Email sent to WPA Members January 18, 2008
Dear WPA Member,
Your action is urgently needed now to oppose AB 697, the Assembly bill on virtual charter schools. The more people that legislators hear from, the more seriously they will take our message. Please ask people you know, such as other homeschoolers, members of your support group, friends, relatives, members of your church, neighbors, co-workers, other advocacy groups and networks, etc., to call or send emails.
(Note: SB 396, the Wisconsin Senate bill on virtual charter schools, would not undermine our homeschooling freedoms as it stands now, so WPA is not suggesting that you contact state senators at this time.)
The basic message:
The following message will be more effective if you put it in your own words, although it’s fine to use this version if you don’t have time to write your own. You can send the same email to each legislator. A phone call has more impact than an email, but if you would prefer to email, by all means do that.
I oppose AB 697, which concerns virtual charter schools, for several reasons. Most importantly, it describes a virtual charter school parent as “providing educational services to the pupil in the pupil’s home.” This would open the door for the DPI to write regulations that would govern the interactions between parents and their children in their own homes. Although these regulations would not apply to homeschoolers immediately, they would undermine homeschooling freedoms and the sanctity of homes of citizens of Wisconsin.
Therefore, I am asking you to oppose AB 697. I would appreciate your replying to this email indicating your position on AB 697.
Feel free to add other points from the testimony on AB 697 attached to this email if you want.
Be sure to include your name and postal address in the body of your email. Legislators don’t take seriously emails that don’t contain this information.
If you call legislators, ask to speak to the aide who handles education. Briefly explain why you are opposed to AB 697, and ask what position the legislator is taking on the bill. Be prepared to respond to comments and questions such as:
Question: It sounds like you want to be able to choose to homeschool yourself but you don’t want other families to be able to choose to enroll in virtual charter schools. How come you want choice for yourself but not for other families?
Possible response: Not everyone gets to choose whatever they want. Some choices have negative impacts on other people. My decision to homeschool does not limit the freedom of others. But because virtual charter schools require that the government oversee what happens in private homes, they undermine fundamental freedoms of the rest of us.
Question: This bill concerns virtual charter schools, not homeschools. Why are you concerned?
Possible response: Homeschools are based on the principle that parents have the right to educate their own children according to their principles and beliefs and can do this without direct state monitoring or regulation. However, this legislation would set the precedent of the state monitoring parents which would undermine homeschooling freedoms.
Call and/or email the following legislators:
(1) Your Assembly representative. For their name and contact information, click here. Include in the subject of your email that you are a constituent, and include your postal address in the body of the email.
(2) The members of the Assembly Education Committee. (If you live in the district of one of these legislators, be sure to mention in your phone call or email that you are a constituent.)
(3) The Leaders of the Assembly:
Report on this week’s hearings on virtual charter school legislation
The Assembly Education Committee held a hearing on AB 697 on Wednesday, January 16, at 1 PM. (This bill was attached to our email dated January 14, 2008, labeled “07–36845.pdf” and identified as LRB-3684/5.) Because Brett Davis, the chair of the committee, introduced the bill and strongly favors it, the hearing was very one-sided and was used to promote the bill. Until almost 5 PM, testimony was limited to supporters of the bill, including Rep. Davis, administrators of virtual charter schools and other virtual schools, and families who are pleased with virtual charter schools. After 5 PM, testimony included both supporters and opponents. WPA testified against the bill at 7:30 PM. Because the hearing was so unbalanced and some of the committee members were unwilling to listen to reason, it is important that we call or email them now. Legislators do pay attention when a large number of people contact them.
WPA focused on three major concerns: (1) Provisions of AB 697 would undermine fundamental principles essential to citizens in Wisconsin. (2) It would violate the sanctity of the homes of private citizens. (3) Instead of saving tax dollars, virtual charter schools waste them. To emphasize its message and draw legislators’ attention to the seriousness of the bill, WPA also pointed out that the bill is inconsistent with basic conservative principles and expressed surprise and disappointment that some conservative legislators are supporting the bill. (The full text of WPA’s testimony is attached to this email.)
Supporters of the bill talked primarily about how pleased they are with their virtual charter school, explained how it operates, and claimed that AB 697 is necessary for some virtual charter schools to survive and that SB 396 would lead to the closing of some schools.
The Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families provided free bus rides from a number of cities and towns to the capitol. (It is unclear where this organization is getting its money.) It sponsored a rally at the capitol at 12:40 that drew several hundred parents, children, and other supporters wearing neon yellow or green t-shirts. These people then visited legislators’ officers. About 300 people registered in favor of AB 697 and only 7 registered against. As the day progressed, it was clear that it was a good idea that large numbers of homeschoolers were not attending the hearing. You probably would not have been able to testify until at least 7:30 PM. It will be much more effective to call or email legislators now.
The Senate’s virtual charter school bill is now SB 396. (It was attached to our email to you January 11, 2008, labeled “07–31446.pdf” and identified as LRB-3144/6.”) The Senate Education Committee’s hearing on SB 396 on Thursday, January 17, at 10 AM was somewhat more balanced, more or less alternating among supporters of the bill, opponents, and people testifying for information only.
Basically, supporters of the bill argued that some kind of standards are needed to ensure that students in virtual charter schools receive a quality education. Requiring that 15% of the students enrolled in a virtual charter school be residents of the school district operating the charter school would ensure some local control. Requiring a certain amount of teacher-student contact per day would ensure that students are guided by a certified teacher. Decreasing funding for virtual charter schools would help prevent corporations from making large profits from Wisconsin tax dollars. Opponents argued that the requirements of SB 396 and the cuts in funding for virtual charter schools would be too restrictive and force many of them to close. WPA testified for information only and did not take a position either supporting or opposing the bill. WPA‘s testimony is attached.
Legislators who support each bill said repeatedly that they hope a compromise can be worked out so virtual education can continue to grow in Wisconsin. It is unclear how difficult it will be to reach a compromise. So once we have sent our emails or made our calls, we need to wait and see what happens next. WPA will continue to track this issue and keep you informed.
Thank you for your continuing support.