As Texas governor and a presidential candidate, George W. Bush publicly endorsed home schooling. Many home schoolers were elated when he was elected the 43rd president of the United States. Unfortunately, even a home school-friendly president in the White House cannot guarantee that our freedoms will be safe for the next four years. Especially when most threats to home schooling freedoms come from state and local officials.
January 2001 marks the start of another legislative season in many states. Home School Legal Defense Association is again committed to seeing that no legislation passes which would roll back the freedoms that home schoolers currently have in any state. But, in order to be successful, we need your help.
We do not send alerts and ask for responses unless we are confident it is necessary. Your response is critical if we are to maintain our home school freedoms in your state and across this nation.
This Court Report highlights some of this year's pending measures that threaten to diminish freedom or promise to improve the legal atmosphere. Home school pioneers worked hard to secure our current freedoms. We must watch the legislature closely to maintain those freedoms-what the legislature gives, the legislature can take away.
A classic example of this is Nebraska. In 1984, the state legislature recognized the legality of home schooling. Just three years later, in 1987, a bill was introduced that would have reversed all the gains home schoolers had made previously.
At the committee hearing for this new bill, Nebraska home schoolers turned out en masse. They filled the Senate chamber and overflowed into the rotunda. The first and only witness on behalf of the bill was a lobbyist for the National Education Association. She dramatically ripped a copy of her teacher's license in half, demonstrating what she felt the previous year's home school law had done. Several articulate home school witnesses and a strong response from the home school community countered the lobbyist's arguments, persuading the author of the bill to withdraw it.
In 1997, Congressman Bill Goodling from Pennsylvania told home school leaders gathered at HSLDA's annual national leadership conference that home schoolers were the most effective lobbyists, even more effective than the NEA.
Why are home schoolers so effective? There are many reasons-let's look at three.
One, home school families make a good impression. In the early days of the battle which led to the lifting of the legal restrictions on home schooling, the home schoolers were locked in a battle with the South Carolina State Department of Education in a fight that bounced back and forth between the courts and the legislature. South Carolina home school pioneer and leader Zan Tyler spearheaded many of the home schoolers' efforts to defeat restrictions. In the midst of the fight, a high official in the state department of education was asked what he knew about home schooling. He replied, "I don't know much about home schooling but I do know Zan Tyler-if Zan Tyler endorses home schooling, then it must be a good idea."
Legislators want to see the product of home schooling. HSLDA's Congressional Action Program lobbies Congress on home schooling and parental rights issues. We train local home schoolers to lobby as families. Often, congressmen and their aides are more interested in talking to the children about home schooling than in discussing legislation.
We encourage your family to make a personal call on your state representative/senator. Have your children make and present a gift reflecting their home school experience (such as cookies, artwork, or a hand-written thank you note). Invite your legislator to address a support group meeting. Most politicians are happy to speak to a group of potential voters. Ask him to explain how the legislative system works and the legislation in which he is interested.
The second reason home schoolers are effective is because of our passion for home education and parental freedoms. When the desire for freedom becomes a passion, people will fight for it.
In 1994, an amendment to House Resolution 6 would have required all students to be taught by subject-certified teachers. Alarmed home schoolers besieged Congress with phone calls, faxes, and letters. In eight days, over 1 million phone calls shut down the House of Representatives' switchboard for hours at a time.
Following H.R. 6, every congressman understood the passion for freedom that home schoolers have. Only passion for freedom could have sparked such an outpouring of calls with the simple message: "Home schooling works."
Finally, home schoolers are effective because we are organized. I know some of you might be laughing at this statement but home schoolers are efficiently networked together by e-mail, faxes, and the like. HSLDA alone has over 30,000 member families networked to our e-lert system who can receive almost instantaneous information regarding legislation in their state. If you have a computer and have not subscribed to our e-lert service, we strongly encourage you to sign up today. (Visit www.hslda.org or call 540.338.5600.)
We also encourage you to join a local or state home school group. If another H.R. 6-type federal threat comes along, every home schooler needs to be ready to respond.
Thank you for every phone call you have made, every letter you have written, every e-mail you have sent, every hearing you have attended, and every petition you have prayed on behalf of a bill or legislator. Only by continuing to stand together and by the grace of God can our passion for freedom prevail.
This is no time to rest. We must remain vigilant in advancing and protecting our freedoms.