HSLDA Hosts National Summit
On Wednesday, March 12, 2008, over 60 homeschool leaders from 31 states came to Washington, D.C., to take part in HSLDA’s National Homeschool Leader Summit.
Held every two years, the summit provides leaders of statewide homeschooling organizations with an opportunity to lobby their representatives on issues of national importance to the homeschooling movement.
HSLDA / Scott WoodruffAt HSLDA’s National Homeschool Leader Summit, Rep. Paul Broun (GA) stresses the importance of being guided by the Constitution.
“HOMESCHOOLING IS GOOD
FOR CHILDREN, GOOD FOR
FAMILIES, AND GOOD
This year’s summit was strongly colored by the recent California Court of Appeal ruling that parents do not have a right to homeschool their children. At the Wednesday welcome session at a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel, HSLDA President Mike Smith and Chairman of the Board Mike Farris updated attendees on the decision and its impact. Handouts prepared by HSLDA and ParentalRights.org briefed the state leaders on talking to their congressmen about the California decision and explaining why the United States Constitution needs a parental rights amendment.
Thursday morning started early, as the state leaders heard from eight U.S. congressmen and a high-level director from the U.S. Department of Education. Representative Paul Broun, a freshman from Georgia, stressed how he relies on the Bible and the U.S. Constitution to guide him in his duties as a congressman. Rep. Joe Pitts (PA) challenged homeschoolers to get involved in overseas missions and help the poor in foreign countries. Rep. Geoff Davis (KY), himself a homeschooling dad, reminded the audience that “Jesus isn’t a Republican or a Democrat,” and that we should never forget our primary duty of evangelism. Rep. Tim Walberg (MI) emphasized the need to encourage young people to live out their convictions in all areas of life. Rep. Todd Akin (MO), another homeschooling dad, shared his love for America’s godly heritage, while stressing that “homeschooling is 20 percent education and 80 percent godly family values.” Rep. John Campbell, a member of the California congressional delegation, voiced his support for home education and assured homeschoolers that Congress would not make any well-intentioned but dangerous attempts to protect homeschooling at the federal level. Reps. Rob Bishop (UT) and Joe Wilson (SC) also addressed the group.
These congressmen came to talk to the leaders despite the fact that both the House of Representatives and the Senate were in the midst of numerous important appropriations votes. Although several other representatives and senators were scheduled to speak, they had to cancel at the last minute because of votes.
The final speaker was Jack Klenk, director of the office of non-public education at the U.S. Department of Education. Klenk has served in the department for over 20 years, and he talked about how he has seen homeschooling grow over that time period. He also acknowledged that the Department of Education has heard the homeschool community’s message that the “federal government must leave homeschoolers alone” and will honor that message. He closed by sharing his and the current administration’s belief that “homeschooling is good for children, good for families, and good for society.”
HSLDA / Scott WoodruffLouisiana homeschool leader Joyce Burges (right) and researcher Dr. Brian Ray network and receive important federal updates.
Encouraged and uplifted, the homeschool leaders then headed off to visit their senators and representatives. These lobbying visits are the central focus of the summit, allowing state homeschool leaders to establish relationships with their federal representatives and staff and to remind members of Congress that there are many homeschoolers in their states and home districts.
Later, the leaders shared how productive and encouraging their lobbying visits had been. Zan Tyler, a homeschool leader from South Carolina, had this to say: “Before all of my meetings, I found myself thanking the Lord for the timing of the California decision. That decision could have easily come down a month too late to do us any good while in D.C. And if it had been handed down much earlier, the buzz on the Hill would have died down. The timing gave such momentum and validity to our cause.”
The summit wrapped up on Friday with a special tour of the U.S. Capitol led by Indiana Representative Mike Pence.
HSLDA thanks all the homeschool leaders and government officials who took the time to participate in this year's National Homeschool Leader Summit.
|About the author
Will Estrada is HSLDA’s director of federal relations.