Federal Legislation
July 20, 2009

H.R. 2205—“Education Begins At Home Act of 2009”

Action Requested:
No action is requested at this time. HSLDA will continue to monitor this bill and will send out an action elert if it is scheduled for a hearing.

Summary:
H.R. 2205 will give federal grants to states so that they can create new or expanded home visitation programs. Our concern with this bill is that it will encourage government officials to enter homes, interact with children, and educate parents in parenting methods that are approved by the secretary of health and human services. While H.R. 2205 states that these programs will be voluntary, there is no guarantee that states receiving the money will keep their home visitation programs voluntary, and families may be pressured to accept these home visits.

Status:

4/30/2009Referred to the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Armed Services Committee.
5/22/2009Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.
6/4/2009Referred to the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.

Sponsor: Rep. Danny Davis (IL)

Cosponsors:

Bill Summary and Status H.R. 2205

HSLDA’s Position:
Oppose.

Talking Points:

H.R. 2205 is too expensive: H.R. 2205 will allow the secretary of health and human services (HHS) to give grants to the states so that they can “establish or expand quality programs of early childhood home visitation…” (page 6). One-hundred-and-fifty million dollars is budgeted for fiscal year 2010, with “such sums as may be necessary” for the next four years (page 10). This will be a huge expense to taxpayers and has no guarantee that it will actually help parents and children.

Additionally, H.R. 2205 seems to include guaranteed health care benefits to young children, because page 21 requires states to “ascertain what health and developmental services the family receives and work with providers of such services to eliminate gaps in service by offering annual health, vision, hearing, and developmental screening for children from birth to entry into kindergarten, when not otherwise provided.” It is not clear how expensive this will be, how these services will be offered, and where the funds will come from to continue these services.

H.R. 2205 could encourage states to pressure families into home visitation programs: Page 18 requires states that receive grants from HHS to “provide to as many eligible families in the State as practicable, voluntary early childhood home visitation….” While H.R. 2205 says that these visits will be voluntary, the states may have an economic incentive to increase enrollments in these home visits, and may pressure families to participate in them. This is especially likely because page 25 requires states that receive these grants to submit an annual report to the secretary of HHS which includes the number of families in the home visitation program and retention rate.

H.R. 2205 could lead to politically influenced parenting classes that pressure parents to raise their children how the government mandates: Pages 18–24 set forth the requirements that states which receive the HHS grants need to meet. Subsection H on page 19 requires that the state home visitation programs provide parents with “knowledge of age-appropriate child development…knowledge of realistic expectations of age-appropriate child behaviors; knowledge of health and wellness issues for children and parents; modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices; skills to interact with their child to enhance age-appropriate development; skills to recognize and seek help for issues related to health, developmental delays, and social, emotional, and behavioral skills; activities designed to help parents become full partners in the education of their children; and relevant information, consistent with State child welfare agency training, concerning child welfare and protective services resources if appropriate….”

All of these detailed aspects of the home visitation program are open to being politically influenced by government bureaucrats who may think that they know more about parenting than parents. They may pressure parents to adopt child rearing methods that are against the family’s religious beliefs. Home visitation officials may even threaten families with abuse and neglect investigations if the families do not choose to follow the official parenting education models.