After 3 Hours of Testimony, Support for Bill Sputters Out
by Mike Smith • May 2, 2018
The Assembly Education Committee took up the hearing of Assembly Bill 2756 at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time in the Capitol building in Sacramento, California. The bill had been watered down by the time of the hearing, but it would have added data collection from homeschoolers designed to clearly identify who the homeschoolers were and make their identity public.
Two hours into the hearing, witnesses opposing the bill were still waiting in a long line to testify. At that time, only four witnesses had testified for the bill and hundreds against it. HSLDA, Family Protection Ministries, other statewide homeschool organizations, support group leaders, co-op leaders, homeschooling moms, homeschooling dads, homeschooled children, homeschooled graduates, granddads and grandmothers, and non-homeschool folks told the legislators they opposed the bill and asked them to vote “no” when the bill was proposed for passage.
In addition to the estimated 1,000 who testified, around 3,000 people turned out in opposition to the legislation. Homeschoolers came from all parts of California and bordering states to express their concern about the legislation. For several months prior to the hearing, homeschoolers had bombarded the legislators, committee members, and the authors with personal visits, phone calls, letters, and emails. It was like a war plan that might be drawn up to take an enemy’s territory. You first bomb the area to be taken, then the infantry comes in after to occupy the land. The difference was the homeschoolers took the role of both the artillery and infantry.
After three hours, the committee chairman declared an end to the testimony. At that time there were not enough legislators to form a quorum, so no motion was made to advance the bill. This was about 4:30 p.m. The committee then took up the other matters on the calendar. At about 8 p.m., the chairman revisited AB 2756, and called for a motion to advance the bill out of committee. But, there was a deafening silence. The committee of seven, composed of two Republicans and five Democrats remained silent.
The two Republican members had already indicated their opposition to the bill, but the other members had made no commitment either way. After several minutes of silence, the chairman indicated the bill would fail for lack of a motion. Because of the delay in the voting, few homeschoolers were left at the meeting. But Nathan Pierce, legislative liaison for Family Protection Ministries never left. Within minutes, he got the word out and the homeschooling community began celebrating the greatest legislative victory for homeschoolers in California history. A miracle had occurred in Sacramento!
Now, I want to share my opinion on what produced this monumental victory. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE VICTORY. I must admit, I was very pessimistic about our chances of stopping this bill in the Education Committee, if at all. The make-up of the committee indicated easy passage. But here are thoughts on some specifics that turned the tide.
You responded to requests from us, FPM (our partner for California legislative issues), CHEA, and many other organizations to voice your opposition to this effort to regulate homeschooling. You wrote letters to newspapers, you did interviews (many times with hostile reporters), you contacted your friends, you wrote letters to the authors of the bill and committee members, you sent emails, made phone calls, and many of you visited legislators with your families, and you came to Sacramento on April 25. And you stood in line for hours just to get your 10 seconds of opposition on the record.
Passionate for Freedom
But with all of your efforts, we could still have come up short. What made the difference? Your attitude through it all. You were firm, passionate, and committed, but you were not rude and overbearing. This was especially demonstrated at the hearing. You testified firmly to your opposition to the bill, but with respect for the system which gives us the right to redress our grievances. This outpouring of opposition with huge numbers, intelligent yet firm opposition to the bill, and your respectful demeanor positively impacted the committee members. They did not want to go on record as being against such an organized and powerful movement—homeschoolers.
As a byproduct of your activism, you used this experience as a teaching opportunity, and many of you taught valuable civics lesson firsthand by coming to Sacramento to demonstrate your opposition. The bottom line is your commitment, passion, vigilance, and demeanor made the difference in preserving the freedom homeschoolers have in California today—thank you!
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the role God played in this effort. There were enough out-of-the-ordinary events along the way to describe the result as miraculous. Many of you have signed up as an HSLDA prayer partner and you prayed for victory for homeschooling freedom and for protection for the homeschool movement in California—thank you!
The battle is not over, however. Although these two bills will likely not resurface this legislative season, there is a trend across the states to tighten up on the regulation of homeschoolers, especially in states like California where the legal environment is good for homeschooling. And the battle to preserve freedom is long-term and will require eternal vigilance. However, this was a critical battle in that process, and you brought home the victory; feel free to celebrate!