NE’s anti-homeschool bill, one senator responds

The following is a letter from another Nebraska homeschooler to Senator Tony Fulton of the 29th district (South Lincoln). I have been asked by a few people for ideas on how to address senators, which I take as a compliment, but it isn’t something I am exactly well-versed on. I think Jessica does a nice job of making a personal connection with her senator, opening and closing with a clear position regarding the bill, pointing to some specific concerns and closing with an offer to help.

Make sure to read the senator’s response at the end…pure poetry to my conservative ears!

    January 25, 2008
    Dear Senator Fulton,
    Thank you again for meeting with my friend Autumn and I in November to discuss how our legislative system works and the status of midwifery and homebirth in Nebraska. As you may have heard, the organization that we are working with (Nebraska Friends of Midwives) has decided not to pursue legislation this session, due mainly to the lack of time we had to set up a sponsor for a bill. But we are hopeful to take action next year and are working hard to lay the ground work for future actions this year.
    I’m actually writing about another matter. This week, Senator Schimek introduced a disastrous bill (LB1141) that would severely impact the rights and responsibilities of parents who choose to homeschool their children. As I understand it, this bill would require either an extensive yearly portfolio review or yearly testing of homeschooled students with standardized tests to ensure that the students are making sufficient progress. If sufficient progress is not demonstrated by either method, the homeschooled students would be forced to enroll in an accredited school the following year. Here are some of the reasons why I think this bill is a disaster:
    a. One of the reasons I want to homeschool my children is because I don’t want them wasting time in school learning how to prepare for a standardized test. The only thing that standardized tests prove is how good a student is at guessing what the testmaker is looking for. One of the problems I see in public schools today is the enormous waste of time that teachers are forced to spend “teaching to the test” in order that their students pass. Standardized tests cannot test how well a student uses his/her mind or how well the student comprehends and retains material.
    b. I also want to homeschool my children because I don’t want them to be pigeon-holed. The whole point of homeschooling is that a parent, who knows their child best, guides their child in his/her studies as they learn at their own pace. If my daughter is super smart and is reading 4th grade level books at age 4, then I want her to be sufficiently challenged in her studies and to have a chance to explore the subjects that she is interested in at the time she is interested in them. She would be bored to tears in a typical grade school classroom and putting her in a classroom with kids at her level intellectually would severely impact her social skills. Of course, someone like this would have no trouble passing standardized tests. But what about the child who is a slow learner? What about the kids who have trouble reading and do not really gain reading skills until they are 8 or 9? By this time in a public school, they would be labeled as stupid, learning disabled, or another similar label that would detrimentally impact the rest of their academic career. I challenge any child to meet their full potential who is labeled as “learning disabled” from a young age. Should these homeschooled kids be forced into public schools because they are taking their time learning their needed skills and therefore cannot yet pass the standardized tests? And what about the autistic kids, the hyperactive kinetic learners, and other special needs kids? With the individualized attention that homeschool parents can give these children, they have a chance to far exceed all expectations. No such luck at public schools.
    c. This bill would create headaches for everyone involved. Who pays for all these standardized tests? Do the school districts cover them? Or will parents, who are already paying but not using their school tax dollars, have to cover the financial costs of testing in addition to the costs of time and energy? And what about the school officials who have to review all this extra paperwork? Don’t they have enough problems in their schools to worry about without adding unnecessary supervision of parents who care so much about their children that they are spending their time ensuring that their students get the education they deserve through homeschooling?
    d. Why should homeschooling parents have to work so hard to prove that their children are learning? Why do people automatically assume that all homeschoolers need intensive supervision in order to teach their children what their children need to know? Every study I’ve read about homeschooling shows that homeschooled graduates exceed in all measures of success in life. Some finish high school and college requirements early. Some become free-thinking entrepreneurs at early ages. All are better adapted socially because they were not isolated in a classroom full of peers where they were forced to sit and listen to a teacher talk and never speak unless spoken to. There are studies that show that students who learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it always learn the material more thoroughly and retain more of the material longer than students who are fed by rote a pre-ordained curriculum by a school system that doesn’t care about individual learning styles. (For great inspiration on what is wrong with standardized testing, grades, rewards, punishments, and many other typical school techniques, check out any book on education by Alfie Kohn.)
    e. Finally, where is the school that children must attend if they fail the standardized tests in public school? Are they then forced to be homeschooled? I know, based on our meeting in November, that you are a very reasonable person and will consider this matter thoughtfully before supporting or rejecting this bill. If there is anything else I can do (track down studies to disprove the usefulness of standardized testing, refer you to articles on the benefits of homeschooling, etc.), please let me know. I am very interested in seeing this bill defeated.
    Thank you so much for your time,
    Sincerely,
    Jessica S Freeman

I wish Senator Fulton were chairing the education committee. His response, short sweet and and to the point:

    Ms Freeman,
    Thank you for your email.
    Indeed, I am familiar with Senator Schimek’s bill. I appreciate your calling me a reasonable person, but I must say it shouldn’t take much reason to recognize this as an ill-conceived bill. Parents have the primary obligation and responsibility for the education of their children – NOT the State. This bill smacks of arrogance and makes an erroneous presumption that the State is of higher authority than the parent. My experience with homeschooled children makes me wonder whether the State ought not take a page from the homeschooling community…not vice versa.
    If this bill comes before the full legislature, I will not allow it to pass.
    I thank you for a well-written, thoughtfully composed email. If I am in need of reference to oppose this bill, I know I can contact you. In the meantime, please pass this note along to your homeschooling friends. You do a good job of explicating concerns with the bill.
    Kindly,
    Tony Fulton

I try not to get too excited just because I agree with a politician on a single issue. But the content of this email seems to indicate that our agreement may go a little beyond this one issue.

Parents have the primary obligation and responsibility for the education of their children – NOT the State.

Music to my ears.

For what it’s worth, District 29, I appreciate your senator.

And for fellow Nebraskans, I hope to see you at the Legislative Day, February 6!

More posts on the homeschool legislation coming before the unicameral:

Intro and summary
Contact Information
Why object to testing?

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For more information on LB 1141, you can click on the category LB 1141 and find everything I have written so far.

[tags]homeschool, home school, homeschooling, LB 1141, Nebraska[/tags]

24 comments
  1. Christy

    LOVE it! THIS is representative democracy in action. Not just voting for the lesser of two evils and hoping for the best. But telling the people who are supposed to be your voice in the legislature what YOU, their boss, think on a matter.
    It gives me hope 🙂

  2. Renae

    Thank you for sharing this! It’s music to my ears, too! I hope you have other senators with such conviction as this “arrogant” bill moves forward. May it die quick and painlessly.

  3. Chris

    You may be interested to know that Tony Fulton is up for r-election soon, and is being challenged by a woman who holds *completely* opposite views. Even though I’m not in his district, I want to see him re-elected! Thanks for sharing this letter!

  4. Ju Mordecai

    Chris,

    Even if your out of district, I encourage you to assist Senator Fulton to be re-elected. Staffers, are always needed.

    If we do not assist outside our area (or some would say ‘comfort zone’) then our views will be eradicated by those who have no qualms with doing so.

  5. Dana

    Fulton may energize a few homeschoolers to vote for him in his bid. : )

    I’m hoping these are the sentiments of quite a few more senators.

    Go Big Ed chimed in today:

    http://www.gobiged.com/

    (No permalink….it is January 31’s entry). This bill fits with everything else Schimek has tried to do with education.

    But we have a lot of good senators opposed.

  6. Lisa @ Me & My House

    Hi Dana,

    My friend, who goes to church with Senator Erdman got a similar reply from him. He will not allow this bill to pass. We all need to be vigilant in getting more Senators to take this stand.

    And we need to be sure to connect next Wed. See you at the capital!

  7. Dana

    Lisa, I am so glad you are going to be there! I figured Senator Erdman would be an ally since he already tried to kill it, but it is nice to know that at least two are in our corner, so to speak. I’m sure there are many more. Howard has already indicated support for the Bill, and I can’t imagine that the chairman would be against it given his public stances on education, but maybe I’m wrong.

  8. John

    LB1141 is condescending and contemptuous to all parents; homeschool, private, parochial, and public. These limitations upon the educational choices proposed by LB1141 usurp a parent’s primary obligation, authority, and responsibility for the education of their children. This is constitutes an attempt to redefine the State’s current level of parens patriae. The mere consideration and introduction of this bill is nothing short of an all out infringement and assault upon the liberties of the citizens of Nebraska. The State does not posses a higher authority than the parent.

    The legislature should focus instead upon repairing the disastrous mess the State has created within the current public school system. The members of the State of Nebraska Legislature instead should be considering ways to understand why private schooling, including homeschooling, has proven overwhelmingly to be a more successful method by which parents have chosen to educate their children. Consider the real possibility that the answer to this success lies within the parents and not the State?

    The burden of responsibility to show accountability of results is not that of the parents. Contrary to Senator Schimek’s assumption that parents owe some burden of proof to the State, the actual burden of responsibility falls upon the State to convince parents that the public school system is a viable option for their children. When parents believe that the system provided by the State does not meet their standards, needs, and expectations; current and effective alternatives exist. The results that the State has continuously shown through the public school system is the reason that the families of nearly 50,000 children in Nebraska exercise their liberty to choose a private school (parochial, private, or home school) for their children. These families do this with no additional tax burden upon the State, all the while continuing to contribute their portion of taxes to the public system.

    Perhaps now is the time to focus upon a few real pressing issues such as to the failure of public school system to provide a decent education to rather large segment of children enrolled and even consider vouchers to relieve the burden the State places upon the families who have opted out of the State’s public education system.

  9. Terri

    Thank you so much for sharing the letter from Sen. Erdman. It encouraged me. My husband sent out numerous letters – one to each member of the Education committee and the Gov. (asking himto veto it if it comes to him).

    We have received only one response letter from the woman on the committe and said she is in favor of testing home schoolers. a friend of mine received the same response as well. THAT discouraged me, so it is VERY refreshing to read this today. Thank you so much for posting. We will be there on WEd. as well.

    Blessings!
    ~Terri

  10. Dana

    That is discouraging…I haven’t heard from anyone personally, yet, but have seen others responses from two other senators on the committee: one for the bill and one against. Hopefully the one for the bill is from the same senator as the one who wrote you back!

    Hope to see you on Wednesday! We have to leave early, but are hoping to be able to at least hear Senator Erdman speak before leaving.

  11. Kelly Butler

    I am so for homeschooling. i am homeschooled and i love it so much. i dont have to deal with all the crap that there is on campus. who ever is opposed should not homeschool and leave everyone else alone.

  12. Kelly Butler

    I am so for homeschooling. i am homeschooled and i love it so much. i dont have to deal with all the crap that there is on campus. who ever is opposed should not homeschool and leave everyone else alone.

  13. Kelly Butler

    I am so for homeschooling. i am homeschooled and i love it so much. i dont have to deal with all the crap that there is on campus. who ever is opposed should not homeschool and leave everyone else alone.

  14. Kelly Butler

    I am so for homeschooling. i am homeschooled and i love it so much. i dont have to deal with all the crap that there is on campus. who ever is opposed should not homeschool and leave everyone else alone.

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