HSLDA’s Department of Federal Relations
August 9, 2007

Homeschoolers Lobby Congress as Part of Congressional Action Program

By Will Estrada

Sandy and Lewis Toms and their four children meet with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. Nearly 50 homeschoolers with HSLDA’s CAP program went to Washington in June to lobby their congressmen.

On Monday, June 25, 49 homeschool parents and children from four states joined staff from HSLDA’s Federal Relations department in Washington, D.C., for the Congressional Action Program’s CAP Lobbying Day on the Hill.

Homeschooling families from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia were briefed on current homeschool issues by HSLDA President Mike Smith, Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada, and former CAP participant Elizabeth Smith. Families then heard from staffers from the offices of Representative Buck McKeon (CA-25), Representative Pete Hoekstra (MI-2), and House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH-8).

After the briefing, the families headed out for their previously scheduled visits with staffers and congressmen on the House and Senate education committees.

“When we were walking to the buildings, I was kind of nervous,” recalled Andrew Toms, age 12. “Then, once we sat down with the staff people, I was kind of excited.” His parents, Sandy and Lewis Toms, enthusiastically added, “God opens doors!” The Toms family and their four children were able to meet with Representative Frank Wolf (VA-10) and Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah).

Julie Randall, her married daughter Rachel Estrada, and the homeschooling daughter of a friend, Johannah McWilliams, also saw firsthand how doors were opened to them. As they stopped by the office of Representative Danny Davis (IL-7), a Democrat from Illinois, the congressman saw them talking to the receptionist and came out to meet them. He asked them to come into his office and put another meeting on hold as he looked over their materials and talked to them about homeschooling.

From left, Rachel Estrada, Johanna McWilliams and Julie Randall meet with Representative Danny Davis of Illinois. The Congressman put a meeting on hold to discuss homeschooling issues with the CAP lobbyists.

“Representative Danny Davis was a very kind man,” said Julie Randall. “It was an awesome experience for Johanna McWilliams, my friend’s 11-year-old daughter, to actually get to meet Representative Davis on her first CAP lobbying day and sit and talk with him in his office and to hear Representative Davis say that he wants to be a ‘champion’ of homeschoolers.”

One of the powerful benefits of the CAP program is that homeschool families are able to share how laws and policies directly affect their families. For example, Doug and Kim Kincell from West Virginia came to the CAP lobbying day straight from a vacation with their three daughters, Kiri, Keely, and Kelsi. They met with a staffer from the office of Senator Robert Byrd (West Virginia)’s office to discuss amending federal law to open up the Byrd scholarship for homeschoolers. Since the Kincell daughters are college age, the staffer could see firsthand how this law discriminates against them. The Senate soon after passed the Higher Education Act reauthorization and included language which would make homeschooled students eligible for the Byrd scholarship, something which has been a high priority for HSLDA for several years.

HSLDA applauds the work of our CAP families and is actively planning additional CAP events. CAP families have achieved great success in the past and continue to achieve great success today as they lobby Congress to protect homeschooling liberty.

For more information on the CAP program, please visit the HSLDA Federal Relations website.