Covid-19 School Closures Reignite Political Jockeying Ahead of Midterms


WASHINGTON—Republicans are testing out new lines of attack related to the new year’s school shutdowns, with party officials seeing Democrats’ record on Covid-19 education policy giving them an opening to build their war chests and sway voters in the midterms.

School closures and frustrations with remote learning played a significant role in Republicans’ victory last year in Virginia, when Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s mansion. Now, following a wave of temporary closures nationwide due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, Republicans are targeting what they say is Democrats’ mismanagement of the outbreak.

Democrats respond that they are committed to in-person education, citing the Covid-19 relief funding they passed over unanimous GOP opposition and stressing that most schools opened this past year, fulfilling a pledge made by President Biden. They say that many canceled school days and shifts to remote learning resulted from staffing issues due to illness, a contrast from the 2020-21 school year, when unions clashed with local leaders over safety protocols.

In recent days, the Iowa Republican Party has sent out a fundraising email asking people to “chip in $10 or more right now to stand with State Republicans and help keep our schools and communities open.” Republicans are also targeting Democrats in competitive House districts, including

Rep. Elissa Slotkin

in Michigan. A recent fundraising email from House Republicans’ campaign arm asked: “Will Elissa Slotkin demand that schools reopen?”

Families who rely on free lunch programs and benefits provided by schools can miss out in school closures, which creates “an opportunity for Republican candidates to reach out to those communities…and maybe have people who haven’t historically voted for Republicans give them a second look,” said GOP consultant Jason Roe, who is advising state-Sen. Tom Barrett, Ms. Slotkin’s Republican opponent.

Ms. Slotkin said most closures in her area are due to staffing shortages and positive Covid-19 tests. She added that “while we all have to follow CDC guidelines in those instances, we need our state and local governments to be doing everything in their power to keep our schools open and safe.”

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union staged a car caravan protest Wednesday outside City Hall over Covid-19 safety protocols.


Ashlee Rezin/Associated Press

Democrats currently control the House 221 to 212, and Republicans are seen as having a strong chance to take back the chamber, with President Biden’s approval numbers weighing on the party. The Democratic-controlled 50-50 Senate is also up for grabs, along with about a half-dozen competitive…


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