Trump, DeSantis, Haley to Speak at Moms for Liberty Summit

Political observers say education will likely take a backseat in 2024, especially if Trump is the Republican nominee.

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Moms for Liberty has secured former President Donald Trump as the keynote speaker for its upcoming 鈥淛oyful Warrior鈥 summit in Philadelphia. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, both of whom have also announced presidential bids, are scheduled to speak at the event as well. 

The summit will be held at a downtown Marriott from June 29 through July 2, despite from LGBTQ rights advocates and others who object to the group鈥檚 stance on social and education issues. 

The American Historical Association sent to the Museum of the American Revolution on June 26, urging its president to reconsider the decision to let Moms for Liberty hold a portion of the summit there.

“Moms for Liberty is an organization that has vigorously advocated censorship and harassment of history teachers, banning history books from libraries and classrooms, and legislation that renders it impossible for historians to teach with professional integrity without risking job loss and other penalties,” the letter read.

Neither Moms for Liberty nor the Museum of the American Revolution responded to a request for comment about the letter. 

The summit is a must for Republican leaders, a reflection of the organization鈥檚 influence. Some high-profile speakers, including DeSantis, are returning for a second round: The governor spoke at last summer鈥檚 event alongside Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and former secretary of housing and urban development Ben Carson. 

This year’s event has proven an even bigger draw for conservative politicians and their followers. Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice said the 650-ticket summit has already sold out. 

The vocal, right-wing parent organization was formed in Florida in 2021 by school board members Tina Descovich and Justice and by , who is married to the of the Florida Republican Party. 

Moms for Liberty members originally targeted COVID protocols but have since focused on critical race theory, diversity and inclusion, social-emotional learning and LGBTQ issues, among other topics. The group claims 285 chapters and 120,000 members across 44 states.

The organization gained national recognition after members disrupted school board meetings across the country, with of those who oppose their views. Local chapters have mounted highly successful efforts targeting materials related to racism, slavery and gender. 

Moms for Liberty was recently labeled an by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Justice called the characterization shocking and absurd. 

鈥淚 think they’ve really shot themselves in the foot,鈥 she said. 

Her group鈥檚 mission is to empower parents and support their fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children, she said. 

鈥淭hat includes their education, their medical care and their morality and their religion,鈥 she told 成人抖阴. 鈥淎nd it seems like we鈥檙e in a tug-of-war with the federal government in our nation鈥檚 schools.鈥

President Joe Biden also was invited to the summit, but his office did not respond, Justice said. The Biden campaign did not answer emails requesting comment.

Moms for Liberty has endorsed across the nation, many of whom have gone on to win. 

Despite its ability to attract high-profile politicians and zealous parent advocates, some experts question whether education will be a key issue in the 2024 presidential race.

Jeffrey Henig, professor of political science and education at Columbia University鈥檚 Teachers College, said he thinks it will likely take a backseat. 

鈥淓ducation is one of those issues that is tempting politically because it gets a fervent response for a subset of voters, particularly parents,鈥 he said. 鈥淎nd that can be attractive because it lets you mobilize people who don’t always like to turn out 鈥 or are on the fence. But 鈥 it can backfire.鈥

School politics, he said, 鈥渃an take sharp twists and turns鈥 that leave politicians exposed.

鈥淭oday’s cheers for a strong stand against so-called ‘smut’ in texts can morph into indignation at book banning and perceived attacks on treasured schools and teachers,鈥 he said. 

Frederick M. Hess, senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said politicians once used education to appeal to voters in the middle. Now, he said, they use it to court their base. 

鈥淚f Trump is the nominee and you don鈥檛 like him, it鈥檚 not likely that his stance on Title IX or school choice will change that,鈥 he said. 鈥淎nd if you鈥檙e concerned about Biden, wokeness or federal spending, it鈥檚 tough to imagine that a proposal for universal pre-K or student loan forgiveness is going to win you over.鈥

Michael J. Petrilli, president of the , a research fellow at Stanford University鈥檚 and executive editor of , said that if Trump gets the nomination, his views on education or other issues won’t really matter. Nothing will distract from the candidate himself, he said. 

The embattled former president, whose divisive rhetoric has continued well beyond his time in office, is facing a host of legal troubles, including a recent indictment over alleged . 

鈥淚f Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, the election will be about Donald Trump,鈥 Petrilli said. 鈥淓nd of sentence. Policy issues will play an exceedingly minor role.鈥

But if another candidate wins the party鈥檚 nomination, Petrilli said, he or she might use the issue of school choice to entice working-class Hispanic and Black voters.

鈥淎nd it might work,鈥 he said. 

DeSantis has banned classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity . His Parental Rights in Education Act 鈥 often called the Don鈥檛 Say Gay Bill 鈥 has been replicated .

Haley, a former , has referred to transgender girls participating in girls’ sports as “the women’s issue of our time” on the campaign trail. Placing herself to the right of DeSantis, she has said his legislation isn鈥檛 stringent enough. 

Henig said the Florida governor’s overall stance is too extreme to succeed with a national electorate.

鈥淎mericans still have a lot of trust and allegiance to their local school communities,鈥 he said, adding that Democrats might frame DeSantis’s efforts as an attack on teachers.

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