Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
- Mahatma Ghandi

Welcome to LIFE of Florida!

Our secular and inclusive Florida-wide Informal Education support group acts as a resource center and clearinghouse for homeschoolers, informal learners and alternative educators interested in enriching their learning environments and maximizing their learning opportunities, as well as an advocacy center for Curiosity Driven Learning.

There is no cost to be part of LIFE of Florida -- just join in at our email discussion and announcement list, Florida LIFE, where you can download your membership card -- good for educational discounts throughout FL -- and stay informed and updated on events, issues and resources, and connect with other informal learners throughout the state.

If you're just getting started in homeschooling, be sure to check out our LIFE of Florida Quick Links, our list of Useful Docs, and our enormous collection of resources in the side columns, and visit our Inclusive Homeschool Support Groups page to find a group near you.

If you'd like your regional inclusive support group to be networked with LIFE of Florida, drop us a line with a group description, contact and other relevant information and we'll add you, free of charge, to our directory. All your group members will be automatically considered members of LIFE of Florida, and are entitled to membership cards and all the benefits we offer. Virtual school families are also welcome to enjoy our resources, support and camaraderie.

We're all inclusive and free of charge, and we're here for you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Staying Informed and Proactive about Legislative Issues that May Affect You

Emails flew recently when the Home Education Foundation , a homeschooling and private school lobbying organization here in Florida, sent out an alert alarmingly titled “Attack on Parental Rights and Home Education”, asserting that citizens must act immediately and without hesitation against some proposed legislation “or independent education (private school and home education) as we know it now will no longer exist. The State will control education from birth on.”
While the proposed bill, part of a major Florida government reorganization effort, does indeed, call for greater scrutiny and oversight of some private schools and child care centers, a reading of the bill’s text suggests the above declaration to be something of an overstatement. The bill clearly states at line 3993, that “ Except as provided by law, the department may not impose requirements on a private prekindergarten provider or public school that does not deliver the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program or receive state funds under this part.” (SB 2156 - )

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.)
These are classic examples of logical fallacies The first two, asserting “if/once X happens, Y will neccessarily  follow” is often called the “slippery slope” argument , also sometimes known as “affirming the consequent.” It's used routinely used in advertising, political campaigns and other persuasivearguments and communications. The third is a classic scare tactic, or an appeal to fear , also known as an ad baculum argument.
And all three are mischaracterizations of the degree of threat to homeschooling, in this particular instance, in the service of protecting private schooling.  While understandably seeking to keep private schools free of additional government oversight, the calls for action conveniently down play the fact that the private schools most at risk for increased oversight, in this case, are those that take public funds like scholarships for the disabled and school choice vouchers. It was in the lobbyist’s and private schools interests to mobilize people quickly in opposition to the legislation – even as homeschoolers who were contacted were pointedly instructed not to identify themselves as such, but only as private school supporters.

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.
  1. 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 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 .
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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, GovTrack and others.
  5. 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. 
We’re all busy with families, work, school, health and the day-to-day concerns of life and living. But we are also each signatories on the social contract for our governance. Our legislators work for us, and if we abdicate our responsibility as the owners of our government, others will happily step into our place, on their own behalf. And if you only speak out or act when others "alert" you, you risk ignorance of other possibly more problematic legislation of which they may chose not to inform you.

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)
GENERAL BILL by Van Zant (CO-SPONSORS) Ahern; Baxley; Renuart; Weinstein
Abortion: Creates "Florida for Life Act";and includes other provisions... 
Effective Date: July 1, 2011 Last Event: 1st Reading on Tuesday, March 08, 2011 10:24 PM

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.)

S 1620 K-12 Educational Instruction Flores 04/08/2011 S On Committee agenda-- Budget, 04/13/11, 1:30 pm, 412 Knott Building  - GENERAL BILL by Flores  -K-12 Educational Instruction: Adds statewide virtual providers to the list of public school choices. Authorizes the creation of a virtual charter school. Requires the virtual charter school to contract with an approved statewide virtual provider. Provides for funding of the virtual charter school. Provides for a blended-learning charter school. Provides that home education students may enroll in certain virtual education courses or courses offered in the school district in which they reside, etc. - Effective Date: upon becoming a law -Last Event: 04/11/11 S On Committee agenda-- Budget, 04/14/11, 1:30 pm, 412 Knott Building on Monday, April 11, 2011 5:09 PM
HB 715 – Public School Attendance (contains some minor(?) home education language changes)
Public School Attendance: Creates Student Preparedness Pilot Program to include Duval County School District as one of selected school districts; requires that students in pilot program districts who are 16-18 years of age & do not regularly attend school shall be subject to attendance & completion requirements; requires pilot program districts to identify curricula options; requires annual study & report by OPPAGA. -Effective Date: July 1, 2011 -Last Event: 1st Reading on Tuesday, March 08, 2011 10:24 PM
 CS/HB 1331 - School Choice
Revises requirements for eligibility to participate in Opportunity Scholarship Program; deletes provisions that authorize opportunity scholarship for attendance at private school; revises school district obligations & deletes provisions to conform; deletes obsolete provision relating to John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program.

CS/CS/HB 1255 - Education Accountability
GENERAL BILL by Education Committee and K-20 Competitiveness Subcommittee and Adkins -
Education Accountability: Revises numerous provisions relating to K-12 public education system; revises provisions relating to virtual instruction courses, school board member acceptance of gifts, Opportunity Scholarship Program, McKay Scholarships, Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, special education services, requirements for middle grades promotion & high school graduation, digital curriculum, career & professional academies, assistive technology, statewide assessments, college readiness, school improvement, designation of school grades, education budgets, funding for exceptional student education, & teacher qualifications. -Effective Date: July 1, 2011 -Last Event: Added to Second Reading Calendar on Friday, April 08, 2011 6:04 PM

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.