(Des Moines, IA) Approximately 800 Iowa homeschoolers descended upon Des Moines and the State Capitol yesterday for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators’ annual Homeschool Day at the Hill. The day began at the State Capitol building with lobbying efforts, as well as, brief remarks by Brenna Findley, former homeschooler and now legal advisor to Governor Terry Branstad, and Iowa Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) who is also a homeschooling dad.
The group in the afternoon moved to the Downtown Marriott to hear from speakers and candidates. Syndicated radio talk show host Steve Deace shared that the group had the potential to hold great influence in 2014 and 2016 which is why, he noted, it isn’t hard to get candidates to show up to events in Iowa.
NICHE board member and emcee for the afternoon, John Desaulniers, Jr., agreed, “I think it was a well-attended event that has significant repercussions on the 2014 and 2016 elections. I think Steve Deace was right. The position of both Iowa and homeschoolers comes together in a profound way, making Iowa homeschoolers a much more significant group of people, not monolithic in their voting by any means, but worthy of candidates’ attention.”
Desaulniers also warned the group during his brief opening remarks that they must be diligent protecting the freedoms restored during the last legislative session. He noted a bill that House Democrats introduced designed to strip homeschoolers of those freedoms did not make it past funnel. He reminded the group that the freedoms homeschoolers now enjoy did not make it past the funnel last year either, they were floor amendments to a different education bill so homeschoolers need to be alert.
Homeschoolers were also able to hear from several candidates. Three of the five Republican U.S. Senate candidates came to speak: Sam Clovis, Matt Whitaker and State Senator Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak) introduced themselves to the group. Scott Schaben and Mark Jacobs were absent from the event. Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) also addressed the group. King is running for reelection in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. All of the Iowa 3rd Congressional District Republican candidates were on hand to speak: State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), Robert Cramer, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, David Young, Monte Shaw, and Joe Grandanette. Marianette Miller-Meeks, Republican candidate in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, spoke. Amy Zobel spoke for State Representative Mark Lofgren (R-Muscatine) who is also running in the Iowa 2nd Congressional District primary. Lofgren was unable to attend due to his legislative duties. Rod Blum and Steve Rathje who are Republican candidates in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District were unable to attend. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Hoefling attended the event, but did not speak. Neither Governor Terry Branstad or Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds attended this year.
The Common Core State Standards were a hot topic of discussion. Tamara Scott, state director for Concerned Women for America of Iowa, spoke on the issue briefly. Congressman King and every candidate leading up to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) addressed the issue (I had to leave after Ted Cruz).
Senator Cruz congratulated Iowa homeschoolers for their victory last year in protecting the rights of homeschooling parents. He said that we “must guard against efforts to undermine the rights of parents to raise their children.” He said that the U.S. Senate must block ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. “Nothing in international law, nothing in international treaty should be used as a back door vehicle to undermine the rights of every parent here,” Cruz said.
He addressed school choice and stated regardless of the venue of education “we should see a thousand flowers bloom.” He said that school choice is a civil rights issue. “Every single child deserves the opportunity to have an excellent education,” Cruz said.
Cruz also addressed religious liberty. He said Americans are facing having their constitutional liberties undermined. “There is no liberty more important than our religious liberty,” Cruz said. “There is a reason that the very first thing protected in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights is our religious liberty.”
Vicki Crawford who is the chair of the Homeschool Day at the Capitol committee that organized the event was pleased with how the event turned out. “We had a wonderful turnout, over 800 attendees from across the state. Senator Cruz delivered a strong message of support for home education, and of protecting that and every other freedom acknowledged by both the Declaration and Constitution. He is a courageous leader and we were so pleased he could come to our event,” Crawford told Caffeinated Thoughts.
Homeschooling father and Iowa GOP State Central Committee members, Jamie Johnson, told Caffeinated Thoughts that the event was a great one for all involved. “The homeschooling community in Iowa has taken a giant step forward in its relationship with elected officials and candidates for public office. I commend every candidate and officeholder who attended the event,” Johnson added.
Jenn Jones, homeschooling mother and grassroots activist from Anamosa, IA, was impressed with Cruz. “It will be interesting to see if his actions continue to match his words over the next two years. I think the amount of time he has been spending in Iowa lately is a tell-tale sign that there is something bigger in the works for him,” Jones said.
“It was a very successful conference. Ted Cruz was well received, the candidates were well received. It is a voting block that will influence the primary,” Bill Gustoff, Legislative Liaison with NICHE and member of the Capitol Day committee, told Caffeinated Thoughts.
Gustoff who disclosed he supports Matt Whitaker took a shot at Mark Jacobs for his absence. “Any candidate, especially an Iowan, who is pitching to be a conservative candidate should know better than to blow off this constituency,” Gustoff said. He told Caffeinated Thoughts that the Jacobs campaign did not even respond to the invitation (each campaign was emailed twice). “What a strategic blunder,” Gustoff added.
Homeschooling mom from Cumberland, IA, Emily Rouse, shared her candidate preference. “If the caucus was tomorrow I’d vote for Sam Clovis for U.S. Senate. I’ve heard him on WHO and he is a man who loves this country, respects our liberty and adheres to the Constitution. I’m still undecided for Congress. Brad Zaun and Matt Schulz are both strong candidates. I’ll have to read up on them more,” Rouse told Caffeinated Thoughts.
You can watch video of some of the speeches below:
Congressman Steve King:
State Senator Joni Ernst:
Bob Vander Plaats (President/CEO of The FAMiLY Leader):
State Senator Brad Zaun:
Secretary of State Matt Schultz:
Senator Ted Cruz
I was unable to stay after Senator Cruz spoke, but Emily Rouse was able to provide some additional videos below:
Amy Zobel for Mark Lofgren
Monte Shaw (technical difficulties with this video prevented Emily from recording his entire speech.