Guide for Voters


Learning is for Everyone takes no political stand or position, but urges readers to be informed voters, just as they’re informed education consumers.  The accompanying links, resources  and candidate surveys come from a variety of sources and are included here to provide a readily accessible resource for those interested in learning more about candidates’ positions on educational issues, as well as on other issues that may be important to you.

Besides surveying candidates – either in person, should the opportunity arise, or via mail or email — voters may wish to write to candidates, introducing yourself and telling candidates about the value you place on family directed education choices.   It helps candidates understand that their constituents are well informed, and have needs and interests that apply to society as a whole.

In addition to the tips below, also check out:
Children’s Defense Fund Questions
National Home Education Legal Defense Questions
Legislative Watch Resources

For a more comprehensive understanding of the legislative process, check out “How our laws are made” at the Library of Congress’ THOMAS site.

The Children’s Defense Fund offers some great “Activist Basics” tips for communicating with elected officials: As a general rule, Members of Congress are far more likely to heed your message if you are one of their constituents.

  • State your purpose for writing in the first sentence of the letter.
  • If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it.
  • Close your letter with a restatement of your purpose and indicate the response that you expect.
  • Telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member, not the member of Congress. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue about which you wish to comment.
  • State your reasons for your support or opposition to the bill. Ask for your senators’ or representative’s position on the bill. You may also request a written response to your telephone call.

Some other possible questions for candidates, as suggested by the Center for Education Reform:

  • What are your three overall education priorities that, in a perfect world, you would accomplish during your tenure in office. How will you go about achieving them? Why are these the most important priorities?
  • What role does money play in improving schools? Please explain your answer.
  • What role should parents play in the education process? How much control do you believe parents should have over which programs or schools their child is enrolled in?
  • Do you agree or disagree that the federal No Child Left Behind Act is good policy? Please explain your answer.
  • Do you agree with the position of many teacher unions and others in the education bureaucracy that the public school system is healthy as it is? Have you accepted or received support and/or endorsements from any of these groups or like organizations?
  • If you could dictate one area where you would spend Bill Gates’ money for education, what would it be?

The Children’s Defense Fund offers a wealth of resources to stay informed and to help you be proactive in protecting and ensuring family rights to health, education and well-being.  The following are some questions they’ve recommended asking candidates, to get an idea of where they stand on children’s issues:

Child Care and Early Education

  • What would you do to ensure that all eligible families could get the help they need?
  • Studies show that quality child care and early education make a positive difference in children’s ability to enter school ready to learn and succeed. What will you do to increase the availability of high quality child care and early education programs in our community?
  • Studies show that juveniles are more likely to be the victims of violent crime in the hour after the end of the school day than at any other hour of the day. What will you do to increase the availability of after-school programs in our community?
  • Despite the fact that caregivers are the most important element of quality child care, child care workers are among the lowest paid workers in the country, lack benefits, and have little access to training to improve their skills. What will you do to support the recruitment and retention of qualified child care workers?
  • With welfare reform and the growing economy causing an increased need for all kinds of child care, especially care for infants and care during non-traditional hours, what supports will you provide to build the supply of this hard-to-find care?

Education

  • How do you plan to improve the quality of education in our local schools?
  • What steps would you take to ensure that schools expect and help all children achieve?
  • What will you do to ensure equal access to educational opportunities for all children?
  • What investments will you make to increase the quality of teachers and administrators?
  • What will you do to encourage talented individuals to teach?
  • What will you do to improve teacher pay scales?

Children and Families in Crisis

  • How do you propose to increase investments in family support activities designed to prevent child abuse and neglect and keep children safe?
  • What role are you willing to play to help eliminate the child abuse and other family violence that exists in too many homes today?
  • What do you understand to be the barriers to moving children out of foster care and into permanent families and how do you propose to help address these barriers?
  • What incentives do you believe would help encourage partnerships between child welfare, alcohol and drug treatment, mental health, and domestic violence programs to ensure that children and families get the comprehensive treatment services they need?
  • What specific steps will you take to assist grandparent caregivers to get the education, health, mental health, respite care and other specialized services that they need for the children in their care?
  • What specific steps will you take to assist grandparent caregivers to get the education, health, mental health, respite care and other specialized services that they need for the children in their care?

Homeschool Considerations

National Home Education Legal Defense suggests the following questions, and makes these recommendations, “Whether you use our questions, or make a list of your own, the important thing is to pin down all candidates regarding what they stand for and why homeschoolers should vote for them. Make them specify their positions, don’t let them equivocate. If they do equivocate in their responses to your questions, send them another list of questions. Repeat the process until you have your answers. After a few letters back and forth, whether the candidate specifically answers your questions or not, you will have a much clearer understanding of why, or why not, the candidates deserve your support. ”

SUGGESTED QUESTIONS TO ASK CANDIDATES

1. Do you favor or disfavor homeschooling and why?
2. What is your position regarding implementation or repeal of laws affecting the rights of homeschoolers?
Frequently, candidates are not aware of what the state law is regarding the rights of parents to instruct their children. They may not be aware of federal law regarding homeschooling either. Depending on the candidate and the political climate, the question could be posed broadly leaving the candidate to expound from his basis of knowledge, or the question could be posed more specifically to obtain a direct answer concerning whether
the candidate favors or disfavors laws regarding homeschooling. The question could be: “What do you know about the laws regarding homeschooling?
Or, the question could be: “Do you support legislation to require parents to obtain approval from a local public school board before they homeschool?”
The strategy regarding broad versus specific questions, of course, holds true for all of the suggested questions.
3. What is your position on government funding of homeschooling and why?
4. If the government provides funding or publicly funded benefits to homeschoolers, what is your position on government accountability regarding the funding or benefits?
This type of question is designed to elicit the candidate’s opinion as to whether the candidate favors government regulation of homeschooling in return for the government funding or benefit.
5. Do you understand the difference between homeschooling and doing a public school curriculum at home?
6. What is your position on homeschoolers participating in the public school system and why?
Leaving this question in general terms might elicit unexpected, yet, very useful responses. Does the candidate favor the participation because the school administration would have more control over homeschooling, or, does the candidate favor participation for some other financial or emotional reason?
7. What is your position on lowering the compulsory school attendance age and why?
Leaving this question in general terms might elicit unexpected and useful responses as well. If the candidate favors it, what is the reason for the support? Does the candidate want the public school district to exercise more control over parents?
8. What is your position on compulsory public pre-school (universal pre-school) for infants and toddlers?
9. What is your position on mental health screening of children from infancy through adulthood?
10. Do you believe homeschoolers should provide instruction that is equivalent to the instruction in the public schools?
11. What is your position on “conditional withdrawal”? Do you favor allowing the public school administration to refuse to take the children off the “enrollment books” unless the parents comply with school district non-statutory demands, even though the parents legally withdrew their children from the public school in accordance with state law?

Visit our Resource Directory for additional Civic Engagement Tools and Resources.