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March 7, 2017
Want to Stay Free? Go to a Homeschool Capitol Day
Mike and Joshalyn Ocker attended the 32nd annual Oklahoma Home Educators Capitol Day with most of their children.
It’s that time of year again. State legislatures are in session; bills are being discussed, passed, or defeated; and the freedom of parents to educate their children at home could hang in the balance.
Fortunately, lawmakers won’t be taking action without first hearing the voice of the people. This year, in what has become a tradition known as “capitol days,” many homeschooling families are visiting their state capitols and getting to know their legislators.
Earlier this month I saw again just how effective this type of lobbying can be when I attended the 32nd annual Oklahoma Home Educators Capitol Day hosted by Oklahoma Christian Home Educators’ Consociation (OCHEC). It’s one of the longest-running homeschool capitol day events in the nation.
Several hundred homeschool adults and children showed up at each legislator’s office with packets of information about homeschooling. Homeschooling families also delivered homemade cookies to legislators, each making personal contact with staff and legislators alike.
Making an Impact
Mass visits like this one lay the groundwork for legislative action that can help expand homeschool freedom—or prevent proposed restrictions from being enacted. They provide an opportunity for staff members and legislators to get to personally interact with homeschooling families, a slice of the population they may not know much about. Staff members getting to know a homeschooling family, even in a small way, can have a big impact months or even years later.
In Oklahoma, for example, homeschooling families enjoy a great deal of liberty because homeschooling is protected by the state constitution. But less than 10 years ago, a legislator introduced a radical measure that would have forced homeschooling parents to register and report certain information to their local public school districts. Because of the regular attendance of homeschooling families at the annual Oklahoma Home Educators Capitol Day, legislators heard directly from homeschooling families on why this legislation was not needed, and the bill did not pass.
Besides defeating harmful legislation, the relationships that are developed through homeschool capitol days can also help pass positive legislation. For instance, in 2014 the Oklahoma Legislature quickly passed a bill ensuring that students being withdrawn from public school to be taught at home were not considered dropouts.
The reform was called for because several times in 2013 families who wanted to pull their children out of public school were told that their children would be considered dropouts. For those just embarking on their homeschool journey, this caused unnecessary turmoil.
However, when OCHEC and Home School Legal Defense Association approached state lawmakers with an idea to fix this issue, the legislation quickly passed and was signed into law. I believe this was all due to the annual Oklahoma Home Educators Capitol Day and the relationships that the event creates.
Just this year I cited this law for a positive outcome. When a public school principal in Sweetwater informed a family that the child they were withdrawing would be considered a dropout, I was able to contact the school official and point out that this was no longer the case.
These are just a few examples from one state, illustrating why homeschool capitol days are so important. If you care about protecting freedom in your state, HSLDA encourages you to find out when your local homeschool capitol day is and make plans to attend now!