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The Kimball Factor

By Res Peters

Fifty dollars in campaign contributions. An unknown candidate. And a ten point victory in unseating a two-term republican Ada County Commissioner. In the recent primary, Steve Kimball has left the media and political pundits scratching their heads.

How did he do it? The homeschool approach. Without funding, without slick materials, he relied on the power of his message, his reputation, and networking. Steve told his friends his positions and asked them each to tell ten more friends, who told ten of their friends, who told...

And on election day, 14,060 voters in a single county chose Steve Kimball. Defying conventional wisdom, this race wasn't about money. It was about issues, personal referrals, and the investment of time. It was a clear demonstration of the power of grassroots politics at its finest.

With the lowest voter turnout in 18 years, several elections were determined by very slim margins. Out of 129,987 republican votes cast for Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Luna won by only 893 votes. Senator Russ Fulcher retained his seat by 130 votes out of 4,554, and only 20 votes separated Representative Dick Harwood from his democrat challenger in November.

Our State Department of Education has estimated there are 4,600 home educated students of compulsory school age in Idaho. Accurate or not, with the parents of those students all voting and doing so as a block, the effect could be decisive both in state and congressional offices. And with the handful of votes separating legislative candidates, home educators networking together could determine those outcomes in nearly every district. How? By putting into effect the "Kimball Factor." By becoming informed about the positions of the candidates and then spreading the word among ten friends who will contact ten friends, who will do the same. The key to marketing is personal referrals. Elections are no different.

The redesigned Idaho Coalition of Home Educators (ICHE) website, www.iche-idaho.org, has been constructed to inform you and to facilitate your responsiveness in preserving our freedom. There you will be able to identify your legislative district number and all of your elected officials. Candidate responses to ICHE's Candidate Questionnaire concerning home education are posted. For candidate positions on other issues, you can go to www.idahovoterguide.org which also links to the ICHE Candidate Statements. From your list of legislative candidates, select those whom you can support.

After you have gained an understanding of the candidates' positions and have contacted your friends, there is a crucial step that will yield huge dividends. Put a face to home education for your candidates. Gather together with another homeschooling family in your district and invite your candidates one at a time to your home for dessert. Prepare your children to ask them questions. "What made you decide to run for office? What issue is most important to you in the legislature? How will serving in the legislature affect your family and business? Do you have concerns about home education?"

The candidates will be delighted to have this opportunity to meet you, visit your home, and to dialogue with you. Then volunteer to distribute flyers in your neighborhood, or help in some other way. You will not only have the grateful support of these legislators, but your family will become their respected advisor on home education. This act of service alone has turned ardent skeptics into avid home education supporters. Legislators are not likely to vote against such charming and diligent families who have helped with their campaigns.

The winners in November will determine whether the voices seeking to regulate private home education in the legislature will prevail over the next two years. Investing now in preemptively electing those who support home education is far less time consuming and risky than defeating harmful legislation in the future. The task force, education, and health and welfare bureaucracies, whose stated purpose is to regulate us, are not changing their agenda. But a legislative body and governor who strongly support our freedom to home educate without restriction are formidable deterrents to quell that opposition and a safeguard should regulation be put forward.

Once the legislature convenes, as a final reinforcement, plan to bring your family to ICHE Legislative Day, January 31. As their favorite social event hosted at the Statehouse, legislators come in droves to sample the home-made pies and in particular, to meet homeschooling families from their districts. The respectful character, academic excellence, and articulate interaction with our students amplify our message to keep us free. Detailed information and applications for displays, music, teen ambassadors, and pies are posted on the ICHE website.

The new school year is upon us. How will we use our time? We've mapped out our curriculum, scheduled music lessons, and organized field trips. The pencils are sharpened for math drills.

But what about Civics 101: The Kimball Factor. The instructors, materials, and labs are free, but the course is only offered in the fall, every two years. It is age-integrated, so the entire family can participate. But if we fail to enroll in this course, all that will remain of our planning may be the sharpened pencils in the school bag heading for the yellow bus.

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