And Florida's statutory definition of private schools states unequivocably, "A private school may be a parochial, religious, denominational, for-profit, or nonprofit school. This definition does not include home education programs conducted in accordance with s. 1002.41."- further diluting any potential threat to home education in Florida from the proposed legislation.
No links to the text of the bill, or companion measures that were mentioned in that and subsequent updates were ever provided; nor any specific selections from the bill in question cited. There were only big unsubstantiated, or loosely connected generalizations:
- Since 85% of all child care centers and VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten, a publicly funded program administered through private schools) are private, if the bill became law then “ALL private providers, including home educators, would come under the control of the Department of Education.”
- “Private school freedom is essential to keeping home education free. Once the State regulates private schools and measures learning gains of private school students, they will seek to further regulate home education.”
- “CONTROL IS THE HIDDEN AGENDA “ and “…private and home education is under attack!” (these in capital letters and big bold type with exclamation marks.)
That’s not to say people shouldn’t act on behalf of private schools, if so inclined. But to speak out most effectively, as well as to avoid being manipulated by other agendas, it’s important to understand, as much as possible, the facts of the matter. Fortunately, there are some basic tools and practices that those wishing to stay abreast of legislative happenings can employ to be their own best lobbyists in this and in other similar situations.
- Stay informed about pertinent legislation – In Florida, we can track the course of whatever legislation we want via a Legislative Tracking system in both the House and the Senate . Simply register your email address, do some keyword or bill number searches (search on a variety of related terms, not just one word or phrase) and you can be updated at your convenience. You can even track specific committees, and statutes, particularly handy if you want to want to see who's poking around the laws. If you live in a less transparent state, try StateNet . At the national level, there are dozens of resources, from Congress.org to Open Congress, all of which allow you to keep a close eye on issues and those behind them. We have a large collection of Civic Engagement Resources at our website .
- READ ! – Read the text of a bill for yourself, rather than taking someone else’s word on what it says. Admittedly, bills can make for long and tedious reading. But you can use your computer’s Find feature to look for specific words, phrases or relevant sections.
- Ask questions – Of legislators, lobbyists, and anyone proposing, discouraging or promoting action or legislation. Don’t reject things out of hand, but don’t follow blindly either.
- Focus on the real issue – Politics is emotional, and it can sometimes be hard to see the heart of the matter through the smoke and mirrors of all the vested interests. But take statements like “if this bill becomes law, then this will happen” and honestly assess the possibility and see if there’s any relationship at all to the reality of the text or the situation. There are lots of great resources now for assessing the validity of claims, including PR Watch, PolitiFact, Fact Check.org, GovTrack and others.
- Speak out politely, articulately and specifically – If you feel compelled to speak out on an issue after becoming informed about it, do so clearly and outline specifically what you’d like your legislator to do, and request a response back. You may not get the action or the response that you’d like, but your views will become part of the public record and you have started a dialog.
For the record, here are some other bills Florida citizens may want to keep an eye on, which no “alerts” have been sent out about, but which could have an impact on family and individual freedoms to both live and learn:
CS/HB 1329 - John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program
HB 415 – Abortion (listed here because it shows up under the keywords "parental rights" by the way)
HM 557 Parental Rights Amendment and S 954 Parental Rights Amendment Flores 04/06/2011 S Retained on Calendar - Parental Rights Amendment: Urges the Congress of the United States to propose to the states for ratification an amendment to the United States Constitution relating to parental rights.
Effective Date: Not Specified - Last Event: 04/06/11 S Retained on Calendar on Wednesday, April 06, 2011 7:38 PM (See LIFEs evaluation of ongoing "Parental Rights" legislation efforts at our
National Homeschool Issues page.)
CS/CS/HB 1255 - Education Accountability
and, of course, SB 2156 Governmental Reorganization.
There's no reason to face last minute alarms and 11th hour calls to action when it's completely within our own individual power to stay informed and involved in our own governance!
LIFE of Florida