The hallways of the Oklahoma state capitol building were packed with families today voicing their support of the freedom to homeschool their children without governmental interference. Organized by Homeschool Oklahoma, the state advocacy organization, hundreds of homeschooling families from across the state filled the capitol rotunda to express their appreciation for the rights of homeschoolers in Oklahoma as well as express concerns that some people may be looking to limit those freedoms.
Families at the capitol building spent time talking to legislators, delivering cookies, rallying at the rotunda, and enjoying the art and amenities available to the public. Homeschool Oklahoma even brought in “living historians” dressed in revolutionary war garb to educate students on what life was like in America’s early history.
The keynote speaker was State Senator Dusty Deevers, who gave a passionate speech on what he believes is the purpose of education. “Education is preparation for a life full of glorifying and enjoying God,” said Deevers. Deevers exhorted the crowd to live into this purpose.
While this event occurs annually, this year there were additional, specific legislative issues they were concerned with. Most of the focus was on a recent legislative effort spearheaded by Representative Amanda Swope, Oklahoma House Bill 4130. This bill would require all homeschooling families to register themselves with the Department of Human Services and submit to background checks on every adult involved with the education of their children. If passed, this would mark a sea change in the way that Oklahoma deals with homeschooling families. Despite the current media blitz surrounding HB 4130, the representatives we interviewed said that the bill was not likely to get out of committee.
Additionally, the leadership of Homeschool Oklahoma expressed concerns about tax credits and public school facility usage which could cause homeschooling families to fall under unnecessary governmental regulation. They said that they stand for “family funded, parent-led, home-based education,” and that utilizing state resources runs counter to the spirit of homeschooling.
“Oklahoma has a long history of protecting homeschool freedoms,” said T. J. Schmidt, the Oklahoma representative of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association who also spoke at the event. Schmidt discussed the history of Oklahoma homeschooling freedoms, beginning with the drafting of the Oklahoma Constitution where education “by other means” was enshrined. This phrase codifies the freedom of Oklahomans to pursue additional choices in how they educate their children.
While the legislative landscape is not likely to swing significantly in the near term, homeschooling families want to ensure that legislators know that they are paying attention and defending their freedoms.