“I will sell you the children you want in exchange for political patronage.” The governor of Iowa didn’t actually say those words, but he could have and his actions show that he more or less did do just that.

When the blogger Libby Anne had found out that Iowa was going to take perfectly good homeschooling laws and gut them (as part of an education bill, no less) she’d written about it and a number of us former homeschool kids and parents who are trying to raise awareness of the issue of abuse and neglect in homeschooling due to lack of oversight were outraged. We also figured that the governor simply didn’t realize what was happening, what he was allowing to occur in his state. We hastily organized, had people call the governors office, write open letters to him, tell him why this was a really really bad idea for homeschooled children. We didn’t seem to get much attention but some conservative HSLDA-affiliated blogger (who I later yelled at on twitter) wrote that Libby Anne and others were “out of touch liberals” who didn’t know a thing about homeschooling (and he did not approve our blog comments setting the record straight that we were homeschoolers ourselves until I wrote about it and confronted him).

We called the governor’s office and tried to raise awareness because we do know a lot of things about homeschooling. We know deregulated homeschooling can function as an oubliette – a hole kids can fall into and be forgotten about. Some of us were forgotten about as kids. Others had it happen to friends or were concerned parents who had seen enough to know. Others were homeschooling parents in Iowa and other states who figured “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

We hoped the governor would listen. We were a little bummed when we were ignored, but altogether not too surprised. We’d heard about it late. We’d organized the opposition late. The process had been done quietly (a legislative strategy that HSLDA bragged about afterwards) and it had snuck up on everyone. Our collective voices were few in the clamoring sea of people making requests to a governor. What we felt was sadness for Iowa’s at-risk homeschooled children and regret that we could not do more to help them, that we had not been able to make the governor and his staff listen to us. (The homeschool kids with responsible parents are going to be fine. It’s the ones who don’t that will suffer.)

Then just yesterday we got a signal that we were in fact listened to, that our message had been heard, just not in the way we’d hoped. Our opposition had gotten some attention and the response was a calculated slap in the face. Today the governor of Iowa re-enacted the signing of the education bill at the request of an unnamed advocacy group for homeschooling parents (hmm, wonder who that might be?) in order to celebrate the changes in (i.e the gutting of) the homeschooling law.

July 17, 2013
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad is going to sign an education policy bill for the second time.

Branstad has scheduled a “re-enactment” of the original bill signing for Thursday. Spokesman Tim Albrecht says the event is being held at the request of an organization that advocates for families that homeschool their children.

The education legislation approved by the Legislature in May will provide more basic school funding for the next two academic years, as well as offer money to districts that adopt a program to raise minimum teacher pay and offer leadership incentives.

The legislation also lifts some restrictions on homeschooling in Iowa.

Albrecht says the governor will sometimes re-enact a bill signing at the request of individuals or groups.

With this new development it’s become quite apparent that these kids weren’t merely forgotten or overlooked by the governor of Iowa. They were sold. Political clout and capital is a funny thing. It’s all about campaign donors and voters. Kids are neither. If you screw them over you generally get away with it. By the time they come of age someone else will be in office and most of the time they won’t connect what you did with the struggles they had to face anyway. The ones hurt the worst won’t even have the time and mental space to put together the pieces, connect the dots as to how and why they were wronged, they’ll be so busy just trying to pay the bills and have some semblance of normalcy.

So I guess that’s what the governor of Iowa is banking on. He figures a few dozen calls from concerned former homeschoolers and homeschool parents doesn’t at all compare to the HSLDA-affiliated conservative political juggernaut and its successes, which I’m sure he wants on his side. I mean it did help Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Todd Akin and a number of others get elected and even run for president. So why not go with the group that can give you something? These parents and former homeschoolers, well they’re just a small contingent of malcontents, right? Homeschooled kids, well the parents of the ones he met, were nice enough, right? What’s the harm? So he signed the bill. He didn’t even consider line item vetoing that portion like we’d asked him to and then, when that “homeschooling group” asked him to do a re-signing in order to gloat over their victory he gladly said yes.

So today he did just that – a reenactment of the passing of legislation that will ultimately hurt Iowa’s homeschooled children. I imagine the HSLDA asked him to do this public display in order to flaunt their political clout and to flex their muscles and make a point to us who are beginning to organize and oppose their dystopian actions and worldview. They are bigger than us. We are the David to their Goliath, caught off guard, having just made our way out into the arena and seen what we are up against, having only handfuls of pebbles to throw instead of rocks. Well, good for them for making this point and convincing the governor into going along. Pick your battle lines, show where you stand. After all, this is your legacy.

I for one, will stand with the children and say that the governor is foolish for doing this because he’s made a point alright, he’s picked a side, endorsed it publicly, and he doesn’t seem to see what’s coming. Now that us former homeschool kids are constituents ourselves, old enough to vote and become involved in politics, in addition to starting to connect, build a network, share enough stories to be cognizant of these disturbing patterns ourselves, we are keeping an eye out. We are collecting the information. We are synthesizing and analyzing and interpreting it. What’s more, we’re sharing what we find.

When the next homeschooled child dies in Iowa because of the deregulation there allowing abuse to flourish unimpeded and unnoticed, there will be ample footage of this man, this governor, flourishing his pen, standing behind something that hurts children, that we told him hurts children. I’m sure the media will love it. It’ll be a great story, after all. Everyone likes to shake their heads at stories of politicians doing terrible and immoral things with a “mine mine mine” and a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality. Everyone likes to gawk at stories where someone who pretended to be responsible and help little children instead did something terrible. There’s a nice predictable ring of shock and awe about it.

Governor Branstad better hope there are no cases of severe abuse and neglect or death of a homeschooled child under his tenure and I expect there will be, because if the current law was in place at the time, this little Iowa girl might not have survived. He can bet that those of us who tried to get him to line item veto this provision in the first place will be there to help the media connect the dots when it does happen. We can also use a quote from former Iowa Governor Vilsack, who when speaking about how missing a homeschool test helped people notice something was wrong and track that little girl down, likely saving her life, said that “appropriate measures were taken.” Now, under Governor Branstad’s watch those “appropriate measures” no longer exist.

I hope he is happy with what he has bought, that he got his money’s worth. Some political patronage for the price of more illiteracy, more incest, more secret beatings, more ideological indoctrination for the children of his state. That’s right. Because responsible homeschooling parents were fine with the state of Iowa’s homeschooling laws because they were fairly decent laws. They did not ask for this change and they will likely continue on educating their children as before. It’s the crazies, the ideologues, the controlling fanatics, the abusers who wanted this total deregulation. What do they want to do with it? They want to own their children as chattel, rule over them as “Lord,” and if we want to turn our backs and not see that, ignore the purposes that this request was made for, we all do so at our own peril.

Anyone who wants to sit there and grandly sign a document like this to celebrate such a cause is not only a politician without much foresight but a poor leader and a failed protector of the most vulnerable of the citizens he was sworn in to serve. Shame on governor Branstad. Shame on him for selling the children.