ANALYSIS: Democrats are losing Asian-American votes after pushing the equity agenda in schools

Asian-American voters–whose students have lost seats in selective schools and missed out on award recognition–are turning towards candidates who promise to replace equity with merit.

When Va. Gov. Glenn Youngkin's victory came as an upset to Democrats, he received support from advocates who say that schools devalue hard work at the expense of Asian-American students.

The education system is being stripped of merit, and it is costing Democratic candidates votes. 

K-12 schools and colleges are pushing the equity agenda, a set of policies and practices aimed at delivering equal outcomes rather than celebrating achievement. Asian-American voters–whose students have lost seats in selective schools and missed out on award recognition–are turning towards candidates who promise to replace equity with merit. 

[RELATED: CA high school removes honors English classes for racial equity, following higher ed trend]

“Democratic candidates have fared relatively poorly with this constituency in New York and San Francisco in recent elections,” David Wu writes in a Mar. 28 City Journal article

“Indeed, the shifting of this electoral grouping may be one of the most important political trends of our time.”

Wu is the Director of Operations at George Mason University’s (GMU) C. Boyden Gray Center in Fairfax, Va. 

In GMU’s home state, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s education policies could take him to the White House, according to a Mar. 24 report in USA Today

When Youngkin’s 2021 gubernatorial victory came as an upset to the Democratic candidate, education advocates were some of his fiercest supporters. They uncovered scandals that, for them, evidenced an education system that devalues hard work at the expense of Asian-American students. 

Students who “put in more hours of extra work than their peers … should reap the rewards,” Suparna Dutta told Campus Reform. 

Dutta is a former Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) parent and leader of Educators for Youngkin, part of the “mama and papa bear movement that would bring him to office,” per a Fairfax Times op-ed.  

Members of the coalition mobilized over FCPS’ Thomas Jefferson (TJ), considered the most prestigious public high school in the nation. 

The school switched from “merit-based, race-blind admission” to a process “aimed at balancing … racial groups,” according to Coalition for TJ, another organization led by Dutta. The coalition is suing FCPS, alleging that TJ introduced policies, including scrapping its admissions test, to “reduce the percentage of Asian-American students.”

TJ is also one of 17 Virginia schools that withheld National Merit Scholarship (NMS) recognition from students because administrators did not want to hurt feelings by singling out students for their achievement.  

Youngkin proposed House Bill 2426 in Jan. 2023 to prohibit schools from withholding information from students and families related to awards, scholarships, and college admissions. The bill died in committee with a vote along party lines. 

The governor is disappointed Democrat legislators rejected the legislative proposal that would have both ensured parental notification and upheld the importance of merit in Virginia schools,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told Campus Reform

”The attorney general’s investigation into the three school divisions is ongoing.” 

Porter says that Youngkin “took immediate action” as soon as he knew about the NMS incident at Va. schools. Coalition for TJ member Cheryl Buford says that Youngkin’s responsiveness is part of his popularity with Asian-American voters. 

Buford, who served on an education advisory committee for the governor’s campaign, told Campus Reform that Youngkin “was the first government official [who] actually listened to them and said, ‘You have legitimate concerns.’” 

[RELATED: WATCH: GMU students want Glenn Youngkin off campus but can’t say why]

“That was very refreshing,” she continues. 

Wu argues in City Journal that not listening to these voters has consequences, noting the rightward shift in a voting block that has not swung Republican since a majority of Asian-Americans voted for George H.W. Bush in 1992. 

Like TJ, competitive schools in New York State and San Francisco have considered changing their merit-based admissions. 

This, Wu writes, is one possible reason that support for the Democratic candidate in the New York gubernatorial race dropped 23 percentage points from 2018. When San Franciscans recalled their Democratic district attorney, “67 percent of Asian Americans supported the recall.”

Dutta suggests that fighting the equity agenda matters, and not just for the concerned parents voting Republican. A system that determines an outcome, such as where a student attends school, based on skin color is an existential threat. 

“When a child’s achievement is pulled down or covered up so that it doesn’t make others feel bad, it harms that child’s psyche,” Dutta writes. 

“Just like communist policies the world over,” she told Campus Reform, the equity agenda will destroy society and civilization. 

Campus Reform reached out to all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly. Best efforts were made to contact Wu.