US Sen. Ron Johnson targets critical race theory at Madison town hall

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson heard from parents in Madison Friday during a town hall on education issues, ranging from critical race theory to transgender students.

“There’s some real concern about our public school system,” Johnson said after the town hall. “Not listening to parents, not hearing their voices, not hearing their concerns, a lack of accountability. That should concern us all.”

The town hall in Madison was one of a series Johnson has done in recent weeks in which education has played a role. During a town hall in March, Johnson said policies that allow transgender students to use women’s bathrooms are “creepy.”

“I really don’t understand this, where did all the issues of gender dysphoria come up? Where did that all begin to be pushed so hard?” Johnson said.

He also questioned whether students should be allowed to come out as trans in a school without their parents knowing.

“I don’t think you should be having to give away your parental rights when you send your children to public school,” he said.

Education policy has proven to be a top issue for Republicans heading into the fall elections, spurred by a recent policy focus on issues like masks in schools and how to teach race.

Some of the parents who spoke at the town hall said they feared their children would be indoctrinated by this into a political view outside their own. For others, it was simply about access.

“One of the big problems is that you don’t have opportunities for interactive discussion with school boards,” one speaker said.

“The parents are the ones that, you know, need to be consulted on anything,” Johnson said. “They need to be informed, you can’t be doing things behind parents’ backs.”

Also at the event was Republican Adam Steen, who is challenging Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in the August primary. When answering a question from Steen, Johnson at one point encouraged Steen’s run for Assembly, but the senator later walked that comment back saying he was not endorsing in that race.

Education issues will also be on the ballot this spring — races for school board are among the nonpartisan elections voters will cast a ballot for on April 5. You can visit to find information on your polling place and what is on your ballot.