|We Can't Afford NOT to be Involved
By: Chris Klicka
Since 1982, thirty-two states have passed laws or regulations recognizing and defining home schooling. Some of these new laws passed according to the plans of home schoolers, and others passed leaving home schoolers in disarray.
The enemies of home schooling [in 1995]are just beginning to wake up. From 1982 to 1988, home schoolers, for the most part, surprised the National Education Association and the other public school lobbying groups. In the 1990s, however, the legislative road has not been as smooth.
More than ever, it is important for the average home school family to stay informed of the latest legislation affecting parents' rights and to be prepared to participate in the political process. The onslaught of negative bills from State School Board Associations, School Administrator Associations, and State Teacher Associations is just beginning.
I have gathered some ideas on how to lobby effectively. Below are some tips and suggestions which the reader may find useful.
The Need for a Vision
First of all, each home schooler and each home school organization needs to decide what the goal is for their state law concerning home schooling. Ultimately, my goal is to see states repeal their compulsory attendance laws, but the timing is not right. Much more education of the legislators needs to take place, which may take at least a generation.
In the meantime, you must first ask the question: Are we, as a body of home schoolers in a given state, satisfied with the status quo? In many states without home school laws, home schoolers, as a whole, are doing pretty well. Many of the "private school states" fit into this category.
Also several of the states with home school laws already allow maximum freedom and are, therefore, worth protecting. Missouri's home school law, which requires no monitoring of any kind nor any registration, would definitely fit into this category. If it is your position to be content with the status quo,your lobbying strategy should be defensive--keeping the law the way it is.
However, if you decide that you are not satisfied with the present law, you need to develop an offensive strategy. This, of course, will involve much planning and coordinating. The most important consideration will be the timing of the legislative bill. Is the legislature ready to deal favorably with home schooling? Or will they make the legal atmosphere worse for home schooling?
The Need for Organization
However, home schoolers need to be organized. They should make a determination as to who will spearhead the offensive strategy or who will monitor the legislature for defensive purposes. Most state home school organizations can work together with local support groups to accomplish this task.
Home school organizations in each state should work together on legislative action in order to present a united front and, as a result, be the most effective. This does not mean, of course, that each state must limit themselves to establishing only one home school organization in order to appear united. Rather, there can be several independent state home school organizations which each meet the needs of the type of home schoolers they represent. Each of these independent home school organizations, however, should be prepared to work together whenever there is a need for legislative action.
The Need for Education
The best investment for a home schooler to make in the legislature is to take time to educate his or her legislative representatives. Most legislators have never met a home school family personally and probably know very little about it.
I recommend that home schoolers write to their state representatives and state senators, even when there is no particular legislation at stake. Even more beneficial is to visit the legislators' office at the capitol (which, incidentally, will be an excellent field trip for your children) or to invite him to speak to a local gathering of home school constituents in his district. Some families I know have invited their legislator over to their house for dinner or for a "coffee" involving local home school parents.
It is a good idea to have information to leave with him that will introduce him to the concept of home schooling and document the fact that home schooling really works. The HSLDA has various concise resources available to its members, which have been frequently used to educate legislators and state officials. Also your state organization may want to consider printing an educational brochure that would summarize what home schooling is, its academic successes, and its legal rights.
I might make mention that another effective way of winning a legislator to your side is to work on his campaign, especially when he is a first-time candidate. This past year my wife and I worked for and came to know a local candidate for the Virginia Legislature. Many other home schoolers also became involved in his campaign. He won and now is completely supportive of home schooling, although prior to his candidacy he was unfamiliar with the subject.
(The above is from the Leadership Symposium booklet used by Home School Legal Defense Association in Portland in June, 1996. Permission to use this material granted by HSLDA.)
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