J. Michael Smith, Esq.
Michael P. Farris, Esq.
Homeschool Leaders Go To Washington
Director of Federal Relations
May 11, 2010
Eighty-three homeschool leaders spent three days in the Washington, D.C. area in April, lobbying members of Congress. These homeschool leaders represented homeschool organizations from 37 states and Puerto Rico, and came to the district as part of HSLDA’s National Homeschool Leader Summit. Held every two years, the summit lets homeschool leaders meet with their members of Congress and staffs to share about homeschooling successes and remind them that the federal government has no business regulating homeschools.
Left: Rep. Geoff Davis of Kentucky shares his passion for homeschool freedom with leaders gathered for HSLDA’s National Homeschool Leader Summit.
Below: Homeschool leaders enjoy dinner at Patrick Henry College.
The last summit in March 2008 was held during the uproar over the California Court of Appeals decision that banned homeschooling (this decision was later reversed by the court). The homeschool leaders who attended had been there in the thick of the congressional action to condemn the ruling. This year’s summit was held during the hectic last week of the health care reform bill debate. Again, the homeschool leaders were in the right place at the right time.
The homeschool leaders arrived on Wednesday afternoon, March 17, for a legislative briefing at HSLDA’s national office in Purcellville, Virginia, and for a tour of Patrick Henry College. They were welcomed by HSLDA President Mike Smith and heard an update on the Parental Rights Amendment from Mike Farris, HSLDA's chairman of the board.
The next morning, HSLDA staff accompanied the homeschool leaders into Washington, D.C. for briefings from members of Congress and to lobby about homeschool issues. Numerous members of Congress had altered their busy schedules to address the homeschool leaders, and to meet with them personally. It was a powerful reminder that even though our nation faces many challenges, there are still men and women in our government who respect the Constitution, and who realize that they are servants to the people who elected them. The representatives had all just come from a strategy meeting about the health care reform bill, and they were able to answer many questions about the health care debate.
The first speaker of the day was Representative Jim Jordan from Ohio. He shared about the work that members of Congress are doing for their constituents, and also shared that as a homeschool dad himself, the hardest thing about his job is being away from his family.
Representative Randy Forbes from Virginia spoke next. He is the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, and he spoke about the incredible power of prayer in the lives of members of Congress. He reminded the attendees that all of life’s blessings come from God, not the government, and that it is dangerous for the government to try to give all things to all people.
Representative John Fleming from Louisiana spoke next about his concerns with home visitations in the health care reform bill. “We need to be concerned about government intrusion into homes. Anytime the government gives you something, they can take it away,” he said.
Geoff Davis from Kentucky shared from his heart about the huge impact that homeschooling parents have on the lives of their children. He told the attendees that he is also a homeschool dad, and thanked the homeschool leaders for their hard work. He closed by saying, “times are hard—but don’t quit.”
The leaders next heard from Representative John Kline from Minnesota, who is the Ranking Republican Member of the House Education and Labor Committee. In this powerful position, he has been a stalwart defender of homeschool freedom and limiting the federal role in education. He discussed the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and reminded homeschoolers nationwide that they need to be ready to act to preserve homeschool liberty from federal control. As he finished, he mentioned his service in the U.S. Marine Corps, and urged the homeschool leaders to boldly “charge up Capitol Hill with the message of homeschool freedom.”
The next speaker was Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota. She was on the phone setting up last-minute opposition to the health care reform bill as she arrived, but she immediately energized the homeschool leaders as she shared about her work as a homeschool mom and Member of Congress. She talked about the danger of the health care reform bill, but more importantly, how it represented a trend of the federal government trying to take over every area of life.
Representative Jean Schmidt from Ohio shared about her service to God as a member of Congress She finished by exhorting the homeschool leaders to be ready after the health care battle for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, and possible erosions of homeschool freedom in that bill.
Next was Representative Todd Akin from Missouri. He shared about his experiences as a member of Congress and a homeschool dad, and thanked the homeschool leaders for their service to our nation and to the cause of freedom.
The final speaker was the Republican Conference Chairman, Representative Mike Pence from Indiana. He said even though there was great concern about the future of our nation and the government takeovers of health care and other areas of life, he was optimistic. He shared that as long as there is a generation of young people who value freedom and liberty, there is hope for our nation. He closed by saying, “I consider myself a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” He challenged the attendees to remain true to their values, and to continue to fight boldly for what is right.
Motivated by powerful friends on Capitol Hill, the homeschool leaders left for meetings with senators, representatives, and their staffs. They had over 100 scheduled meetings, and other homeschool leaders were able to meet with their respective members of Congress in unscheduled meetings, in elevators, and even while walking the hallways of the Capitol!
The leaders’ message was the same: leave homeschoolers alone and don’t discriminate against homeschool graduates. They handed out hundreds of packets of information about the success of homeschool students and how Congress must ensure that there is no federal control over homeschooling.
That evening, the homeschool leaders attended a banquet at Patrick Henry College. They shared about their success, and discussed the challenges ahead. And on Friday, many leaders returned to Capitol Hill for additional lobbying visits.
HSLDA is extremely grateful to the 83 homeschool leaders from 37 states and Puerto Rico who took three days out of their busy schedules to lobby Congress. It is because of these homeschool leaders—and the state homeschool associations across the 50 states—that we are able to work together to protect homeschool freedom.