Political outsider, successful business leader, and Republican nominee for governor Glenn Youngkin’s campaign announced the launch of a six-figure digital ad campaign highlighting Terry McAuliffe’s shocking statement at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce debate last night: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
McAuliffe’s opposition to parents’ rights contradicts Virginia law, which states, “A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.” (§ 1-240.1)
In the debate, Youngkin confronted McAuliffe for vetoing as governor two bipartisan bills that would have required schools to notify parents of sexually explicit content in instructional materials, including assigned reading. Here is the key exchange at the debate, in which McAuliffe twice stated that parents should have no say in their child’s education:
YOUNGKIN: What we’ve seen over the course of the last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents. In fact, in Fairfax County this past week, we watched parents so upset because there was such sexually explicit material in the library they had never seen, it was shocking. And in fact, you vetoed the bill that would have informed parents that they were there. You believe school systems should tell children what to do. I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.
MCAULIFFE: So, first of all, this shows how clueless Glenn Youngkin is, he doesn’t understand what the laws were because he’s never been involved here in helping Virginia, but it was not. The parents had the right to veto bills, veto books, Glenn, not to be knowledge [sic] about it. Also take them off the shelves and I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision.
YOUNGKIN: You vetoed it.
MCAULIFFE: Yeah, I stopped the bill that– I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.
The material cited by Fairfax County parents, including a former teacher, at the September 23 school board meeting included “an illustrated memoir that contains explicit illustrations of sexual encounters involving children,” according to the Associated Press. (Strong content warning)
McAuliffe’s characterization in the debate of the legislation he vetoed in 2016 and 2017 is false, as his own veto messages from then make clear. Either McAuliffe “doesn’t understand what the laws were,” or he was simply lying.
On April 4, 2016, McAuliffe vetoed HB 516. McAuliffe’s veto message states the bill “would require schools to identify materials as ‘sexually explicit’ and notify parents if teachers plan to provide instructional material containing such content. The legislation would also require teachers to provide alternative instructional materials if requested by a parent.”
On March 23, 2017, McAuliffe vetoed HB 2191. McAuliffe’s veto message states, “This bill would require schools to notify parents if their child is enrolled in a course in which the instructional materials or related academic activities include sexually explicit content or the potential for sexually explicit content. The legislation would also require teachers to provide alternative instructional materials if requested by a parent.”
Contrary to what McAuliffe falsely claimed in the debate, the legislation would not have allowed parents to “take books out” of schools or “take them off the shelves.” Parents simply would have been notified of sexually explicit instructional material and had the opportunity to request alternatives for their own child. The law would not have given parents the power to “veto books” for all students, as McAuliffe falsely implied. His veto messages in 2016 and 2017 do not mention these objections.
In vetoing the legislation, McAuliffe did the bidding of the big labor special interest unions that fund and support his political campaigns. “Governor McAuliffe vetoed all of the bills we asked him to veto!” crowed the Virginia Education Association (VEA) at the time, referring to McAuliffe as “our goalie in the mansion.” The VEA bragged that its “Government Relations staff was in continuous communication with the Governor’s staff on our position on these bad bills.”
Earlier this year, McAuliffe smeared parents concerned about critical race theory in schools as conspiracy theorists. But in 2015, McAuliffe’s Department of Education held a training for Virginia teachers that instructed them to “incorporate critical race theory (CRT) lens,” “embrace critical race theory” and “engage in race-conscious teaching and learning.”