Announcing the Congressional Action Program
In response to concerns raised by many families over the direction of the Clinton Administration as it relates to home school liberties, the National Center for Home Education has started the Congressional Action Program. Doug Phillips, Director of Government Affairs for the National Center for Home Education, will head the program.
In a letter to state home school leaders, Mike Farris urged: “This is not a time for home schoolers to panic, but it is a time for careful preparation. Toward this end, the primary mission of the Congressional Action Program will be to monitor issues moving through Congress and generate immediate, accurate and consistent responses which express our favor or disfavor. It is more crucial than ever that nothing be allowed to fall between the cracks, and that we earn respect for who we are by the manner in which we work.”
The mission of the Congressional Action Program is limited, but significant. Our goal is to target for action only those federal measures which have a direct impact on home schooling. The right of parents to home educate their children is based on two fundamental principles of liberty: religious freedom and parental rights.
Examples of issues that may pose serious threats for the home-schooling community in 1993 by jeopardizing religious freedom or parental rights would include:
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and all child rights bills;
- Parents as Teachers legislation;
- Corporal punishment restrictions;
- Any measures promoting qualification requirements for parents to teach their children;
- Federal government bans or restrictions on the home education of “special needs” children.
Protecting the Home Schooling Family
The National Center’s approach to this mission will be to mount a two-pronged defense of home school liberties:
In The Nation’s Capitol
The first prong of the C.A.P. is the “army” of trained home school volunteers (“Capitol Coordinators”) who live within commuting distance of the nation’s capitol. The most important credentials a home-educating family can bring to Washington, D.C. is an enthusiastic desire to preserve the blessings of liberty for the American family. The National Center for Home Education recognizes that America was not built by professional politicians or trained lobbyists, but by God-fearing families who were willing to take a stand for righteousness.
The local volunteers will meet monthly for training sessions on issues and procedures, and they will be called together whenever a legislative emergency demands their concentrated attention.
As these “Capitol Coordinators” visit members of Congress to educate them about our concerns, their strategic clout will come through the ability to generate large numbers of calls and letters from the legislator’s own constituents reinforcing what was shared in the office. Politicians understand that talk is cheap, but votes are what really matters. When they see that they are being watched closely and that 100 or more calls are generated in a timely fashion after a visit from a lobbyist, they will take notice. Of course, calls thanking them for positive responses are worth their weight in gold, politically speaking.
In Grassroots America
The second prong of the C.A.P. is the network of “District Coordinators”—one in each of the 435 Congressional districts. The success of this prong of the program will depend on the ability of “District Coordinators” to activate a well-organized telephone tree in their congressional district. Our goal is to have a responsible coordinator in each of the 435 congressional districts of America.
Here is how it works: When the National Center for Home Education learns of an important, federal home school-related issue deserving of action, we will immediately contact the District Coordinators with action sheets and talking points. The District Coordinators will then activate the telephone trees. The telephone trees will generate large numbers of personal calls from the constituents to each member of Congress.
Unlike other grassroots movements which attempt to organize efforts to influence legislation, the home school movement has a well developed infrastructure already in place. Many state organizations have well-organized and effective political action structures. The goal of the Congressional Action Program is to work closely with and complement the work of the state organizations.
Can Home Schoolers Really Make a Difference in Washington
Absolutely! Legislators can lose faith in the family if they do not hear from Christian families who are committed to excellence. Leaders in Washington are constantly inundated with reports of the failure of the American home by anti-family activists. Our desire is to present these leaders with the refreshing perspective of the home-educating family. The Congressional Action Program will attempt to provide parents and mature teenagers with the opportunity to testify before congressional decision-makers and appeal to these leaders to make wise decisions on bills which affect the vitality of the home-educating family.
C.A.P. Kick Off Successful
On January 8, 1993, home school volunteers met for the introductory session of the Congressional Action Program. Parents and teenagers from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area interested in representing their concerns as home schoolers before members of Congress participated in the first of a series of monthly training seminars. C.A.P. Director, Doug Phillips, commented: “We are very pleased at the sizeable turnout, and the quality of the volunteers representing the National Center on Capitol Hill. Our goal is to prepare and train these Capitol Coordinators so that they can make an impact when it really counts.”
Phillips addressed the group on the objectives of the C.A.P. program, and the threat to the home school family posed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. HSLDA President, Mike Farris, spoke on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and “How To Become A Successful Home School Lobbyist.” James Moon, a home school graduate and paid lobbyist for the Home Educators Association of Virginia shared from his experiences dealing with legislators. Inge Cannon, Director of Public Relations for the National Center gave helpful pointers for effective communication in a session entitled “How to Present Home Schooling in the Best Possible Light.” Ambassador Alan Keyes and Legislative Assistant to Sen. Bob Smith, Michael Hammond, gave the home school audience the perspective of two seasoned insiders and their experience fighting on behalf of the family on Capitol Hill.