A chronological account of how hundreds of thousands of moms and dads banded together to thwart Congress's nuclear attack on home school freedoms
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14
The Calm Before the Storm
10:30 AM: Doug Phillips, Director of Government Affairs at the National Center for Home Education receives a disturbing telephone call from Dean Clancy, an aide to Texas Congressman Dick Armey. According to Clancy, Representative George Miller (D CA-7) introduced an amendment to H.R. 6 (the reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act) which could be interpreted to require teacher certification for home schoolers. Armey wants Home School Legal Defense Association to take a look at the provision and confirm or deny its potential danger to home schoolers.
11:30 AM: A fax arrives from Armey's office which includes §2124(e), the Miller amendment. Home School Legal Defense Association President Michael Farris and his legal staff examine the provision and agree that the amendment as worded could be a serious threat to home school freedom. The specific wording of the amendment requires that all teachers in "schools under the jurisdiction of the [local school] agency" be subjected to course specific certification requirements.
12:00 NOON: Farris discovers that the definition of what constitutes a "school" in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has been changed for the first time since 1965. Under the new definition, a school is a "non-profit day or residential school." This could be interpreted to include home schools and private schools.
12:30 PM: After several lengthy discussions, Dean Clancy faxes HSLDA a copy of the amendment designed to protect home schools and private schools which Congressman Armey had unsuccessfully offered in committee. Unfortunately, Miller and the entire cadre of Democrats voted down the Armey amendment which read: "Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize or encourage federal control over the curriculum or practices of any private, religious, or home school." (Later Miller would attempt to divide the home school community by erroneously claiming that, 1) Congressman Armey's original amendment would have prevented non-public schools from participating in government programs, and 2) that the amendment offered by Armey in committee and the "Home School/Private School Freedom Act" were one and the same.)
2:00 PM: Based on the rejection of Armey's clarifying amendment in committee, the plain wording of the bill, and eleven years of experience defending home schoolers, HSLDA concludes that Miller's amendment is a serious threat. Because most home schools must report some form of information to a local agency, aggressive school officials could interpret the amendment to deem home schools to be "schools under the jurisdiction of the agency." Consequently, they would contend that home schools and private schools must exclusively use teachers who are certified to teach the subject matter at hand. This is the equivalent of a nuclear attack upon the home-schooling community.
MONDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Farris calls Rep. Miller's office to see if the congressman would be willing to clarify the language of his amendment. No one is available to speak with Farris, so he leaves a substantive message on the voice mail of Miller's education aide.
[CAPTION] HSLDA President Michael Farris explains the seriousness of the situation as the HSLDA staff prepares to go to "battlestations" on the morning of February 15.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
8:30 AM: Michael Farris calls his staff together for prayer and to announce that HSLDA will be going to "battlestations." HSLDA's 30-member staff is transformed into a war-machine. Our immediate goal: To alert every home and private school family in America of the dangers posed by H.R. 6. Farris outlines a strategy for victory and divides the staff into groups, assigning each group various tasks. Doug Phillips is to lead a team of ten staff members on an emergency mission to Washington, D.C. Farris prepares amendment language for H.R. 6. Angel Fessler is to initiate the National Center for Home Education's nationwide fax alert. Attorneys J. Michael Smith, Christopher Klicka, Dewitt Black, Jordan Lorence, and Scott Somerville begin calling the leaders in their assigned states to prepare them for the coming alert. Christy Farris is appointed Press Secretary. The entire staff is on alert and prepares for the HSLDA equivalent to the American military preparedness system—DEFCON ONE.
9:30 AM: Michael Farris begins drafting a letter to members of Congress to tell them about the implications of H.R. 6 and Miller's amendment for home schoolers, and to solicit their support for the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment."
The Communications Department locates several local printers and a copy center who are willing to pre-empt their scheduled jobs to prepare 38,000 letters and envelopes for an emergency mailing to all HSLDA's members. HSLDA computer whiz-kid, Aaron Fessler, begins to print out the 38,000 address labels (an eight hour task).
10:00 AM: Michael Farris finally reaches the education aide to Congressman George Miller to see if HSLDA's concerns can be amicably resolved. Farris asks for an agreed amendment to the section in question which would limit its provision only to public schools. Miller refuses. The aide representing Miller states that because it was not the congressman's intent to have this provision apply to home schools, the congressman would be unwilling to make any amendment—not even an amendment which simply adds the word "public" prior to the word school. Miller's staffer indicates that Representative Armey is free to amend the bill on the floor. Farris explains that it is his responsibility to let his constituency know about the amendment, and that Congress will probably receive a number of calls from concerned parents. Farris also speaks with Susan Wilhelm of the Education and Labor Committee Democratic staff. Like the Miller aide, Wilhelm refuses to acknowledge or address the concerns of home schoolers.
11:45 AM: The letter to Congress is completed. Doug Phillips assembles the team of ten staffers to blanket Congress, personally delivering the letter to each of the 435 Congressional offices. The letter from Farris urges each congressman to support the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment." The letter explains that it is HSLDA's obligation to inform its constituents of potential threats to home school freedoms and predicts that many concerned parents will be calling Capitol Hill. The letter urges those congressmen who will support the home school amendment to contact HSLDA so that home school leaders in their districts can be notified that it would be unnecessary to generate calls to their offices. By 2:30 p.m. every Congressional office has received a personal visit and the hand-delivered letter.
2:00 PM: Doug Phillips meets with Martin Hoyt, the Washington, D.C., representative of the American Association of Christian Schools, to discuss the dangers of the Miller Amendment. Hoyt agrees there is a big problem and agrees to inform his constituency.
3:00 PM: Dean Clancy talks with the lawyers at the Catholic Conference of Bishops who inform him that they do not object to the Miller language, but will "take a second look."
6:00 PM: The National Center is notified by a handful of congressmen that they will support the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment."
7:00 PM: The National Center begins to generate a nationwide fax alert through its computer-based alert system. Within 24 hours most home schoolers in America are aware of the crisis.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16
Home School "Committees of Correspondence"
Sam Adams would be proud. More than 200 years ago this Founding Father had a good idea—why not establish a person-to-person network of communications so that citizens can be alerted to action when politicians and the media fail to do their jobs? Adams called this network "the Committees of Correspondence." Of course, a few things have changed since the days of Adams; the technology has improved a bit over the past two centuries. Overnight letters, fax machines, and automated telephone networks have replaced "riding by horse through every Middlesex village and town," but the principle is the same, and the home schoolers of America proved every bit as adept at rallying patriots as their colonial counterparts.
Telephone trees across America are abuzz thanks to the tireless efforts of state and support group leaders. By Wednesday morning, thousands of home schoolers are receiving information on the dangers of H.R. 6 and the necessity of a special freedom amendment. Tens of thousands of copies of the fax alert are being photocopied and distributed. The home school movement is about to demonstrate that this group of moms and dads take their freedoms seriously. By early morning, the telephone calls begin to pass through the Capitol Hill switch boards by the hundreds. Back at the National Center offices, state leaders are calling to make contact and get additional information.
[CAPTION] HSLDA staff are joined by local home school families who put their school day on hold to help label and stuff the 38,000-piece mailing.
8:30 AM: Letters and envelopes begin arriving from the printers. HSLDA's staff, plus several local home school families, assemble in HSLDA's library (now a war room) to quickly stuff, stamp, and seal all 38,000 letters. Mid-day the troops are energized by a fax from Tennessee which reads, "The Lion is on the move."
11:00 AM: National Center staffer Timothy Teepell begins recruiting members of the Congressional Action Program for an emergency visit to Washington scheduled for the next day. Even with less than 24 hours notice, more than 50 people volunteer for the mission.
1:00 PM: CBN News camera team arrives at HSLDA for an interview on H.R. 6 with Michael Farris to be aired on the 700 Club.
2:00 PM: The battle for home school freedoms gets a tremendous boost from Marlin Maddoux who has agreed to cover the story on his nationally-syndicated Point of View radio broadcast, thus becoming the first major news source to the Christian community at large to break the story. Michael Farris is the guest for the entire two hours of the show's airing. Thousands of parents, who prior to hearing the show had not yet learned of the congressional attempt to certify home schoolers, are motivated to action.
3:00 PM: The telephones are ringing off the hook in most congressional offices. Staffers begin to wonder: "What is going on, and where are these home schoolers coming from?"
4:00 PM: By late afternoon dozens of congressmen have called HSLDA to express their support for the home school amendment and to ask what they can do to stop the telephone calls. Over and over we hear the expression: "Please call off your dogs." Our response does not always satisfy the now cauliflower-eared hill staffers. "These are not our 'dogs' to call off. You are hearing from people who are tired of the federal government taking away their parental rights. Although most of these moms and dads do not approve of federal power grabs like H.R. 6 in any form, what really concerns them is the possibility that the Miller teacher certification provision will be construed to apply to them. These parents are committed to their children. They will not stop calling until Congress gives them 100% assurance that their home schooling is not in jeopardy. If you can give us an unequivocal assurance that the congressman will support the 'Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment' we will contact home school leaders in your district, but at this point that is no guarantee that the calls will stop." Several Congressional staffers comment that they wish they had taken our earlier letter more seriously.
A number of moderate Republican leaders initially choose to ignore home school concerns. The spokesman for the Education and Labor GOP Committee echoes the Miller line by telling inquiring Hill offices that the problem is nonexistent and that offering an amendment to solve this nonexistent problem would be "grandstanding." Later, however, a committee staffer approaches Clancy with an offer. In an effort to settle the matter quietly before it goes to the floor for a vote, the staffer is willing to serve as a go between for Armey to the Democrats. Clancy accepts the offer but asks the staffer to "hold off" on approaching the Democrats until the language is finalized.
George Conant from the office of Congressman Thomas Petri (R WI-6) approaches Armey's office to express a possible interest on the part of Mr. Petri in jointly offering the Armey amendment on the floor. Conant receives a preliminary copy of the Armey amendment, but is given explicit instructions not to circulate the copy of the draft language until Armey has settled on the exact wording.
[CAPTION] Michael Somerville, 11-year-old son of HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville, helps load the completed pieces of mail in HSLDA's van. The mailing is ready to go!
4:50 PM: By early afternoon all 38,000 letters are stuffed, stamped, sealed, loaded in the van, and on their way to the post office.
LATE WEDNESDAY/EARLY THURSDAY MORNING: National Center staffers Doug Phillips, Angel Fessler, Timothy Teepell and Aaron Fessler work late into the night preparing 435 special packets which explain HSLDA's concerns regarding teacher certification, H.R. 6, and the Miller amendment. The packets are to be hand-delivered to each congressman by CAP volunteers.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17
Capitol Hill Shuts Down After First Wave of Calls
Today, Congress is placed on notice that home schoolers do not take federal power grabs lightly. Yes, there are still Americans who are willing to act on the basis of their beliefs. At last—a constituency that means business.
Over the years, many a representative has waxed eloquent about the glories of the democratic process. Today they would get a serious taste of democracy as the first full major wave of telephone calls hit their offices. One Chief of Staff told Phillips: "My office has received 600 calls today. We have decided to vote for your amendment. Please tell your people to stop calling. We don't need any more convincing . . . Don't get me wrong, I believe in democracy, it's just that we have had about as much democracy as we can handle for one day."
9:30 AM: Sixty trained home school volunteers assemble for an emergency session in a Washington hotel. The troops are given copies of the relevant portions of H.R. 6, are familiarized with the legal concerns of HSLDA, and are acquainted with the arguments of the other side.
11:00 AM: The home schoolers blanket Capitol Hill, delivering packets to every congressman and often engaging key staffers in discussion about H.R. 6. In most of the offices they visit, they are met by aides who testify to having received hundreds of calls from parents, and they notice receptionists answering a steady flow of home school calls. Congress is abuzz with discussion of H.R. 6 and the home schoolers. As CAP volunteers circulate through the buildings they overhear dozens of hallway conversations about "those home schoolers who keep calling."
MID-DAY: Besieged by telephone calls, Congressman Miller instructs his staff to stop answering the telephones. Miller puts an answering machine on with a message which explains that he has no intent to regulate home schoolers. Miller also issues a one-page statement which attempts to justify the necessity of his amendment and assuage the concerns of home schoolers. By the end of the day it is estimated that his office has received over 20,000 calls.
Due to a misunderstanding, the confidential draft language which was shared with George Conant of Congressman Petri's office yesterday has been freely distributed. The preliminary language has reached the hands of the Catholic Conference which expresses concern that they will not be able to enjoy federally funded programs if the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment" to be offered by Armey is enacted.
12:30 PM: HSLDA begins receiving reports that the Capitol switchboard is jammed. HSLDA contacts home school leaders in the districts of those congressmen who are on board with the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment," informing them of their congressmen's support and asking them to stop the calls.
1:00 PM: Michael Farris, who is traveling in southern Virginia, tapes the James Dobson show from the home of home-schooling mom, Danita Bowman, to be aired on Monday.
2:00 PM: We are only now beginning to glimpse the magnitude of what is happening. Home schoolers are about to make history. This is big. Really big! Deluged by telephone calls, Congress is suddenly interested in what home schoolers think. The CAP volunteers have achieved instant, although temporary celebrity status in the offices they visit. More than a few staffers meet these parents at the door by exclaiming: "You are with the home schoolers? Please come in and tell us what we can do to stop the calls. We can't get anything done."
2:30 PM: Capitol Coordinators complete their visit to each of the 435 Congressional offices.
4:30 PM: Doug Phillips meets with Horace Cooper and Dean Clancy of Armey's staff to strategize on how to obtain broad support for the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment." Armey's staffers express amazement at the telephone blitz. Dean Clancy comments: "Do you realize what you have done? You have shut down Capitol Hill. Nothing is getting done up here because everyone is answering calls from home schoolers." Cooper explains to Phillips that the liberals might try to prevent amendments from reaching the floor by having a "closed rule." Also, a sponsor must be chosen for the amendment. Armey can probably do it.
From: Aaron Fessler
Date: Friday, February 18, 1994
Subject: Phone Line Overload
The fax machines, modem lines, and private lines have either stopped working or are working very intermittently due to the extremely heavy incoming call volume. Apparently, our incoming calls have jammed the Leesburg C & P switching station and have made it extremely difficult to get through.
If you need to make a local call out of here, tough luck.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18
Confusion and Subterfuge
9:00 AM: Once again the Capitol Hill switch boards jam as tens of thousands of calls flood the Congressional offices. Across America, home schoolers are calling radio stations, faxing letters, and distributing literature on the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment."
11:00 AM: HSLDA receives word that Congressman Armey will be the official sponsor of the amendment.
AFTERNOON: Over the course of the day, several leading private school organizations raise concerns regarding the home school amendment. These organizations wanted assurances that the amendment Armey would be offering would not threaten their right to participate in federally funded programs. Because it was never HSLDA's intent to produce an amendment which would have that effect, HSLDA tries to cure the problem.
LATE AFTERNOON: HSLDA begins receiving reports that a group of home school organizations are attempting to negotiate independent amendments with the Democrats. This ad hoc association includes: Alliance for Parental Involvement in Education, Clonlara, Drinking Gourd/Multicultural Home Education Magazine, Holt Associates/Growing Without Schooling, Home Education League of Parents, Home education Press/Home Education Magazine, Islamic Homeschool Group of North America, Jewish Home Educator's Network, Latter Day Saint Home Educators, Moore Foundation, National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools, and Unschoolers Network. These organizations have relied on Democrats Miller, Kildee (D MI-9), and Ford (D MI-13) for their analysis of this legislation.
5:00 PM: At present more than 70 Congressional offices have expressed their agreement with our concerns and willingness to support the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment." However, due to the overwhelming grassroots response in opposition to §2124(e) and H.R. 6, some Democrats, including Congressman Miller, hint that they are considering offering their own amendments to H.R. 6 which purport to rectify the problem. None of these representatives have contacted our staff. Leaders from the coalition to support the Armey freedom amendment are concerned that if the liberals offer such a proposal (in an attempt to salvage H.R. 6), it will only go part-way towards solving the problem. A decision is made: We must settle for nothing less than 100% protection for home schools. No compromises will be acceptable!
7:30 PM: All day, HSLDA has been working with Armey's office to smooth out the language of the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment." With Michael Farris' approval, Doug Phillips calls Clancy and OKs what they believe to be the final draft.
8:00 PM: A number of state leaders report that home schoolers are being discouraged by the telephone receptionists for certain congressmen who have been instructed to tell the callers that they are misinformed about H.R. 6. The National Center responds by sending out another nationwide fax. The alert entitled, "Responding to Capitol Hill Staffers," attempts to clarify the misleading information coming from these sources. The fax points out that, 1) The subjective "intent" of Congressman Miller will be irrelevant if the matter is litigated in court. We must be concerned about Miller's statutory language, not "off the record" statements of his intent; 2) Courts have a difficult time determining the intent of Congress; 3) In fact, often, the courts deliberately ignore even the explicit intent of Congress in their interpretation of specific passages; 4) Here, the plain wording of the bill is likely to be construed to apply to home schools.
SATURDAY / SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 20
The Weekend Ambush
Dozens of congressmen visiting their district for the President's Day recess are confronted at town hall meetings, in their home offices, and elsewhere by concerned parents. Congressmen are shocked by the populist response to what many of them believe to be an insignificant provision in a non-controversial bill. One of these men is Tom Foley (D WA-5), Speaker of the House. Foley, who knows nothing of the specific provisions of H.R. 6, is confronted by dozens of home schoolers at a town hall meeting in Spokane, Washington. Foley pledges his support to home schoolers. Meanwhile, radio shows around the nation run a steady barrage of stories on H.R. 6. Even the Associated Press runs a favorable nationally syndicated story about the home school telephone blitz of Congress.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Sounding the Trumpet
When congressional staffers went home for the weekend, most of them believed that the worst was over. After all, it is rare for even the best organized telephone blitz to last more than a couple of days. Several resolute Hill staffers made comments on Friday to the effect that "there are a lot of telephone calls coming in, but we will make it to the weekend." No one had the heart to tell them that on Monday, the 21st, Dr. James Dobson would be featuring Michael Farris on a Focus on the Family broadcast which goes out to more than 1300 stations and would reach millions. The telephone siege of Washington, D.C., has just begun.
[CAPTION] In Texas, HSLDA attorney Christopher Klicka tapes the Marlin Maddoux show live (with host John Clemens), alerting listeners to the dangers of H.R. 6.
MORNING: President's Day holiday is cancelled for HSLDA staffers so that they are available to work on H.R. 6.
Congressman Miller, whose telephone remains off the hook, sends a "Dear Colleague" letter denouncing HSLDA and dismissing the telephone call phenomenon as a "scare tactic designed to further the political agenda of the Far Right." Miller accuses Armey of mounting a "baseless attack," and implies that Michael Farris has "manipulated and inflamed" the issue "for ideological and political purposes having nothing to do with education policy." Meanwhile, Congressman Armey submits what he believes to be the final version of the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment" for inclusion into the official record.
As Focus on the Family airs, thousands of Americans are mobilized for action. Former Congressman Bob McEwen is also a guest on Dobson's show.
By the time Dobson has reached the airwaves, most of HSLDA's 38,000 member families have received the emergency alert on H.R. 6 in the mail. Several Christian school organizations have actively jumped on the bandwagon. The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS) have sent out mailings and fax alerts. Even curriculum providers like Christian Liberty Academy, and home school magazines like The Teaching Home are actively getting the news out to the thousands of people on their mailing lists.
In many states, home schoolers are spontaneously organizing rallies. Congressmen are besieged in their home districts by calls and visits from concerned parents. Hundreds of overnight letters urging support for home school freedoms begin to arrive in the Washington, D.C., offices of Congressional lawmakers. Tens of thousands of listeners respond by calling Congress. Once again the Capitol Hill switch boards jam. Grassroots America is alive!
8:30 AM: A fax of the new Armey amendment language is sent to the designated representative of the Education and Labor GOP Committee staff along with a request that it be delivered to the Democrats.
9:00 AM: HSLDA telephones are ringing off the hook.
11:00 AM: The National Center sends a national fax alert to state home school leaders with the updated version of the Armey amendment. The message from Michael Farris reads: "We have tremendous momentum in the calls and letters. We cannot afford to aim at a small victory when the dangers are larger and the larger victory is to be won." Also, the fax updates the home school community on the status of H.R. 6, and requests the names of organizations who support the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment."
1:30 PM: Rush Limbaugh discusses H.R. 6 and the home school telephone blitz of Congress. Later, Congressman Ford (D MI-13) would erroneously place the responsibility for the telephone blitz on Limbaugh, accusing him of giving Ford's telephone number to listeners and urging them to call.
MID-AFTERNOON: Record-breaking numbers of telephone calls pour into Capitol Hill. The Capitol Hill switchboards jam. Once again, the Congressional switchboards close down.
Home schoolers continue to put pressure on congressmen visiting their home districts. In one case, Florida home schoolers, who are tired of being told by Congressional staffers that they are ignorant, camp out at the district office of Congressman Pete Peterson (D FL-2). Refusing to support the Armey amendment, Peterson echoes Miller's line that home schoolers are misinformed. Undaunted, this intrepid band of home schoolers corners Peterson and asks him if he has read the bill. An embarrassed Peterson replies "No." Next, they ask him if he has read the Armey amendment. Again, Peterson replies "No." Is the congressman even familiar with the Florida home school law? Need we say it again . . . "No." In other words, this congressman and his staff had been claiming the moral high ground and lecturing home schoolers about their ignorance, but had not even taken the time to look at the language of the bill themselves. Like many congressmen, they were willing to trust a fellow representative before taking the concerns of their constituents seriously. After reading these provisions, Representative Peterson agreed to support a freedom amendment.
Armey sends a courier to Miller's office (because Miller's telephones are still closed down) with the message: "Call us and negotiate." Miller's aide responds: "Tell them we got the message and we have no plan to negotiate."
8:00 PM: Michael Farris discusses H.R. 6 on the Moody Broadcasting Network's "Open Line" radio show.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22
The Charge of the Home School Brigade
TUESDAY MORNING: Hoping to set the record straight, Congressman Armey sends a response to Miller's "Dear Colleague" letter to every representative. Armey points out that Miller's letter is full of inaccuracies and "violates the spirit of collegiality" which members are to display towards one another, because in his letter Miller viciously slanders Armey and others.
9:00 AM: The second wave of telephone calls hits Congress in full force. For the rest of the day, no one on Capitol Hill will get anything done. Several congressmen instruct their staffers to stop answering the telephones.
[CAPTION] In Houston, home school leader Tim Lambert speaks about H.R. 6 to Texas support group leaders as the cameras roll. The Texas media, unlike their nationwide counterparts, gave the issue good coverage.
11:00 AM: Christopher Klicka and Doug Phillips hold a press conference in Houston, Texas, attended by 100 home school support group leaders and three television networks. Local print and television press favorably cover H.R. 6. Klicka and Phillips tell the media: "Those people who don't receive federal funds under the ESEA, should not be regulated by the federal government under the ESEA." The press seems to agree with this proposition and gives favorable coverage to the plight of the home school families.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Rush Limbaugh again briefly discusses H.R. 6 and home schooling. HSLDA is swimming with media requests for interviews and information.
1:00 PM: At the GOP Education and Labor member's caucus, Bill Goodling (R PA-19), the minority education leader, declares that he does not see a problem for home schoolers. Goodling announces that Representative Dale Kildee is planning to offer an amendment on the floor to "solve the problem." Congressman Armey explains the threat posed by the Miller language and states that he will settle for nothing less than his proposed amendment. Later that day, Goodling participates in a live C-SPAN call-in show where he reiterates Congressman Miller's line that the problem is nonexistent.
2:00 PM: The Congressional switch board is jammed. Several congressmen report that they can not even reach their own staff by telephone. Inter-office calling is virtually impossible. HSLDA is overwhelmed by calls. Aaron Fessler calculates that HSLDA has received a record 9,500-14,000 incoming telephone calls. This does not include callers who got a busy signal when they called.
7:00 PM: Hoping to reach a bipartisan agreement, Clancy meets with Susan Wilhelm, aide to Representative Kildee, asking her if the congressman would be willing to sponsor an Armey/Kildee amendment. Wilhelm responds: "You sicked these people on us . . . Our language is our language. We are not open to negotiation and we'll just have to see who gets the most votes." Clancy explains that Kildee's language does not solve the problem. Wilhelm repeats: "Our language is our language."
TUESDAY EVENING: Michael Farris burns the midnight oil preparing a response to Rep. Miller's letter.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Armey's Army Cries "No Retreat"
WEDNESDAY MORNING: An ice storm hits Washington, D.C., Farris and Teepell brave the inclement weather and make it to Capitol Hill where they are in and out of House offices all day, trying to finalize the language of the Armey freedom amendment. It has become apparent to every lawmaker that the home schoolers mean business. Nevertheless, some Democratic leaders are still attempting come up with a solution that does not include the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment."
[CAPTION] Missouri home schoolers "storming the castle:" Darren Knowles, Jeremy Meiss, Saralee Rhoads, Bobbie Jeffrey, Joyce Mucci, and Bruce Jeffrey.
10:00 AM: Home schoolers from around the country arrive in Washington to lobby Congress. These stalwarts come from Georgia, Missouri, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states.
11:00 AM: While Michael Farris and Timothy Teepell are visiting with Congressional lawmakers, they meet with CAP Coordinator Don Hoffman who has recruited 25 home schoolers for an emergency visit to Washington. These home schoolers have visited the 435 offices with a letter responding to Miller's charges and clarifying why an amendment is necessary. The letter also explains that H.R. 6 does pose a real danger to home schools and private schools; that for an amendment to be acceptable it must exempt home schools and private schools from the entire act; that Speaker of the House Tom Foley has stated his support for the principles reflected in the Armey amendment; that HSLDA attempted to resolve the matter with Rep. Miller but were stonewalled; and that those who are concerned about H.R. 6 go far beyond the home school community.
HSLDA collects the names of thousands of state and local home school organizations from around the country who have responded to our fax alert and support the effort to advance the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment."
12:00 NOON: The nationally syndicated "Beverly LaHaye Live" radio show features Farris discussing the importance of the Armey amendment.
12:30 PM: HSLDA receives a fax from the Association of Christian Schools International, which says, "ACSI has over 3,000 schools across the USA as members and all of them have been notified about this amendment. It is our concern that the H.R. 6 will require all private school teachers and home school parents to be certified by the state. The Association is in support of . . . the 'Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment.'"
1:00 PM: Farris arrives at the CNN studios to be taped for a television news clip.
2:00 PM: Farris discusses H.R. 6 for an hour on Pat Buchanan's radio show which is broadcast live from the Mutual studios in Arlington, Virginia. Afterwards, Larry King engages Farris in a hallway discussion of the issue.
3:00 PM: The House Rules Committee meets. Lining the walls of the room are home schoolers who have gathered to show their support for the Armey amendment and an open rule for the floor debate. The question on every congressman's lips is "How do we stop the calls?" Kildee explains that he and Congressman Ford will be offering an amendment which will strike §2124(e) in toto. This would mean that the teacher certification issue would be resolved. Ford adds that his amendment is an "unnecessary solution to a nonexisting problem," but that he wants the calls to stop. The Democrats hope to pressure Armey into backing down, but the congressman from Texas won't budge. Armey tells the committee that the Kildee amendment is good in so far as it goes, but that it does not completely finish the job. The definition of "school" still needs to be clarified. Armey points out that there are 17 states where home schools are defined as private schools by statute. Home schools must receive 100% protection from the ESEA, and the Armey amendment is the way to do that. Armey also stresses the importance of getting an open rule so that members can vote on his amendment. The Democrats are cautious. Up to this point they have refused to work with Congressman Armey and HSLDA. Armey points out: "The calls don't stop until I say so." The Rules Committee leadership goes into a private caucus to reach a decision on whether or not to allow an open rule.
3:45 PM: The Rules Committee agrees to a modified open rule.
4:00 PM: Dean Clancy and Horace Cooper of Armey's staff meet with Michael Farris to make additional, last minute revisions to further address the concerns raised by the Catholic Conference. The deadline for any amendments is 5:00 p.m.
[CAPTION] On February 23, Michael Farris and Armey aide Dean Clancy work quickly on last minute revisions to the Armey amendment language.
4:30 PM: The new modified amendment is complete and a runner delivers it to the Congressional Record office.
4:45 PM: The amendment is introduced into the Congressional Record, just minutes before the deadline. Unbeknownst to Armey, the Rules Committee Report reprints an outdated, pre-4:30 version of the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment" which Armey handed to Ford. HSLDA and Armey's staff remain unaware of the mix-up and go to bed that night believing that all is well.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24
6:00 AM: Michael Farris arrives at HSLDA to write a draft of the legislative history of the Armey amendment. After the final vote on H.R. 6, this legislative history will be included in the Congressional Record.
8:30 AM: Congressman Armey circulates a "Dear Colleague" letter entitled "H.R. 6: Why the Ford Amendment Doesn't Do the Job." In the letter, Congressman Armey explains:
When the House meets this morning to debate H.R. 6, Chairman Ford of the Education and Labor Committee will offer an amendment to 'fix' the private school/home school problem in the bill, even though he personally considers doing so 'an unnecessary solution to a non-existent problem.' Well, such comforting statements aside, the fact is the Chairman's amendment is a 'non-solution.' It's a fig leaf. And it won't even get the job done.
What would the Ford Amendment do? It would add a new one-sentence general provision: 'Nothing in this act shall be construed to affect home schools.' That's it. This provision is insufficient. Not only does it fail to provide any legal protection to private schools, it doesn't even protect all home schools, because 17 states legally refer to home schools as private schools. . . . The Ford Amendment doesn't get the job done even by its own standards.
The Armey amendment would resolve the problem entirely. It would protect home schools and private schools. It would completely eliminate any certification requirement for public, private, religious and home schools. . . .
9:00 AM: Red Alert! Clancy calls Farris with disturbing news. The Democrats who control the Rules Committee have introduced (although by virtue of an honest mistake) the wrong version of the Armey amendment for the floor vote. Kildee has capitalized on this problem by soliciting a letter from the Catholic Conference which attacks the Armey amendment. The letter, signed by Rev. William Davis, erroneously claims that the Armey amendment would be harmful to Catholic schools who want to participate in federally-subsidized programs. This is bad news for the Armey amendment, because of the tremendous influence that the Catholic Conference has over education policy. In his attempt to squelch the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment," Kildee immediately distributes the copy of the Catholic Conference letter to every member of Congress.
9:05 AM: GOP members on the House floor, concerned by the Catholic Conference letter, urge Armey to revise his language further.
9:10 AM: What should we do? As it stands, the Armey amendment in its current form may not pass for two reasons: 1. the Ford/Kildee vote comes first, and liberals will claim that Armey's amendment will be viewed to have redundancies; and 2. the Catholics oppose it. Under the modified open rule which was adopted by the Rules Committee yesterday, Armey may modify his amendment only with the unanimous consent of the House. One congressman voting "nay" could deny Armey (without explanation) the opportunity to modify the language of his amendment. We must get the correct language to the floor, but how?
9:12 AM: There is still one last option. Congressman Joseph Moakley (D MA-9), chairman of the Rules Committee, must be persuaded to allow Armey to modify the home school amendment. (The Chairman of the Rules Committee is, arguably, one of the most important men in Washington, D.C. Even Congressman Miller would be cautious about opposing Moakley.) Question: How do we reach Moakley? Answer: The home school hotline!
9:15 AM: Michael Farris calls Massachusetts home school leader Bev Somogie with an urgent request: "We need you to get several hundred home schoolers from Congressman Moakley's district to call him and request that he allow Dick Armey to modify his amendment prior to the floor debate." With the help of Massachusetts CAP leader Marcie Arnett, Bev immediately activates the telephone tree and within the hour, Rep. Moakley's office is flooded with calls.
9:30 AM: Congressman Armey circulates a "Dear Colleague" entitled "H.R. 6: Rumours Abound" which reads:
You may have heard of letters circulating on the Hill, by the Congressional Research Service, which purport to explain that the Armey amendment will bar religious schools, including Catholic schools, from participating in ESEA or any other federally funded program. This is false. . . . The Armey amendment will specifically protect and preserve the right of religious schools, including Catholic schools, to participate in federal programs like the ESEA. But the Armey amendment goes further, to bar federal interference with private, religious, and home education. No other amendment offered on the floor today will provide such protection. Accept no substitutes. Vote for the Armey amendment to H.R. 6.
10:10 AM: Debate on H.R. 6 begins. The open rule is declared.
10:25 AM: Congress begins debating the Ford amendment.
10:30 AM: The atmosphere at HSLDA is intense. The staff is frantically running around trying to provide back-up support for the last-ditch effort to save the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment." HSLDA is flooded with telephone calls.
10:45 AM: Miraculously, one call does make it through. Graphics specialist Jayme Farris, overhearing ringing telephones in the National Center, decides to "answer just one call." It was Congressman Moakley's aide. Once transferred to Michael Farris, the aide says, "what can we do to stop the telephone calls?" Michael Farris explains the situation. "Dick Armey needs an opportunity to modify his amendment. The home-schooling community will not rest until the Armey amendment makes it through the House under the current rule. This may only happen if his amendment is modified. Congressman Moakley is the key. If he agrees to a modification, no one will oppose him." The aide simply replies: "I understand."
11:00 AM: Timothy Teepell, Elizabeth Smith, and a handful of CAP volunteers arrive in Washington to deliver letters to the Members of Congress which explain why the Ford amendment is unacceptable by itself. The Armey amendment is needed to protected private schools and home schools that are labeled as private schools.
[CAPTION] Elizabeth Smith, CAP volunteer and wife of HSLDA Vice President Michael Smith, answers the media's questions about H.R. 6 on the Capitol lawn.
1:00 PM: Mike Smith and Michael Farris monitor the House debate on C-Span.
1:25 PM: Congressman Don Manzullo (R IL-16) engages Representative Ford on the floor of the House in a colloquy. The colloquy establishes that Ford does not intend to impose a limiting definition of "home education." In fact, Congress will not even define home education.
1:54 PM: The Ford amendment passes 424-1. Rep. Miller is the only member to vote no.
1:57 PM: Congressman Armey requests the unanimous consent of the House to modify his amendment. Everyone holds their breath. The Chairman said: "Is there any objection to the modification to the amendment by the gentleman from Texas?. . ." Silence . . . More silence . . . "There is unanimous consent." Rep. Moakley has convinced the Democrats to go along with the modification.
2:00 PM: Debate begins on Armey's final version of the "Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment." Congressman Armey begins by saying: "This issue became an issue because there were people across this country who have sought refuge from the mandates to public education from the Federal Government, by either enrolling their children in private schools or maintaining their children in a home school. These people have what we now can clearly all understand and agree is an extraordinary commitment to the preservation of their own freedom as parents and educators." In the hour and a half which would follow, congressman after congressman would rise in support of home education and the Armey amendment. Only three representatives would voice their opposition to the Armey amendment on the floor. Armey staffer Dean Clancy shares this perspective:
The scene on the House floor was almost chaos. The vote on the Ford Amendment was winding down. Republican members, spooked by the Catholic bishop's letter, were coming up to Armey, urging him to revise his amendment in this way or that. One moderate Republican was over across the aisle unilaterally negotiating with the Democrats without Armey's knowledge—thankfully, without result. Armey was trying to tune it all out, calmly dictating revisions, as I scribbled. When he was done, I dashed the revisions down to the reading-clerk's desk, whispering a prayer that she'd be able to decipher my handwriting. The gavel was struck, and we were up. The clerk read Armey's amendment, then Armey asked the chair for unanimous consent to revise it. Pause. "Is there objection?" Pause. I could hear my heart pound. One objection and we'd be dead. "Hearing no objection, the revisions are agreed to." Whew! That was obstacle number one, down. Next we needed to make sure that the moderate Republicans were back on board. After whispering with Armey for a while, moderate Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania got up and said he'd support the amendment with revisions. I relaxed. That was obstacle number two, down. As members of both parties were lining up four and five deep to speak in favor of our amendment, Mr. Kildee could find only a couple of hard-left Democrats to speak against. So Kildee kept repeating his arguments, rather half-heartedly, to eat up time. Republican Spencer Bachus of Alabama begged Armey to let him speak, because he'd already sent out copies of his speech to his constituents. Armey squeezed him in. During and after the debate, members kept coming up to Armey and telling him they never knew there were so many home schoolers, but boy did they know now. Republican Vern Ehlers of Michigan surprised the House by revealing that he himself had been home schooled as a child and gone on to get a Ph.D in nuclear physics. Republican Jim Bunning of Kentucky told Armey, "Dick, I'll be dead meat if I don't vote yes. I have two grown daughters that home school." As Armey was giving his closing remarks, with just seconds to go before the vote, my fellow-staffer, Horace Cooper, ran up and handed him a note informing him that the Catholic bishops no longer opposed the amendment. Hallelujah! Home run! Armey announced the news to the House.
3:28 PM: VICTORY!! Home schoolers win a stunning 374-53 victory on Armey's amendment. Thanks be to God!
7:00 PM: HSLDA sends out fax number five to its alert network informing the home school community of the details of the victory.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25
Let Freedom Ring
Newspapers from around the country carry the stunning victory accomplished by these telephone-dialing moms and dads. The New York Times headline reads: "Home Schooling Wins Emphatic Assurances From the House." A front-page headline on the Washington Times notes: "Home Schoolers sound off; Hill corrects education bill." A Washington Post headline exclaims: "Outburst of Protest Scuttles Home School Licensing Idea." Perhaps most gratifying is the article entitled "Home-Schooling Movement Gives House a Lesson" featured in the prestigious Congressional Quarterly.
In the aftermath of the battle, HSLDA President Michael Farris visits Congressional offices to pay his respect to those who fought on behalf of home schoolers. As he passes an open Congressional office door he spies a computer screen saver with the message: "Freedom Works—Ask the Home Schoolers."
THURSDAY, MARCH 3
The job is not over until the thank yous go out. Approximately thirty CAP volunteers come to Capitol Hill to deliver a special ten pound bag of apples to every member of Congress with a note of thanks. Congressmen who voted for the Armey amendment receive a special note which reads, "Apples from the Home School Teachers" and thanks them for supporting home school freedoms. The staff members of the congressmen who voted against the Armey amendment receive a bag of apples with a note thanking them "for listening to the concerns of parents." After a rigorous day lugging apples around the House office buildings, every office has been visited and thousands of apples delivered. In addition to apples, many home schoolers expressed their appreciation by sending flowers to their congressman. Representative Dick Armey reported having received over 30 bouquets of flowers from grateful home school parents.
[CAPTION] Congressman Armey's office received dozens of bouquets and other tokens of appreciation from grateful home-schooling families across the country. Armey's staffers worked hard for home school freedoms and were well deserving of this recognition.
[CAPTION] Congressional Action Program volunteers Ed Rogers and son Edward (age 11) deliver "Apples from the Teachers" to a Congressional office.
Who deserves the credit for this victory? Credit is certainly due to the one million plus callers who were willing to act and not sit idly by watching Congress obliterate their home-schooling freedoms. Credit is also due to Representative Dick Armey who championed the cause of parents who simply want to train their children according to the dictates of their conscience, free from state intervention. Most importantly, credit goes to God Almighty, who answered the prayers of His people, and miraculously superintended every detail of this battle to bring a victory for the home schoolers of America. All of our efforts, our best laid plans would have been for naught apart from the sovereign grace of our Lord.
This is the story of the H.R. 6 battle as told from HSLDA's perspective. We could not possibly fit in one newsletter all the interesting and inspiring stories that there are to tell, but we have included those which we think are especially exemplary of God's miraculous power. We thank all of you who called, wrote and prayed for this victory.
"Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."