Do education issues really matter in the midterm elections?

The direction in which your schools are going will be on K-12 parents' minds when they cast their ballots this fall.

Both sides of the political divide agree on at least one thing about the midterm elections—parents appear to be more motivated to vote than they have been in the past. And while the economy, inflation and abortion may be the most crucial issues, the direction of the schools you lead will also be on K-12 parents’ minds when they cast their ballots.

On one side are parents who continue to press for full equity and equal access to opportunity for K-12 students of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. These parents are also demanding school environments and curriculums that are inclusive of students’ beliefs, gender identities and sexual orientations.

On the other side are parents who argue schools are indoctrinating students by teaching about LGBTQ issues and shaming white children over slavery and ongoing discrimination. They have supported Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law and other legislation that bars transgender students from girls’ sports and using preferred names, pronouns and bathrooms.

So, how will they vote in the midterm elections?

About 60% of parents said they are more motivated to vote in 2022 than they have been in past midterms and more than half said the economy is the top issue, according to a survey conducted this fall by the National Parents Union, a coalition of K-12 equity advocates. When it comes to education, a majority of parents said they were most concerned about violence in schools and how districts are addressing students’ mental health needs. The poll also found:

  • Only 32% of parents say they have heard “a lot” about candidates’ stances on public education—compared to what they’ve heard about abortion (61%) and inflation (60%).
  • 38% of parents would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on K-12 education.
  • Democrats hold a sizable lead over Republicans when parents were asked who they trust more on education (41% to 29%).
  • Just 14% of parents said education was among the top two issues in the midterm elections (The economy, abortion, healthcare and crime were ranked higher).

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In another poll, two-thirds of voters expressed satisfaction with their own child’s education. But more than 60% of respondents from both political parties said their local public schools “are headed in the wrong direction,” according to a survey by the National Coalition for Public School Options, a right-leaning organization that advocates for school choice. Not surprisingly, many more Republicans support school choice, but a large majority of voters from both parties said they want schools to make virtual learning a permanent option, the poll found.


Whatever the importance of education’s role in the election, those who get elected are not highly regarded when it comes to education, the National Coalition for Public School Options poll found. Voters trust teachers and parents the most when it comes to making decisions about students. They expressed the least confidence in the U.S Department of Education and state lawmakers.

These groups have influence

The sharp divides over education in some communities may best be illustrated by how organizations of various political stripes have been gearing up for the midterm elections. The staunchly conservative Moms for Liberty, which first formed to oppose COVID-era mask mandates and critical race theory, says it will not only support right-wing candidates but its members are running themselves for spots on school boards. The organization has also supported efforts to remove books from school libraries, particularly books that cover LGBTQ issues and race.

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“Parents realized that this American government does not work well without us,” Tiffany Justice, one of the co-founders of Moms for Liberty, said on the group’s website. “And while we were busy raising our kids and working, we saw during COVID that elected officials abdicated their authority.”

NEA, the larger of the country’s two giant teachers’ unions, is offering advice to its members on how to choose candidates this fall. “Education voters must elect U.S. leaders who are willing to work across party lines, listen to educators, and make public education a priority,” the organization says. “It matters that the candidates you vote for understand their role in supporting students. Enough bad actors can blow the whole picture for public schools.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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