- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2001

As Texas governor and a presidential candidate, George W. Bush publicly endorsed home-schooling. Many home-schoolers were elated when he was elected. Unfortunately, even a home-school-friendly president in the White House cannot guarantee our freedoms will be safe for the next four years. That's especially true because most threats to home-schooling freedoms come from state and local officials.

Many state legislatures began new sessions at the start of the year. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is again committed to seeing that no legislation passes to roll back the freedoms home-schoolers have in any state. To be successful, HSLDA needs your help.

HSLDA does not send alerts and ask for responses unless we are sure it is necessary. Your response is critical if we are to maintain our home-school freedoms in your state and across this nation.

Following are some of the pending measures that threaten to diminish freedom or promise to improve the legal atmosphere for home-schoolers. Home-school pioneers worked hard to secure our freedoms. We must watch lawmakers closely to maintain those freedoms what lawmakers give, they can take away.

A classic example of this threat can be found in Nebraska. In 1984, the state legislature recognized the legality of home-schooling. Just three years later, a bill was introduced that would have reversed all the gains home-schoolers had made.

At the committee hearing for this new bill, Nebraska home-schoolers turned out en masse. They filled the Senate chamber and overflowed into the rotunda. The first and only witness on behalf of the bill was a lobbyist for the National Education Association (NEA). She dramatically ripped a copy of her teacher's license in half, demonstrating what she felt the first home-school law had done. Several articulate home-school witnesses and a strong response from the home-school community countered the lobbyist's arguments, however, persuading the bill's author to withdraw it.

In 1997, Rep. Bill Goodling, Pennsylvania Republican told home-school leaders at HSLDA's annual national leadership conference that home-schoolers were the most effective lobbyists, even more effective than the NEA.

Why are home-schoolers so effective? There are many reasons let's look at three. One, home-school families make a good impression. In the early days of the war that led to the lifting of the legal restrictions on home-schooling, home-schoolers were locked in a battle with the South Carolina Department of Education that bounced back and forth between the courts and the legislature.

South Carolina home-school pioneer and leader Zan Tyler spearheaded many of the home-schoolers' efforts to defeat restrictions. In the midst of the fight, a highly placed official in the department was asked what he knew about home-schooling.

He replied, "I don't know much about home-schooling, but I do know Zan Tyler if Zan Tyler endorses home-schooling, then it must be a good idea."

Legislators want to see the product of home-schooling. HSLDA's Congressional Action Program lobbies Congress on issues involving home-schooling and parental rights. We train local home-schoolers to lobby as families. Representatives and their aides often are more interested in talking to the children about home-schooling than in discussing legislation.

HSLDA encourages your family to make a personal call on your state representative or senator or both. Have your children make and present a gift reflecting their home-school experience (such as cookies, artwork or a hand-written thank-you note). Invite your legislator to address a support group meeting. Most politicians are happy to speak to a group of people who potentially might vote for them. Ask your legislator to explain how the legislative system works and the legislation in which he is interested.

The second reason home-schoolers are effective is because of their passion for home education and parental freedoms. When the desire for freedom becomes a passion, people fight for it.

In 1994, an amendment to House Resolution 6 would have required that all students be taught by subject-certified teachers. Alarmed home-schoolers besieged Congress with phone calls, faxes and letters. In eight days, more than 1 million phone calls shut down the House of Representatives' switchboard for hours at a time.

Following H.R. 6, every member of Congress understood the passion for freedom that home-schoolers have. Only passion for freedom could have sparked such an outpouring of calls with the simple message: "Home-schooling works."

Finally, home-schoolers are effective because they are organized. Home-schoolers are efficiently networked by e-mail, faxes and the like. HSLDA alone has more than 30,000 families networked through an "e-lert system" so they can receive almost instantaneous information regarding legislation in their state. If you have a computer and have not subscribed to the e-lert service, we strongly encourage you to sign up today. (Visit www.hslda.org or call 540/338-5600.)

The HSLDA also encourages you to join a local or state home-school group. If another federal threat like H.R. 6 comes along, every home-schooler will need to be ready to respond.

Thank you for every phone call you have made, every letter you have written, every e-mail you have sent, every hearing you have attended and every petition you have prayed for on behalf of a bill or legislator. Only by continuing to stand together and by God's blessing can we prevail.

This is no time to rest. We must remain vigilant in advancing and protecting our freedoms.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600; or send e-mail to [email protected]

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