups and their affiliated Political Action Committees (PACs) also have close ties to GOP operatives.
They tested out their “culture war” tactics on the Virginia gubernatorial race last November. Dark money groups, such as “Independent Women’s Voice” and “Parents Defending Education,” descended on Virginia suburbs to help buttress the campaign of Trump-endorsed GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin and to attack incumbent Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
In Virginia, their playbook relied on spreading disinformation about LGBTQ students, using “parental rights” language to promote a right-wing candidate, and creating the appearance that they represent mainstream sentiment while exclusively amplifying right-wing claims.
In 2022, right-wing operatives have targeted other states, building on the Virginia playbook. For example, the dark money group that calls itself “Moms for Liberty,” and its Florida-based PAC, have worked alongside GOP legislators and Governor Ron DeSantis to finance and promote far-right school board candidates across the state.
Manufacturing outrage over “parental rights” (even as GOP legislators seek to prevent Americans from deciding if or when they become parents), these right-wing groups and their political allies are focused on getting voters to the polls.
As they expand their efforts in 2022, here’s what parents and the press need to know.