Clearly, Terry McAuliffe wants to lose. During Tuesday’s second and final Virginia gubernatorial debate, Democratic candidate and former Virginia governor McAuliffe stated, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision.”

With this stunning admission of his preference for government control over parental rights, McAuliffe finalized voting decisions for parents of school-aged children across the state.

In response to a question about his plans to force school districts to implement a state “model” education policy, McAuliffe initially responded, “I like locals having input.” He quickly pivoted to his Big Government talking points, “but the state will always issue guidance, as we do, from the Department of Education.” And, for the teachers’ unions who generously fund his campaign, he proceeded to rattle off the requisite promises to increase education spending and raise teachers’ pay.

“I agree with your conclusion, Terry, that we should let local districts actually make these decisions,” Republican candidate Youngkin replied. “But we must demand that they include parents in this dialogue. What we’ve seen over the course of the last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents.” Youngkin cited the concerns expressed by Virginia parents about sexually explicit books found in public school libraries, and declared his belief that parents should be in charge of their kids’ education. 

McAuliffe tanked his campaign by responding, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

For Virginia parents who want a role in their children’s education (that’s all of us, right?), the contrast between Youngkin and McAuliffe is stark.

As Corey DeAngelis, American Federation for Children’s national director of research, observed, “parents know and care more about their children’s education than bureaucrats sitting in offices hundreds of miles away.”  

It should be noted that the transgender policy debate question that prompted the revealing exchange did not accurately reflect the current legal reality in Virginia. The “model” guidance referenced in the initial question is Virginia’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. A state law passed in 2020 mandated that local school districts implement this activist-drafted 27-page document by the beginning of this school year. By ordering districts to adopt the policies, the state prevented both local choice and parental input on this important and divisive issue. Some Virginia school districts, including Loudoun County, have discussed their implementation plans in high-profile public meetings; other districts, fearing parental responses, have simply cited the Virginia code in the school board meeting agenda.

The guidance-but-actually-required-by-law policies require teachers to address children by their ever-shifting panoply of pronouns; abolish sex-segregated facilities, as well as homecoming courts and choirs organized by biological sex; and encourage schools to develop “action plans to support the student’s transition,” and consider reporting parents who believe their child is their biological sex to Child Protective Services. Even if districts seek community input, the state mandates that local school board members ignore any concerns expressed by parents and teachers, and implement the policies. 

While awaiting the outcome of the gubernatorial election, Virginia parents should take a look at the books in their school’s libraries, and ask questions about their district’s transgender policies implementation. Will their children be reading pornographic books this year? Does the elementary library stock books that feature rape scenes? Did the school create a gender support plan for their 12-year-old daughter that instructs school staff to hide her new identity from her parents?

Unfortunately for McAuliffe, even if he somehow wins, his visions of state control will be hampered by Section 1-240.1 of the Code of Virginia, which states that “A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.” Virginia parents instinctively know that they should have a say in their children’s education. The state law — at least for now — codifies that fundamental right. Please keep that in mind, Mr. McAuliffe, and adjust your talking points.