Former Vice President Pence on Thursday in Loudoun County discussed parents' rights and school choice, issues that have risen to the forefront ahead of next week's statewide elections in Virginia.
"Make your choice Virginia. Let's choose educational freedom for this generation and the next," Pence told a crowd at Patrick Henry College.
Pence praised pushback from parents and conservatives against local school boards, calling it a "movement" and a "moment in the life of our nation when we can choose educational freedom."
The former vice president's comments come as Republicans, particularly in Virginia, zero in on the issue of parents' rights in K-12 education. Loudoun County in particular has become the epicenter of conservative protests against school boards on issues such as critical race theory and transgender policies. Concerns have also been voiced over sexually explicit content in learning material.
Last week, Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinOvernight Energy & Environment — 'Forever chemical' suits face time crunch Lawmaker asks ex-EPA chief why he couldn't convince Trump climate change is real Virginia governor knocks school boards challenging order making masks optional MORE called for an investigation into the handling of two sexual assault allegations in two Loudoun schools this year.
"To every Loudoun County parent that is here today and all of you that are looking on, thank you. Thank you for caring so much about your children's education. That you're willing to step forward and let your voice be heard," Pence said.
"Make no mistake about it, you're making a difference for your kids. With families here in Loudoun County, standing up for educational excellence and accountability, you are making a difference in the life of the nation," he said.
Youngkin has also seized on the issue, making parents' rights a centerpiece of his campaign. Pence did not mention Youngkin by name but did take the opportunity to hit Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffeJill Biden adds to communications team in lead-up to midterm elections The Memo: Is Trump the GOP's future or in rearview mirror? The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems barrel towards voting rights vote with no outcome MORE for 2019 comments in which he said that diversity and inclusion were just as important to teach kindergarteners as math and English.
Democrats, including McAuliffe, have called the attacks on the issue "a dog whistle," arguing that conservative political operatives have manufactured and drummed up the enthusiasm.
A Suffolk University poll released this week showed 50 percent of Virginia voters said they believed parents should have more of an influence than school boards on students' curriculum.