The History and Future of Homeschooling in Florida
By: Lupita Eyde Tucker
Homeschooling has always been a parental right. But it wasn't a legal right in Florida. The home education law we have was not a gift from the Florida government and legislators, who gave us the right out of the goodness of their hearts. It is a law that was created by homeschoolers, for homeschoolers.
In the early 1980's when Brenda and Craig Dickinson started homeschooling, the only way parents could educate at home was if a private school allowed a family to homeschool through them. However, at the time when the Dickinsons began homeschooling, a group of families who were homeschooling that way were being taken to court for truancy.
The Dickinsons didn't want to be at the mercy of a judge or a jury - they didn't want the courts to decide whether they could homeschool legally. They wanted the freedom to be in charge of their own children's education. They wanted their rights to be codified into a law. So, just like the writers of the Declaration of Independence wrote a document declaring their freedom, Craig & Brenda wrote a law that guaranteed their freedom to homeschool legally in FL. They sought support in the FL legislature, got their bill sponsored by state senator Daniel Webster (R), and lobbied tirelessly for over a year despite meeting opposition from the teacher's unions and their lobbyists.
It is nothing short of a miracle that the Dickinsons were able to get their bill through committee, and passed in both houses. However, Gov.Bob Graham (D) was expected to veto it at the recommendation of his legal advisors. At the last minute, Gov. Graham called the Dickinsons in to his office for a meeting, to ask them questions about some concerns he had with the bill. Forty-five minutes later, they left the office, and Brenda asked her husband what he thought. "I think he's going to sign that bill," Craig responded. Later that afternoon they got the call: the bill was signed by the governor! In 18 months from start to finish the home education bill was drafted, sponsored, passed, and signed in Florida law.
As a result of Craig & Brenda's hard work and vision, Florida education law was expanded to include homeschooling as a full-fledged educational option. We are all direct beneficiaries of this historical event in 1985.
The Dickinsons continued homeschooling and fighting for the rights of homeschooling families, eventually writing another bill for home educated students, this time guaranteeing them access to extracurricular activities at public schools. Although Craig Dickinson passed away before this second bill became law, when it did pass, the legislature named it the Craig Dickinson Act in his honor.
Brenda Dickinson is now the only lobbyist working for homeschoolers in Tallahassee. She has been key in getting free access to dual enrollment, free dual enrollment textbooks, the Gardiner Scholarship, Bright Futures for homeschoolers, access to sports at public schools, and many other important homeschooling freedoms and privileges— with NO STRINGS ATTACHED.
Brenda Dickinson has been diligently and successfully defending your right to homeschool in the Florida Legislature for 35 years!! But, please understand that she needs our support to make sure we continue to have the freedom to homeschool legally and freely in Florida. Please consider supporting her through her foundation, Home Education Foundation. There is a GoFundMe campaign that is crucial for our future as homeschoolers, and you can donate right now!
Brenda's foundation does not receive enough donations for her to take a salary for lobbying, however she is at an age where she needs to pass the baton to a successor. Please help her fund the foundation so that they can provide a salary to an equally dedicated lobbyist! Brenda will need to train someone to fill her shoes so that all the years of hard work and faithful lobbying on behalf of homeschoolers is not undone by the special interests seeking to undermine our basic right to educate our own children.
And please pass this on so that more people learn the amazing history of homeschooling in Florida!! :D
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