A great warrior for homeschoolers has gone to his eternal reward. I am
speaking of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Senior Counsel
Christopher Klicka, who passed away on October 12.
Chris is an example of someone who accomplished amazing things, while
struggling for years against difficulties which would have caused many
others to simply give up.
For the last 15 years of his life, Chris fought an unending battle
against adult-onset Multiple Sclerosis. While getting progressively
weaker, he continued to:
- Promote changes in the law to benefit homeschoolers
- Travel widely to speak at homeschool conventions
- Help new groups start in countries outside the USA
- Write books encouraging homeschooling
- Defend the rights of American homeschoolers through his daily
casework with HSLDA
I began to know Chris, and his work, better when he started writing a
regular column for Practical Homeschooling, back in 1999. We had many
long conversations that ranged from the state of the world to
discussions of how his latest treatments were working.
Chris Klicka and some family members in Niagara Falls, New York, 2008
Chris's first column for us, in PHS #30, was also the subject of his
last column, in PHS #70: the status of homeschool grads who want to
serve in the military. His first column explained how Chris was able to
get Congress to add an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. The
bill created a five-year pilot project automatically placing homeschool
recruits (who formerly had been placed in the same class as high-school
dropouts) into preferred Tier I status. Each of the four armed services
(Marines, Navy, Army, and Air Force) were required to allow up to 1,250
homeschool diploma recipients to be considered under the Tier I status.
By 2006, the year of Chris's last "military service" column, he had
managed to get the "pilot" program enacted into ongoing law and
Department of Defense practice. In that year, Chris and J. Michael Smith
(head of HSLDA) were able to meet with the Assistant Secretary of
Defense and a few other Pentagon officials. Chris recalled, "We came to
the meeting in the midst of a rain storm. In spite of being soaked to
the skin, we hammered out a solution. As a result, in January 2005, the
Department of Defense issued a letter stating that homeschoolers were
considered 'preferred enlistees' and that there were no 'practical
limits' to the numbers of homeschoolers who could obtain entrance into
the armed services."
I personally have Chris (and HSLDA) to thank for my son, Joseph, being
able to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. And that was only one of
the many areas in which Chris was instrumental in removing barriers for
homeschoolers. As J. Michael Smith wrote in a Washington Times op-ed:
[Chris] lobbied Congress on behalf of homeschoolers to level the playing
field in the military, colleges and universities; as well as issues
regarding educational grants and benefits, Social Security, and veterans
benefits. Through his advocacy, homeschoolers were exempted from
requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, a law that could have
allowed the federal government to regulate homeschooling. . . . He
helped write legislation that amended the Child Abuse and Protection and
Treatment Act (CAPTA) to establish the rights of parents and guardians.
. . . He also persuaded Congress to require that all social workers and
police officers be trained on the Fourth Amendment, which protects
against unreasonable search and seizure. . . . No one individual has
done more to bring about the freedom to homeschool in the United States
and around the world.
Although Chris was only 48 when he died, he accomplished more, under
harsher conditions, than would normally be expected from a dozen
people—even assuming they were all lawyers and writers!
Much of the credit for Chris's accomplishments must go to his wife,
Tracy, who with him has helped raise their seven homeschooled children,
while herself facing serious health challenges. Our thanks to you, Tracy
and the Klicka children, for all the love and support you gave Chris,
which he then passed on to the entire homeschool movement.
Mary Pride is the publisher of Practical Homeschooling.
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