Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe argued that parents should not tell schools what to teach during a debate against his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday.
The comment by McAuliffe, who served as governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018, came in response to Youngkin’s remark that parents should be more involved in the decisions of local school districts during the second and final debate of the race.
“What we’ve seen over the course of this last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents,” Youngkin said. “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.”
He noted that McAuliffe “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,” he said to his opponent.
The former governor replied that parents would have “had the right to veto books” under the bill he vetoed.
“I’m not going to let parents come into schools, and actually take books out, and make their own decision,” McAuliffe said.
“Yeah, I stopped the bill that I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” he added.
Terry McAuliffe: "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." pic.twitter.com/7S15pTv1gY
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 28, 2021
The discussion was sparked by a question about the Virginia Department of Education’s new guidelines that call for school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room of their preferred gender identity.
McAuliffe said that while he welcomes local school district input that he supports the state Department of Education releasing guidance on such issues.
“I agree with your conclusion Terry, that we should let local school districts actually make these decisions,” Youngkin said. “But we must ask them to include concepts of safety and privacy and respect in the discussion. And we must demand that they include parents in this dialogue.”
With just over a month to go before the state’s November 2 election, polls show Youngkin and McAuliffe in a tight race; the RealClearPolitics Average shows McAuliffe leading his opponent by just under three points.
The close race comes after a decade of Democrat control of statewide office in Virginia.
McAuliffe and advisers told the White House that the political environment among Democrats in Washington is contributing to the worrying polling, party officials told the New York Times.
“Voters didn’t send Democrats to Washington to sit around and chitty-chat all day,” McAuliffe told the Times on Saturday. Voters want “to see competence; they want to see people doing their jobs.”