South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott on Monday rolled out his education and technology plan, arguing that, under President Joe Biden, the role of parents has been minimized in decisions over childhood education and social media habits.
The plan, which mirrors broader Republican efforts to target race and gender issues in the nation’s schools as well as take on large technology companies, comes as the Republican presidential candidate returns to his home state Monday with plans to travel to Iowa later this week. The senator will tout his new plan during stops across the two states, his campaign said in a press release.
“Teachers’ unions, Big Tech, and Joe Biden are on a mission to make parents less important,” Scott said in a statement announcing the plan. “I have a bold agenda to support and empower parents – from the classroom to the locker room to the smartphone. We must empower parents and give them a choice, so that every child has a chance.”
The new 12-point plan outlines proposals to give parents more control over their children’s education, reduce the impact of social media and large technology companies on children and create a “family first culture” by reducing accommodations for transgender people and protecting crisis pregnancy centers that provide information about adoption to pregnant mothers in an effort to reduce abortions.
Scott says he will “break the back of teachers’ unions and enact nationwide school choice,” allowing parents to use public school funds to help pay for their children to be educated at private schools, charter schools or be homeschooled. His plan also pledges to “replace indoctrination with education” and ban critical race theory from school curricula while giving “every family the right to opt out of propaganda that attacks their values and religious liberty.”
Under the new proposal, technology companies would be required to put “country-of-origin labeling on every app” would be forced to “do more” to protect children’s safety online. Scott specifically pledged to stop “Big Tech from stealing kids’ attention spans” and “China from stealing their privacy.”
Scott referred to the new plan as a “parents’ bill of rights” at a town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday, and emphasized the importance of policies that give parents more control over their children’s education.
“If we’re going to restore hope, it means every parent must have a choice in education, so their child has a chance the best future,” he said.
The Democratic Party criticized Scott’s plan for undermining public education, characterizing the new plan as in line with “MAGA Republicans’ extreme agendas.”
“Tim Scott has spent his career working to defund public education and gut programs that millions of students across the country rely on, all to divert taxpayer dollars to wealthy private schools,” DNC spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement on Monday. “Our students, teachers, and parents deserve better than Scott and MAGA Republicans’ extreme agendas that would devastate public education and harm education across the country.”
Scott has made education a central theme of his campaign since its launch in May, frequently citing his own experience growing up in poverty and attending college on a partial football scholarship. He often tells audiences at campaign events that education “is the closest thing to magic,” and has stressed the importance of education in overcoming the disadvantages facing poor Black Americans.
“People look at me say, ‘Well, you’re just the exception.’ When we tell young kids trapped in these inner cities, big blue inner cities that you have to be an exception to get out, it’s like stealing your hope and saying, ‘Don’t try so hard if you can’t be the 1% and get out,’” he told an audience in Cambridge, Iowa, in August. “You do not have to be an exception to succeed in America, no matter what you look like. A good education is the determining factor for your future success in America.”
While speaking alongside Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Iowa State Fair earlier this month, Scott praised Reynolds for passing a law that would allow parents in Iowa to use taxpayer funds to pay for private school tuition.
“When your governor passes monumental school choice making it easier for parents all over the state to have school choice, it gets my attention. And frankly, I celebrate her success,” Scott told the state fair audience.
“I don’t care whether it’s a public school, a private school, a charter school, a virtual school or a home school,” he added. “Give parents the choice and their kids get a better chance.”
Scott’s emphasis on protecting children from large technology and social media questions comes amid questions over his willingness to ban TikTok, the social video app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. In a Fox News interview last week, Scott said he has “no problem whatsoever” banning TikTok but suggested restricting access to the app in the US was not legally feasible, citing failed efforts by the Trump administration to block the app through executive action.
“The former president tried to ban TikTok. I have no problem whatsoever banning TikTok. What we learned in the former president is that the court struck it down not once, but twice,” Scott said. “Since we can’t ban TikTok, the question is how do we eliminate the communist Chinese party from spying on our kids? We have to separate or segregate the communist Chinese party from our kids’ data.”
Scott, the only sitting member of Congress running for president, did not acknowledge the longstanding bipartisan legislative efforts in Congress to ban the app. Critics of Scott, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, have attacked the senator for not doing enough to advance a TikTok ban through Congress.
Scott has also defended himself from speculation that his close relationship to Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison could create a conflict of interest in his policy towards TikTok. Ellison has donated millions of dollars to support Scott’s presidential bid, and Scott referred to Ellison as “one of my mentors” during his campaign launch event in May. TikTok currently houses all of its US data on servers owned by Oracle.
Scott dismissed questions of the possible conflict of interest in an interview with Fox News last week, saying he would be able to advance policies that best serve the country as president.
“We should never be beholden to anyone or anything except the American people,” Scott said. “I’m committed to doing one thing; serving the people of this country, no exclusions, no exceptions.”