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It Pays to Know Your Legislator

By Sam Blumenfeld
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #64, 2005.

Why you should get to know your state legislator.

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Sam Blumenfeld

Homeschoolers now and then have problems dealing with their local school districts, and knowing your state legislator can be a great help in asserting your rights.

I know of a case in which homeschooling parents were looking for a school in which their children could take their AP tests. Local private schools said they had "no space," and the local public school indicated they were unwilling to allow homeschoolers to take tests in subjects the school didn't offer.

As taxpayers, these homeschoolers believed that they had a right to avail themselves of the local school's proctoring facilities, which they were willing to pay for. So they decided to bring this problem to the attention of their state legislator. He called up the school superintendent, who happened to be a friend. The superintendent then called the principal, who then spoke to the guidance counselor, who discovered that it would indeed be possible for these homeschooling kids to take the AP exams through the public school.

The moral of the story is that knowing your state legislator can be very helpful in dealing with your local education establishment. He can also help in dealing with health insurance problems. For example, when one of the homeschoolers was hospitalized for double pneumonia, Blue Cross refused to pay for the lengthy hospital stay because they said his illness was a "preexisting condition." A call from the state legislator to Blue Cross was able to solve that problem to the family's satisfaction. (Incidentally, that state legislator is now a U.S. Congressman.)

It's not at all difficult to turn your state legislator into a friend. Since your children will be studying state government, a visit to your state legislator should be first on the list of visits to the state capitol. Bring him a homemade cherry pie he can share with his staff. Don't forget to supply paper plates, plastic forks, and napkins. That's the proper way to introduce your legislator to homeschoolers.

Also, you can indicate that you'd be willing to help him get reelected. That's if you really like the guy and he believes in homeschoolers' rights. Getting active in a political campaign is a great learning experience for your children.

Homeschoolers have been long aware that the chief enemy of their rights is the public education establishment, with its near-monopoly on schooling in this country. All of the people in this establishment are on the government payroll, financed by the taxpayer.

The only way they can force the taxpayers to fund our present dysfunctional system is to control the legislators who vote for the school budget. That is why educators have become so politicized, and that is why homeschoolers must learn the ways of politics. Incidentally, even though legislators are under great pressure from the educators to give them what they want, they also know how to count noses. Parents greatly outnumber teachers when it comes to votes.

Most homeschooling organizations have newsletters. Make sure your legislator is on the mailing list. Another great learning experience is interviewing your legislator for the newsletter. That's an easy, inoffensive way of learning something about your legislator's family life. And if you give him or her a good write-up, he or she will be your friend for life.

Another way to be a help to your legislator is by providing him with information he may not have. For example, do a survey of the primary schools in your district and find out how reading is being taught in those schools. If the schools are using whole-language programs, inform the legislator that this will mean increased costs for remedial programs and special education to help the reading disabled. Suggest the use of a successful phonics reading program in the state's schools.

Your legislator may not know much about the reading problem. So here you will have a golden opportunity to tell him something he doesn't know. Find out how many children in your district are on Ritalin or some other drug. The information you bring to your legislator will help him understand why you are homeschooling.

It pays to know your state legislator for all the help he can provide and all the doors he can open. Politics is the great American game for power and influence. It's not a bad idea to learn how to play it.

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