CAP is Back
Congressional Action Program (CAP) lobbyists are back in full force. After CAP’s three-year hiatus, Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) President Mike Smith and HSLDA Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada reinstituted the program in early 2007 with the focus on training families to become citizen-lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
The goal of the family-oriented program is to build relationships with congressmen and their staff. When a piece of legislation requires a response, CAP will take action through personal visits to the entire Congress or targeted committee members.
HSLDA / Cristina MeierWill Estrada, HSLDA Director of Federal Relations, leads a lobbying workshop.
“It was exciting to see families from Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the surrounding states come to participate in the restarting of CAP,” said Smith. “As a part of HSLDA, CAP gives volunteers a platform by representing HSLDA’s 80,000 members.”
On March 9, 2007, 67 participants, including children ages 6 to 18, gathered in Patrick Henry College’s Nash Auditorium for a day of lectures and practical advice. The families traveled from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.
The day began with a welcome from Smith. This was followed by several guest speakers, a message on parental rights from HSLDA Chairman and General Counsel Michael Farris, an update on current federal issues from Estrada, and an interactive lobbying workshop.
Ned Ryun, director of HSLDA’s Generation Joshua (a civics action training program for 11- to 19-year-olds), talked to CAP attendees about developing relationships on Capitol Hill. He explained that because legislators are constantly inundated with negative reports on the American home, one purpose of CAP is to present legislators with a refreshing perspective of the Christian home-educated family.
“It’s good for public relations for parents to bring kids when lobbying,” Ryun pointed out.
Alison Slatter, a former congressional legislative assistant and senior policy analyst, and Elizabeth Smith, an active lobbyist since 1981 and the wife of Mike Smith, discussed effective lobbying techniques. They gave advice on making appointments with congressmen and practicing congressional office protocol, but emphasized that perseverance is key.
“One person can make a difference,” Smith encouraged the CAP families.
“Lobbying is eighty percent friendship,” Slatter said. “Verbal rapport with an individual to know where they’re coming from is important.”
HSLDA / Cristina MeierMichael Farris addresses 67 CAP participants during a special training day in March 2007.
In order for CAP lobbyists to have this kind of direct involvement with the political process on Capitol Hill, the program is designed for families who live within commuting distance of Washington, D.C.
When HSLDA created the program in 1992, CAP families and district coordinators from each state worked with the National Center for Home Education—now HSLDA’s Federal Relations Department—by lobbying through phone calls and letters. Generation Joshua was launched in 2004, phasing out the initial CAP lobbyist training program.
Due to the recent political shift in Congress and the campaign for a constitutional amendment to protect parental rights, said Farris, CAP is once again a necessity. Politically active homeschoolers and grassroots efforts will play a key role in securing the future of homeschooling, Farris explained in his 45-minute lecture.
“A well-organized minority can be effective,” Farris said. “We have prevailed when people said it was absolutely impossible to prevail.”
Caroline Jimenez, a homeschooling mom from Charlottesville, Virginia, attended the training day with her family. After Charlottesville voted overwhelmingly against Virginia’s marriage amendment in 2006, Jimenez’s family saw a great need to learn to effectively communicate with their elected officials, she said.
“We wanted to learn how to talk to our legislators and present the truth,” said Mrs. Jimenez.
In previous years, CAP has advanced homeschooling freedom by contributing to the defeat of mandatory teacher certification in House Resolution 6 in 1994, the suspension of U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, and the defeat of national standardized testing in 1997.
“We believe that CAP will be instrumental in the next decade to help preserve and protect at the federal level the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” said Mike Smith.
For more information visit HSLDA’s Congressional Action Program online.
|About the author
A homeschool graduate as well as a junior
majoring in journalism at Patrick Henry College, Rebekah Pizana works part-time in HSLDA’s Communications Department.