This past January 2020, we at Family Protection Ministries (FPM) and Christian Home Educators Association of California (CHEA) hosted Capitol Day once again in Sacramento. Capitol Day has been held by FPM in Sacramento every other year at the beginning of each new two-year legislative session for the past three decades. However, we now plan to hold Capitol Day each year. An outstanding team of private homeschooling families and homeschool leaders were able to join us as they visited each of our state legislators’ Capitol offices in Sacramento, making this year’s Capitol Day a great success!
The goal of Capitol Day is to provide information about private home education to our California state legislators and their staff in a friendly, professional manner. This also allows legislators and their staff the opportunity to visit with real homeschool families.
Capitol Day serves several purposes:
- It informs any newly elected legislators and their staff and reminds the veteran legislators of the benefits of private homeschooling.
- It strengthens our working relationship with them on a professional level.
- It leaves them with a way to contact us if they ever have any questions about home education.
Our Capitol Day volunteers visited each of the 120 legislators’ Capitol offices, providing each office with an information packet about private homeschooling. These packets help explain private home education as well as provide research showing that privately home-educated children do very well compared with students from the public schools.
This event is especially vital for the many new legislators and their new aides who have not yet become familiar with private home education. In fact, a significant number of the legislators and their aides have no idea how private homeschooling works, either practically or legally, or that there are homeschoolers in their districts. These visits go a long way toward helping them see that homeschoolers are good, law-abiding citizens who are living and working in their districts.
The core components of Capitol Day consist of three elements: (1) training for our attending private homeschool families, (2) visits to all our state legislators’ Capitol offices, and (3) receiving feedback from our attendees about their visits to each of the offices. In addition to these essential components of Capitol Day, we have special speakers, who are usually state legislators or their staff and leaders in the private homeschool community. In the past, we have also included tours of the Capitol building, additional advocacy training, homeschool leadership training, and time for the attending private homeschoolers to debrief all together about their office visits.
We had some incredible opportunities and speakers at Capitol Day this year. On Thursday morning, Senator Brian Jones joined us and highlighted the value of communicating with legislators who have different political stances. He explained how relationships with them is key to accomplishing goals together. Pastor Frank Erb, who serves as missionary and pastor to the California Legislature, also came to remind us that legislators are real people who need God as much as anyone else.
Inspired by these talks, our homeschool families were then trained by Nathan Pierce, Senior Legislative Liaison of FPM, for their visits and meetings with legislators and their staff in their Capitol offices. Our families successfully visited all of our state legislators’ offices and delivered our Homeschool Information packets. Nearly all of our families had at least one scheduled appointment and got to sit down with a legislator or their staff and discuss private home education. The responses from many legislators’ offices were positive and included some more detailed questions and clarifying discussions about common misunderstandings about private homeschooling. Thankfully, our families were well prepared with responses, materials, and statistics to answer these concerns. Later in the day, we also squeezed in a tour of the Capitol building.
On Friday morning, Pastor Frank Erb started our day with a devotional that encouraged us in ways we can pray for our legislators. Our attendees then had the opportunity to share about their visits and meetings with legislators and their staff from the previous day. We continued with more training from Nathan on how our attendees could continue to advocate for private homeschooling after returning home. He explained that they can make an impact through visiting their legislators’ district offices in their own towns and cities. Moms from two of our private homeschooling families, Kimberly Dugger and Jennifer Avila, who attended Capitol Day with their children, described their own visits to their legislators’ district offices in the past year. Kimberly and Jennifer shared that the visits were productive, great for their children, and much less intimidating than visiting legislators’ offices in the Capitol. They reminded us that any private homeschool family can be a positive influence for private homeschooling in a tangible way.
If you are interested in joining our mission to visit all of our state legislators in their own districts, please let us know at www.fpmca.org/contactus and we will supply you with what you need to make successful visits. You can even arrange a field trip to visit your legislators’ district offices with other private homeschoolers!
After our advocacy session, our special guest speakers, Robert and Shirley Calabretta, shared an experience that their family went through in the 1990s in California. Their experience turned into a landmark court case which they won with the vital legal help of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Jim Mason, HSLDA’s Vice President, concluded our Capitol Day with a stirring talk by explaining how the Calabretta’s landmark case is still used in legal briefs today and has made a difference for parental rights in many court cases since then. This was an incredible testimony to the fact that the sacrifice of one family who stood their ground can have a multigenerational impact on the freedoms of so many people nationwide. How we advocate for private homeschooling in each of our families makes a difference for others and the future.
SCOPE, the local private homeschool support group in Sacramento, helped us, FPM, and CHEA sponsor additional Friday activities after Capitol Day. These events included an afternoon fieldtrip to the historic Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building and an evening event, Friday Night with Jim Mason. We had the pleasure of hearing about Jim’s exciting work as he helped litigate the critical 2008 California case, Jonathan L. In this case, a state appellate court reversed its previous ruling that homeschooling was illegal, putting an end to years of controversy over the legal status of homeschooling in California. This ruling is still in effect today.
Capitol Day was not only essential to informing our representatives about private home education, but it was also a fun and educational experience. Our thanks go to CHEA, SCOPE, and to all who participated in Capitol Day 2020 and to each of you who support our work. God’s hand was on us at Capitol Day. We trust that He will continue to bless the work that you all do to protect private homeschooling freedoms as He multiplies the fruits of your labors both now and in the future. We are continually working hard to preserve our God-given freedoms in the California Legislature. You will not want to miss our next Capitol Day, which will take place early next year in 2021. We will announce the dates for Capitol Day 2021 as soon as they are available. Please go to our website at www.fpmca.org for additional details about Capitol Day 2021.