C O V E R S T O R Y
Home Schooling Statesmen: Making a Positive Difference Across America
Rick Jore spent 10 years working on a sawmill and a ranch in Montana before he had enough. I believed in the American dream, the pursuit of happiness and all those good things that our founding fathers stood for and spilled their guts for, said Jore, a home schooling father of five. After working for awhile, I found out that Id been deceivedthe government had taken away our freedom. I became very frustrated with high taxation, regulations in violation of private property, and socialistic policies that infringed on the sanctity and integrity of the family.
Jores frustration motivated him to enter state politics. Today, he is a Montana state representative. I wanted to get in there and get in my two bits worth, he said. There have been many usurpations on the part of our government that historically and constitutionally were never considered a function of civil government but of family. I became very concerned. I felt like I had something to say in the political arena about limited constitutional government and an understanding of the theistic principles in the Declaration of Independence.
Home schoolers like Rep. Jore have gained an increasing presence in the political leadership of our nation. Forty home schooling parents are presently serving in either state or federal legislative office. Thirty-seven of these home school dads and moms hold state office. Two are U.S. Congressmen: David Weldon (FL) and Bill Redmond (NM). One serves in the U.S. Senate: Rick Santorum (PA). Of those who hold state office, 29 serve as state representatives and eight hold office in their state senates. Two state representatives are home schooling mothers: Rep. Jean Marvin from Maine and Rep. Debra Brumhall from Arizona. Home school parents represent people in almost half of the states in our nation (see chart on page 11).
These men and women have much in common. Beyond the fact that they home school their children, all but three of them are Republicans. State Representatives Daniel Thimesh (KS), Joseph Petrarca (PA), and Thomas Yewcic (PA) are the only Democrats. Most of the home school legislators identify themselves with Protestant denominations, although five hold to the Catholic faith.
Of the 40 home schooling legislators, Montana State Rep. Darrel Adams has the largest family with seven children. Three others have six children (State Sen. Gex Jay Williams from Kentucky, State Rep. Todd Akin from Missouri, and State Rep. Daniel Webster from Florida). On average, these home school leaders have about four kids per family. Rep. Daniel Webster, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, also has the distinction of holding office the longest of any home school legislator. He is presently serving his 16th term.
Home school legislators come from a myriad of backgrounds: they are farmers, realtors, ministers, and accountants. From State Rep. James Jordan (OH), the Ohio State University wrestling coach, to State Rep. Jeff Monroe (SD), a chiropractic neurologist, home school legislators bring a wide variety of experiences to their jobs as public servants.
Why they ran for office
The reasons why these men and women decided to enter the political arena are as varied as their backgrounds. Although State Sen. Gex Williams (KY) had been interested in government from a young age, he never expected that he would run for office. He worked in the computer industry until a group of his friends encouraged him to run for office under some unusual circumstances.
A good friend of mine had begun running for office and had to withdraw from the race, Williams said. The powerful incumbent who was running against him was going to pass a law saying no one could run in his place. The law was supposed to pass on a Tuesday, and my friends came to me on the Friday before to ask me to run for the seat before he could pass the law. Williams said that he would have to talk it over with his counselorswhich included his boss, his father, and his wifeand pray about it over the weekend. Everyone said yes, including my wife, Williams said. I won that first race with 50.02 % of the vote. That was in 1990 and Ive been in office since then.
Williams shook up the state house so much his first term that his colleagues redistricted him out of his house seat. So he ran for a special election to fill the last two years of a senate seat and won. He has held that seat for the past six years, winning a full term to the state senate four years ago.
Although Williams and Jore left private sector jobs for elected office, politics has been a lifelong career for State Rep. Alan Cropsey (MI). Ive been interested in politics since I can remember, he said. My Dad was involved in politics way back when I was five or six years old. I have a legal degree, and Ive practiced law, but Ive been basically involved in politics. Cropsey has devoted 14 of the last 20 years to state office: first in the state house, then in the state senate, and now back in the house.
Although each entered politics for different reasons, there is one common bond between the Cropsey, Williams, and Jore families: they are all long-time home schoolers.
The Williams family has been home schooling since the beginning of the modern home school movement in the early 1980s. None of their six children attended formal schools for elementary or secondary education. Their oldest, David, whom the Williams began home schooling in 1981, graduated from home school and is currently enrolled in Asbury College.
The Williamses decided to begin home schooling while they lived in Florida. They had five-year-old mandated kindergarten in Florida, and when David turned five, we decided to home school, Williams said.
Rick Jores family has been home schooling for 12 years. The oldest three of his five children began their education in public schools, which Jore now calls government schools. Im ashamed to say that my oldest three went to government schools, he said. Ive since developed a real conviction that government schools just arent proper. Only the youngest two currently remain at home; the three oldest have graduated from home school.
Alan Cropsey was elected in 1978, before he was married or had children. He married a year later and decided to begin home schooling in 1987 when his oldest turned six. I was interested in home schooling even before I was elected, Cropsey said.
After he was elected, he heard of a family that was part of a key home schooling case who lived nearby. One Sunday when I was in the area, I stopped in to see these folks. I saw them, looked at their curriculumI was very impressed with what they were doing, he said. They told me they were being prosecuted in a federal court case because they were home schooling. They said, Mr. Cropsey, we want you to know that you are the first public official whos asked about the welfare of the kids. You are the only one who has had any concern with how the kids are doing. That really bothered me. Here you have a family thats being persecuted because theyre home schooling. The government didnt care about how the kids were doing, they only cared about carrying out their perception of the law.
The incident made such an impression upon Cropsey that he and his wife not only teach their four children at home, but also he has fought for parents rights in his capacity as a state lawmaker. Cropsey was the motivating force behind legislation which revised Michigan statutory law to declare that it is a fundamental right for parents to direct the education of their children.
Having a dad in state office has provided some unique opportunities for these home schooling families. My first session, my oldest daughter was my aide, said Rick Jore. She learned the legislative process as well as I know it. She was very helpful and capable and worked with the Sergeant at Arms in doing many things for the [State] House in addition to her responsibilities as my aide. Then the next session my next daughter was my aide. All of my children have been pages. Its been a good experience and a real benefit for them to learn about government.
Gex Williams appreciates the interaction his children have been able to have with people along the campaign trail. One of the benefits is that my children really have had opportunities to meet all kinds of people and do a lot of interfacing with different folks. It has broadened their experience, he said. Williams has involved his children in his campaigns and believes that when his kids are around age six or seven, they are the best campaigners. They go out and shake hands, talk to people, walk in parades, get onto podiums, learn how to deal with the public. The six- and seven-year-olds are fearless.
My kids are probably exposed to more variety than what the average household is because I am involved in politics, said Alan Cropsey. Its also much more of an open fishbowl, too. We make sure the kids behave, and theres quite a bit of pressure to do that, more so than in the average family. When Cropsey took a six-year break from politics, his kids enjoyed some of the benefits. My kids got sick of being in parades. So when I was out of politics and there was a parade going on, they said, Oh, good, now we can go and watch. We dont have to be in it.
Jore also noted some of the pressure that politics places upon a family. We have to pack up and move to Helena [when the legislature is in session]. It is somewhat of a financial strain and kind of disruptive for a family, he said. However, the legislature in Montana only meets every other year for 90 days, so Jore says that the strain has not been too great. My family moves with me when Im in session. Im not the kind of guy who could be over there [in Helena] for the week without them and then come home on the weekends. I wanted to make it a family thing, too, he said.
Its been very demanding on the family as far as time constraints, said Williams. They have sacrificed a lot of my time. My wife has had to bear most of the burden and has had to do a lot more of the home schooling in the later years.
What home schoolers have accomplished
Because their families have been willing to sacrifice, each one of these men has been able to contribute toward the fight to protect our God-given liberties while in office. Other home schoolers have also supported these home school legislators.
Rep. Jore praised the work of home schoolers in his state. Steve White, the chairman of Montana Coalition of Home Educators is very much on the ball. He spends quite a bit of time in Helena and has been a great resource. When Jore introduced legislation to abolish the compulsory attendance law in Montana, Steve White was willing to help. Steve stuck his neck out on the line and testified for abolishing the compulsory attendance bill, Jore said.
Home school folks are real active here [in Montana], Jore continued. When they have their home school day [each legislative] session, they just flood the capital. They are very diligent in writing and calling their legislators. I appreciate their diligence.
U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, an HSLDA member, spoke at the National Home School Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, this March, and encouraged home schoolers to remain on the leading edge of restoring family values because families are not a disposable commodity.
Only parents can work on the hearts and minds of their children, agreed U.S. Congressman Bill Redmond, who also spoke at this years summit. The schools emphasize the outside behavior, but [externals] are not whats most important. Transformation of the heart is of eternal value.
U.S. Congressman David Weldon spoke at the 1995 Leadership Summit and also praised home schoolers commitment to education and political activism.
Gex Williams entered public office seeking to change the status quo in the areas of big government, high taxes, and social engineering. I know a lot of parliamentary procedurefrom my days in computer programming, believe it or notand Ive been able to use it to force votes on tax cuts, Williams said.
In addition to leading the way to pass Michigans parents rights law, Alan Cropsey serves on the education committee in the house. The education committee is usually staffed by the liberals. One of the key questions Ive been the motivating force on is asking, Does this give parents more choice for the education of their children? Im generally going to be for it and push for it if it does this, he said.
Home school parents and their children have long been noted for being motivating forces in the political sphere. From Patrick Henry and John Quincy Adams to Rick Jore, Gex Williams, and Alan Cropsey, home schoolers have established a legacy of responsible, though sometimes necessarily radical, civic action and leadership. Pray for todays leaders as they continue to set the pace for America by taking responsibility for their own families, their churches, their communities, their states, and their country.