On the evening of September 28, Virginians and politicos from across the nation tuned in to watch the second Virginia gubernatorial debate. As someone who has worked in the education arena of politics for 13 years, I’ve never heard a clearer statement from a politician about what state-run education means.  

Former governor and current gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe was asked why he vetoed a bill that would have given parents input into the resources available to their children in school libraries. This is how he responded:

I'm not gonna let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions… I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."

This is disturbing.

We live in a world in which a major-party candidate in America can say on television that they should be in charge of your child’s education, and that you as the parent should not have input.

What we see today is the reality that some people really do think that the government should make decisions for the rest of us. This is the foundational belief that undergirds every totalitarian regime in history.

This is a mainstream politician putting into words the clearest statement in opposition to parental rights that we have seen in a long time. As homeschoolers, parental rights are the fundamental, foundational principle that holds up our freedom to train, teach, protect, and empower our children.

When high-profile political figures begin espousing this kind of ideology, the importance of elected leaders who support homeschooling, parental rights, and educational freedom comes into sharp focus. In the last 24 hours, we have seen an outpouring of homeschool leaders voicing their opposition to McAuliffe’s radical position. Like homeschool mom and candidate for VA House of Delegates Karen Greenhalgh:

“As one of the first homeschool parents in Virginia, I believe that parents have a fundamental right to be involved in the education of their children. I also believe strongly that parents are best equipped to make educational decisions that meet the unique needs of their own children. Governor McAuliffe’s statement was an egregious attack on the fundamental rights of parents, and it reflects poor education policy.”

Or homeschool dad and House of Delegates candidate Mark Earley:

“It’s sad that Terry McAuliffe and so many in his party don’t understand the fundamental principle that parents know what is best for their kids. Of course parents should have a say over what their kids are taught in schools – this is as basic as it gets. Parents in Virginia have a clear choice this fall between candidates that believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education and those that believe parents should be shut out of the conversation.”

These are just a few examples.

While this policy was directed specifically at public school policy, make no mistake. The same beliefs carry over to homeschooling and will impact any education policy that people who buy into these ideas try to make.

Nor is McAuliffe alone in his position. If he were, he wouldn’t have been comfortable communicating it on live television.

Fortunately, we see something else happening in America today as well: we see people rejecting these ideas. We see people turning against this ideology. And homeschooling is a perfect example. Homeschooling has more than tripled since the spring of 2020, with peak homeschooling at the height of the pandemic representing approximately 11% of households with school-age children. Parents in school districts around the country are learning what their students are being taught in state-run classrooms and being provided in state-run libraries, and they are taking charge again. They are speaking out, they are getting involved, and they are making their voices heard. 

As responsible adults, as citizens, and as parents, it is our obligation to remind our elected representatives that they represent us, and not the other way around.  It is We the People who are in charge. It is We the Parents who know what is best for our children. Not them.