Colorado Senate Bill 4 was signed into law by Governor Roy Romer on April 14, 1994. God's hand clearly guided the progress of this bill through the Colorado Senate and House to the governor's desk, and He used many different people to bring about this victory. One of the most miraculous aspects of the passage of this legislation is that no amendments were added and it passed into law exactly as it was written.
Over the years, Home School Legal Defense Association has come to the aid of many Colorado members who have been harassed by their local school districts. This legislation was written to address the specific abuses of authority to which Colorado school districts were particularly prone. S.B. 4 protects home schoolers in four areas.
First, the requirement that home schoolers must file their annual written notification "upon forms furnished by the school district for that purpose" was completely deleted. Home school parents are now able to choose the format in which they submit their annual notification, and they cannot be required to fill out school district forms which ask for more information than is required by law.
Second, S.B. 4 deletes the requirement that home schoolers must use the same standardized achievement test "used by the local school district of residence." Parents are now allowed to use any nationally standardized achievement test which they choose. This will prevent the future possibility of home school children being subjected to tests measuring outcomes and politically correct attitudes.
Third, S.B. 4 deletes the equivalent age requirement for standardized achievement testing. Home schoolers are now only required to have their children tested at grade levels 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 rather than at the equivalent age for those grade levels. This greater flexibility will allow home school children who might be ahead or behind their age group to be tested at their grade level rather than their age level. This option can be particularly helpful for children who were failing in the public school but are now being home schooled and might need a few years to catch up.
Fourth, S.B. 4 creates the option for evaluation by a qualified person in lieu of standardized achievement testing. This provision will protect home schoolers whose children either are poor test takers or who have some particular handicap. The definition of a "qualified person" is one who is a Colorado certified teacher, a teacher employed by an independent or parochial school, a licensed psychologist, or a person with a graduate degree in education. This inclusive definition should make it relatively easy for home schoolers to use the evaluation option.
Furthermore, S.B. 4 takes effect immediately! Home schoolers may take advantage of these new options as they prepare to have their children tested or evaluated for the end of this school year.
HSLDA members experiencing the same problems year after year signaled the need for improvement in four specific aspects of the Colorado home school law. Discussion with state leaders led to the conclusion that new legislation was needed to address these problems. In November 1993, Attorney Christopher Klicka met with Treon Goossen of Concerned Parents for Colorado (CPC) and the Lundbergs and Sprays of the Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC), and drafted legislation in hand.
The next step was to find at least one senator and one member of the House to sponsor this bill. Attorney Klicka wrote to Senator Al Meiklejohn and Representative Tim Foster, the majority leader in the House, and sent them a draft of the proposed changes to the present home school law. Treon Goossen also talked to Senator Meiklejohn and he heartily agreed to sponsor the bill. Representative Foster also signed on, and S.B. 4 was born.
As reported in the January/February 1994 issue of The Home School Court Report, Attorney Klicka flew to Denver on January 27th to testify before the Colorado Senate Education Committee. The Christian Home Educators of Colorado and the Concerned Parents for Colorado had already sent out alerts to home schoolers throughout the state, which brought hundreds of home schoolers to the hearing. The department of education proposed several amendments which would have defeated the purpose of S.B. 4 and would have made the home school law worse. Attorney Klicka countered these amendments in his testimony before the Senate Education Committee. Senator Meiklejohn pushed the bill through committee with only three senators present, all of whom were in favor of the bill.
Treon Goossen and Linda Stahnke worked tirelessly, meeting with various representatives and monitoring S.B. 4 at every level. This included being present during the floor debates in the second and third readings. They clocked many miles driving back and forth from Colorado Springs to Denver.
During the second reading in the Senate, Senator Jana Mendez opposed S.B. 4, stating that it would "give parents a choice concerning testing or evaluation and that is not acceptable." She was further heard to say that the "children do not belong to the public school, but they certainly do not belong to their parents, either." She attempted to introduce a sunset clause requiring the bill's changes to be reviewed and reapproved at the end of two years. At third reading, Senator Mendez began accusing home schoolers of abusing children. Senator Meiklejohn rebuked her, "Stop harassing these people! I am much more concerned, and you should be, too, about the growing number of illiterates graduating from the public schools and not about a few possible incidents of parents not testing their children according to the law." A vote was called, and the Senate passed S.B. 4 by a 33-2 vote margin with no amendments.
Battle in the Colorado House
The next major battleground on S.B. 4 was set to take place March 7th before the House Education Committee. A number of the members on this committee were philosophically opposed to home schooling. Once again, CPC and CHEC sent alerts to home schoolers throughout the state, urging them to attend the meeting. Treon Goossen of CPC gathered a dozen or so letters from support group leaders in various localities throughout the state, showing their support for S.B. 4. These were submitted to each member of the committee along with studies showing the academic success of home schoolers. Attorney Klicka once again flew to Denver to testify on behalf of S.B. 4.
Before testifying, Treon Goossen and Attorney Klicka met with Representative Foster. He couldn't believe how organized and effective the home schoolers were. Foster reported that the Senators and House members were flooded with calls and letters from home schoolers, and upon contacting the Colorado Department of Education, he had been told, "[we] don't want to mess with the home schoolers!" The department of education did not even attempt to reintroduce the amendments they proposed in the Senate.
The House Education Committee members grilled Representative Foster and Christopher Klicka during their testimony. Attorney Klicka emphasized that S.B. 4 would end the discrimination against home school children with special needs, handicaps, and learning disabilities. He also explained that it would allow children who were previously failing in public schools and now were being home schooled to be evaluated according to their ability rather than according to a standardized achievement test which would not be accurate. Among the others who testified on behalf of S.B. 4 were Kevin Lundberg of CHEC, Treon Goossen of CPC, and Tammy Himes, a member of the public school board in the Grand Junction area and home-schooling mother of a special needs child.
Although several members of the committee questioned the need for S.B. 4, the bill passed 9-1 through the House Education Committee.
At second reading before the full House, the opposition launched its attack. Representative Wayne Knox led the opposition stating, "[S.B. 4] eliminates accountability for home schoolers" and "there must be some comparison with the public school children." Representative Celina Benavidez chimed in, expressing concern about what would happen to "home school failures." She worried that they would burden the public schools and that the public schools would have to "instruct them socially as well." Representative Foster articulately defended S.B. 4 and was well-prepared to answer these objections. After the third reading, S.B. 4 passed the Senate by a vote of 53-9.
Interestingly enough, all of the questions and debate centered on the evaluation provision. The other three major changes to the law contained in S.B. 4 escaped scrutiny (this was true in the Senate debate as well).
Colorado home schoolers will now enjoy much greater freedom as a result of S.B. 4's passage. The telephone calls, letters, and the hundreds of families who took the time to attend the hearings had a tremendous impact on the Colorado legislature. Concerned Parents for Colorado and the Christian Home Educators of Colorado worked tirelessly to support this bill on its way through the House and Senate, and Senator Meiklejohn and Representative Foster were unflinching champions in the face of the vocal opposition. But the most important elements in this victory were the prayers of God's people and the protection of our Heavenly Father. To Him belongs the honor and the praise.
[CAPTION] Colorado legislators heard the voice of the home school movement and passed Senate Bill 4.