ARMED WITH THE MESSAGE OF FREEDOM,
DEDICATED STATE LEADERS GATHER FOR THE
The scene was both familiar and unique...
A hundred plus dedicated state home school leaders, lobby packets tucked under their arms and wearing lapel stickers that declared "Home School Freedom Works!," walked the halls of Congress in March. Their message was simple, families who home school do a great job and want to be left alone.
"I see the home schoolers are on the Hill today," said Senator John McCain to HSLDA staffer Samuel Redfern on the subway to the Capitol building. "Are you going to visit my office?"
These kinds of "chance" encounters are a valuable way to get "face-time" with members of Congress whose high pressure schedules are a rush. Redfern took advantage of the opportunity and had a 15-minute conversation with the senator about our legislative agenda. "I handed him our lobby folder and he promised to read it," said Redfern.
Paul Matte of New York's Loving Education at Home had a similar story. "We were told that our senator, Hillary Clinton, did not have time on her schedule for a visit," said Paul. "But suddenly we spotted her in the hall. I walked up and she immediately saw my home school sticker. We had a very nice 10-minute conversation and she proudly related to me the time she represented a home school family back in Arkansas."
"Those are just two of the stories we heard after the event," said Doug Domenech, executive director of HSLDA's National Center for Home Education which sponsored the event. "Having these state leaders come to Washington is invaluable to the success of achieving our legislative agenda."
The National Home School Leadership Summit which was held March 28-30, 2001, attracted delegates from 48 states. The purpose of the event is to provide state leaders with an opportunity to lobby their representatives on national issues of importance to the home schooling movement.
"This year," said the National Center's Manager of Federal Policy and Research Caleb Kershner, "we selected several key issues to lobby on: ending the marriage tax penalty, and protecting home school freedom in the president's education plan."
"The summit is about more than lobbying," said HSLDA President Michael Smith. "It is a great opportunity for leaders to get to know one another and share ideas."
On the first night, HSLDA hosted an opening banquet and tour of our new headquarters in Purcellville, Virginia. The 20-member Patrick Henry College Chorale welcomed the state leaders to the facility, and afterward a town hall session featured state leaders sharing stories about legislative successes and challenges faced in their states.
Up early on Thursday, the state leaders were ferried to Capitol Hill by van. Representative John Hostettler of Indiana arranged for HSLDA to use the main House Judiciary Committee room in the Rayburn House Office Building for our meeting (a room many Americans became familiar with during the recent impeachment hearings). Thursday afternoon began visits to congressional offices on the Hill. These lobbying visits resulted in dozens of face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and their staff.
On the final day of the event—Friday, the leaders returned to Washington for a special private briefing by members of the White House staff. The meeting, held at the Old Executive Office Building was chaired by Tim Goeglein, special assistant to the president, and leaders were briefed by Deputy Secretary of Education William D. Hansen and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Don Eberly. Leaders had the opportunity to question them about the president's education plan and faith-based initiative proposal. After the White House briefing, state leaders returned to the Hill for more lobby visits before flying home that evening.
"We believe that many in Congress heard the message loud and clear today that 'Home schooling freedom works!'" said HSLDA President Mike Smith. "These home school leaders work very hard to preserve and advance freedom in their states. It's exciting for us to be part of a day like today—when leaders from across the map bring the cause of home school freedom to our nation's capital."
R E L A T E D I T E M S
A state leader's thoughts on the summit