THE POWER OF THREE: Your Legislators
By Res Peters
Three. The number of hours the average child watches television per day. The percentage of home educating fathers holding doctorate degrees. The number of grade levels the typical home educating fifth grader performs above the national average.
Three is the number of lawmakers representing your family at the Statehouse, two representatives and one senator. And three is the number of votes your family can influence this session to maintain the right to home educate without restriction in Idaho. Just one of those votes can make the difference. Three is a very powerful number.
Two is the number of bills and resolutions introduced last session which attempted to restrict home education. Efforts to amend a military recruitment bill with mandatory homeschooling registration and reporting were defeated, due to the persuasive arguments of one representative, now the Chairman of the House Education Committee. The resolution, on the other hand, was held in committee by the decision of one senator, the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, but is expected to return in the upcoming session.
One is the number of times your family needs to meet your legislators to become that influential face and voice representing home education. One family is all that is needed to convince a legislator of the legitimacy of what we do.
How does your family make that connection? It's really very simple because your legislators want to know you. Composed of farmers, businessmen, homemakers, and veterans, our part-time legislature is a committed array of ordinary citizens with a heart to serve. Many have never even met a home educating family and if that is the case, they visualize a caricature, a stereotypical myth which you can dispel.
Begin by gathering together with one or more families in your district, and invite your legislators to your home for a dessert to speak to your children on some aspect of government. Give these law-makers a familiar topic to address such as how a bill becomes a law, issues presented in their committees, parliamentary procedure, how to run a political campaign, how serving has affected their family life, or the challenges they face as freshmen or seasoned legislators. Prepare your children with engaging questions to ask. Take a personal interest in your legislators and in their public service. And if they are candidates you can support, the most endearing service you can provide is to donate one morning to distributing campaign material in a neighborhood for them. You will become their reference point, their expert on home education. And when they personally know you and your children, it will be very difficult for them to vote against you.
Secondly, plan for your family to bring a display to the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators' annual Legislative Day at the Statehouse on February 4. Pull out that science project, 4-H demonstration, or medieval castle that your family constructed and share it. Have your children personally write to your legislators the week prior, asking them to visit your display and meet with your family. They will arrive with your notes in hand, eager for this opportunity. Again, they will see a true representation of home education and will respect your children and your extraordinary investment in them.
Finally, become connected, informed, and responsive. ICHE members receive weekly email updates apprising them of current legal and legislative issues affecting home education. If concerted action is needed, an alert is issued calling for a response. This conduit was crucial last June in defeating the recommendation of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Education, which if implemented, would have threatened most home education in Idaho. With only 48 hours notice of the vote on this unpublished recommendation, in response to the ICHE alert, the unprecedented outpouring of emails to the committee forced the recommendation's withdrawal. Your connection and response was and is the key.
The President of the Idaho Education Association, Kathy Phelan, in her address to the IEA Annual Delegate Assembly last April boasted:
We single-handedly elected Dr. Marilyn Howard Superintendent of Public Instruction. We know we did it and we are proud of it! ... We changed the face of the legislature by electing more friends of public education—and boy that has saved our bacon time after time this year. We elected a record 8 IEA members to the legislature...These wonderful people are our champions.
Those who oppose us are well organized, well funded, and well represented in our legislature.
What will your family do to save our bacon this year, to be our champion? Will you invest just one evening to cultivate three key relationships with your two representatives and one senator? If we are each faithful to this task, we will all reap the priceless reward of the power of three—our freedom.