Dave McCormick appears at Moms for Liberty panel event - TAI News
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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dave McCormick speaks outside a Gaza Solidarity Encampment at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick headlined an event hosted by a Pennsylvania Moms for Liberty chapter in May.

McCormick appeared with Betsy DeVos, who served as U.S. secretary of education under President Donald Trump, at a panel event described as a “fireside chat.” The Northampton County chapter of Moms for Liberty, which has been described as an antigovernment extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hosted the event in Nazareth, with chapter chair Aly Warner moderating the discussion.

Moms for Liberty was founded in Florida three years ago amid anti-mask sentiment during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, its focus has expanded far beyond opposing mask mandates since then: Members of its approximately 300 chapters in 48 states have run to take over local school boards and push back against a variety of what they see as leftist priorities, from basic sex education to affirmation for trans students.

McCormick and DeVos talked about a variety of topics in education, including participation by transgender students in school sports and student loan forgiveness.

“The very idea that you could allow biological males to compete with biological females is fundamentally unfair,” McCormick said. The Senate nominee said he’s concerned that allowing trans girls and women, whom he insists on referring to as males, to compete on women’s and girls teams will gut women’s sports, gut Title IX.”

The Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBTQ+ advocacy group, says on its webpage dedicated to addressing concerns about trans youth participation in sports: “While it may be true that a particular transgender youth has physical abilities that help them in the sport of their choice (like height, which is helpful in volleyball for instance), natural variations in physical characteristics are part of sports, especially at younger ages. Many of these bills would govern play at elementary and middle school as well as high school, when all youth’s bodies are undergoing tremendous change at significantly varying speeds. In other sports, a smaller physique might be to an athlete’s advantage. And, like all other youth, trans youth are short and tall, strong and not, fast and slow.”

While precise numbers are hard to come by — particularly in K-12 sports — participation in school sports by trans athletes is exceedingly rare. In 2022, the LGBTQ-focused sports news site Outsports counted just 40 openly trans athletes who had played college sports in the United States in the preceding decade.

During the discussion, DeVos advocated for school vouchers and said of public schools: “The system to which most kids are subjected to today is essentially a monopoly. Unless you have the resources to do something different, your children are in schools that are headed by a monopolistic structure.”

Opponents of government vouchers that provide money to pay for children’s education no matter where they go to school say they are a way to take money from public school systems that are already underfunded. 

DeVos also argued against federal involvement in education.

“I believe the federal government has very little role, frankly, in education, and should have. It was not part of the Constitution by any measure,” she said, claiming that the Department of Education is an agent of political ideology that was created to mollify teachers unions

In Pennsylvania, schools receive as much as 11% of their funding from the federal government, according to the child advocacy group Children First PA.

When the subject of student loan forgiveness was introduced, McCormick said: “Can you believe Biden did $168 billion of loan forgiveness? It is the most un-American thing I’ve ever heard of, because if you went to college and spent six years instead of four so you didn’t have to take a loan, you’re paying off that loan.”

McCormick’s argument notwithstanding, student debt can impact economic growth. Forbes reported in September 2023 that the impending return of federal student loan payments, which had been suspended since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, was expected to create a drag on the economy.

In a statement emailed to the Pennsylvania Independent about the panel event, Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson TaNisha Cameron said: “David McCormick makes his priorities clear by showing Pennsylvanians who he stands with: insurrectionists, anti-choice extremists who also want to make abortion illegal even in cases or rape or incest, and now fringe far-right groups and Betsy DeVos, who made it harder to investigate sexual assaults on college campuses. McCormick is out-of-touch with Pennsylvanians and voters will reject him in November.”

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