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February 1, 2006

Harpo Productions, Inc.,
110 N. Carpenter St.,
Chicago, IL 60607

Open letter to Oprah Winfrey

By way of introduction, I am the President of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and we represent 80,000 member families nationwide. This letter is to call attention to your essay contest and the unfortunate fact that homeschoolers are not allowed to participate.

The rules clearly state: "Oprah's National High School Essay Contest is open to all legal residents of the United States, who are currently enrolled full-time in a public or state-accredited private or parochial school in grades 9-12 in good standing." Regrettably, this definition excludes homeschoolers.

We contacted your show to see if homeschoolers could be included and were rebuffed. While we do not believe that your show willfully excluded homeschoolers, the fact that homeschoolers were excluded in the first place is troubling.

Homeschooling is growing rapidly and there are an estimated 2 million homeschooled children. All the research shows that homeschooled students score well above the national average on standardized tests. I'm confident that you would have received many excellent 1,000-word essays from homeschooled students answering the question "Why is the book Night by Elie Wiesel relevant today?"

Homeschoolers do not deserve to be overlooked. We hope that you will reconsider your policy and decide to welcome homeschoolers.


J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President