The Immigration Bills
After months of lobbying against a federal attempt to mandate a national identification system, home educators will soon learn whether or not the United States Senate will sacrifice family privacy for a quick-fix solution to America's immigration woes. Formerly S. 269, the Immigration and the National Interest Act has been amended and reintroduced as S. 1664.
On March 7, 1996, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reject an amendment sponsored by Senators Feingold and Abraham which would have deleted the offensive national registry and tracking portions from the bill. The amendment, supported by Home School Legal Defense Association and the National Center for Home Education, failed by a 9-9 vote. HSLDA's National Center had launched a "surgical strike" on the members of the judiciary committee, and, in response to the tremendous pressure generated by thousands of concerned parents over the I.D. system components of the bill, Senate staffers rewrote the portions of the bill which focus on tracking, softening the language to remove specific references to biometric identifiers or mandatory identification cards.
Currently, S. 1664 requires some form of identification mechanism, but allows the government to test different methods through the use of pilot programs. Like its precursor, S. 1664 would mandate the attachment of certain federal requirements to the issuance and use of drivers licenses.
Despite some positive attempts to pacify concerned parents by toning down the language of the bill, the legislation still gave broad discretion to government agencies to pilot test and implement an identification system. For this reason, our fundamental concerns about the bill remained intact and we continued to support the Abraham/DeWine/Feingold amendment, which would delete the I.D. system.
On April 15, debate on S. 1664 began on the floor of the Senate. As a result of HSLDA's national alert, thousands of calls from concerned citizens poured in, causing many senators to support the Abraham/DeWine/Feingold amendment.
Finally, on May 1, 1996, the senate voted on the Abraham/DeWine/Feingold amendment. Senators Abraham, Feingold, and DeWine masterfully articulated the dangers of a national identification system, but after several hours of intense debate, the amendment was defeated by a vote of 54-46. However, due in part to the pressure home schoolers placed on the senate, Senator Simpson amended his bill, changing the mandatory national I.D. system to a voluntary pilot project. Although we did not defeat the tracking provision completely, as we had hoped, home schoolers did contribute to major concessions in the senate. The Immigration bill then passed in the senate 97-3 on May 2, 1996.
The Parental Rights And Responsibilities Act (PRRA)
The PRRA passed the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Wednesday, April 17, 1996, with a 4-3 vote.
The vote was split along party lines: Senators Grassley (R-IA), Brown (R-CO), DeWine (R-OH), and Thurmond (R-SC) voted for passage. Senators Heflin (D-AL), Feingold (D-WI), and Kohl (D-WI) voted against it.
This is the first major action on the legislation and a very positive first step. The PRRA next moves to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.
On April 16, Christopher Klicka, Esq., of the National Center and representatives from several other family groups heavily lobbied Senators Brown, DeWine, and Heflin, urging them to vote in favor of the PRRA. We were able to answer many of the senators' questions, and, although Senator Heflin voted against the PRRA in the sub-committee, he indicated he is willing to meet with us personally to discuss his concerns. Simultaneously, Doug Phillips, Director of Federal Relations for HSLDA's National Center, coordinated a fax alert to the six states with senators on the committee.
Senator Feingold's aide informed the National Center that he had not had a chance to look at the revised bill before the vote, and, therefore, voted no. There is hope that he may still support the PRRA in the long run.
Many thanks to the home school leaders, state organizations, and our CAP coordinators in Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama, Colorado, South Carolina, and Iowa who significantly contributed to the success of this effort.
The Careers Act (H.R. 1617) Passes The House And Senate
Ever since Goals 2000 was introduced, national educators have pushed the idea that if students with specific career interests were allowed to directly participate in those fields (through internships or part-time employment), the students would learn more and have a better chance to get a job when they graduate. When the student completed this program, he or she would receive a "certificate of mastery," showing that he or she is thoroughly versed in the specified job, thus giving the graduate an edge when applying for work.
The CAREERS Act, H.R. 1617, establishes local workforce development boards and geographical workforce development areas, along with numerous references to skill certificates, skill standards, and a National Skills Standards Board.
The goal of the bill is to eliminate fifty federal education and training programs. Another hundred of these duplicated federal programs were consolidated into four categorical block grants. Most of the programs in CAREERS date back 30-40 years and involve job training for adults to get them off unemployment, etc. Because it reduces the size of government programs (it kills the School-to-Work Act passed last year) and is far more efficient than the existing hodegepodge of federal programs, conservatives and Republicans backed this bill. On September 19, 1995, 345 U.S. Representatives voted in favor of passing the bill and 79 against it. Of the 79 congressmen against H.R. 1617, only one was a Republican.
The National Center for Home Education has received many calls lately from home schoolers concerned about current state and federal legislation dealing with "School-to-Work" issues. Of particular concern are the implications of the "certificates of mastery"-will home school students be required to earn the mandatory skills certificates in order to secure a job?
We have carefully monitored the progress of H.R. 1617 since its introduction and analyzed the language for any implications to home school students. The National Center and HSLDA concluded that there is no requirement that all students, including home school students, achieve a mastery or skills certificate in order to secure a job. Nor are there mandates for employers to hire only students who pass a skills certificate test or achieve certain skill standards dictated by the federal government.
However, as a precautionary step, we contacted Representatives Dave Weldon (R-FL), Curt Weldon (R-PA), Andrea Seastrand (R-CA), and Sam Johnson (R-TX), explaining the concerns home schoolers expressed. We also endorsed key amendments prepared by the Family Research Council, the most important of which stated, nothing in this Act shall mandate any individual to meet federally funded or endorsed industry-recognized skill standards or attain federally funded or endorsed skill certificates.
This amendment protects against misapplication of the CAREERS Act by the states to mandate that all students obtain skill certificates in order to secure a job.
Congressman Dave Weldon's office promised to circulate our letter and the amendments to other conservative Republicans. Congressman Wayne Allard's (R-CO) office contacted us and requested a copy of our letter. They asked what requisite protections home schoolers wanted in H.R. 1617 to alleviate their concerns. Of course we expressed our overall opposition to H.R. 1617 and informed the congressman's office that we do not believe this is a legitimate role for the federal government.
HSLDA and the National Center are seeking to have the Restoring Local Schools Act introduced. This Act would completely wipe out $60 billion worth of programs and end the federal role in education, including the youth training aspects of H.R. 1617 and any other educational programs.
However, it was necessary to affect certain changes in the CAREERS bills being voted on in the meantime. Therefore, we endorsed the amendments to H.R. 1617.
Congressmen and other conservatives contacted by the Family Research Council and other lobbying groups, met with the chairman of the House Education Committee, convincing him to introduce the most important amendment. As a result, on September 19, Congressman Goodling (R-PA) introduced the amendment on the floor of the House and asked for unanimous consent for its immediate consideration-preempting all other amendments being considered that day. He was granted permission to introduce the amendment, and it was passed by unanimous consent. H.R. 1617 now states in section 112 and 211(d):
Nothing in this Act shall mandate that any individual, particularly youth served under Title II of this Act, be required to choose a specific career path or major, or to meet federally funded or endorsed industry-recognized skill standards or obtain federally funded or endorsed skill certificates.
We praise God for this protection and the work of these congressmen in adding the amendment.
On October 11, 1995, the Senate voted 97-2 to pass the Senate version of H.R. 1617 (S. 243). The Senate's bill is very similar to H.R. 1617, however, it does not include the important amendments, despite our attempt to have them added.
Now both the Senate and House versions of the CAREERS Act are in conference committee where the differences will be reconciled. We have been in weekly contact with key staff members on the conference committee, and they assure us that our House amendments cited below will remain during the reconciliation process. Neither side has any desire to alter our endorsed provisions and, therefore, we believe home schoolers will be protected. In the highly unlikely event the House amendments are not included in the final version of the bill, the National Center and HSLDA will send out a nation-wide alert notifying our members to contact their congressmen and urge them to amend the final language.
On May 2, 1996, Michael Farris and other pro-family groups met with Dick Armey, House Majority Leader, to express their concerns with and opposition to the CAREERS Act. Explaining HSLDA's opposition to the CAREERS bill on Tenth Amendment grounds, Mike Farris also pointed out that School-to-Work contains provisions which establish unelected boards in the states, violating the basic principles of our republican form of government. And he reminded those assembled that since the beginning of this year, we've been working to introduce the Restoring Local Schools Act into Congress.
We are also working to make certain the School-to-Work Act is repealed, all references to the National Skills Standards and a National Skills Board are removed, as well as in references to the establishment of a national database.
Nonetheless, we oppose the federal government's involvement in all areas of education and will work to introduce our Restoring Local Schools Act which will repeal School-to-Work programs and $60 billion in education funding.
Nothing in this act shall mandate that any individual, particularly youth served under title II of this act, be required to choose a specific career path or major or to meet federally funded or endorsed industry-recognized skill standards or attain federally funded or endorsed skill certificates.
National and State Funding
(d) PROVISO.- one of the funds made available under this title shall be used to compel any youth to pursue a specific career or to attain a federally funded or endorsed skill certificate. Youth participating in programs under this title shall be eligible to change their course of study and training.
Education Update: Abolishing The Federal Role In Education
Over the last year, the National Center for Home Education has spent a considerable amount of time and effort promoting our Restoring Local Schools Act, a bill to abolish the federal role in education by eliminating $60 billion in education spending in departments throughout the federal government.
We initially hoped we would be able to work with Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL) to amend his education bill, H.R. 1883, to conform to the language of the Restoring Local Schools Act. Unfortunately, this effort was not successful. In its present form, Scarborough's bill cuts only $4.5 billion in educational programs. The latest word we received from the House leadership is that H.R. 1883 will not even be brought to a vote this year.
Senate Restores Goals 2000 Funding
On March 12 the Senate, in a major concession to President Clinton, voted 84-16 to pass H.R. 3019. This bill adds the $2.7 billion in education funding Clinton demanded to keep the Department of Education (ED) operating until the end of the fiscal year. The bill also increases funding for summer youth jobs, Head Start, School-to-Work programs, and Goals 2000.
The House had previously voted to eliminate Goals 2000, and severely cut funding for School-to-Work and Head Start. H.R. 3019 now heads to conference committee to reconcile the Senate and House versions. At this point, the final outcome is difficult to predict. Nevertheless, the Senate's passage of H.R. 3019 signals a giant step away from abolishing the federal role in education.
House Members Advocate Abolishing ED
In contrast to the Senate, the House continues to educate the public on the need to completely abolish the ED. On February 28, the Republican leaders of the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee were joined by House Majority Leader Dick Armey to reveal the results of a comprehensive review of all federal education programs within the federal government. The Opportunities Committee discovered even more federal education programs than the National Center and HSLDA had in our research. They document 760 federal education programs in 39 separate agencies, departments, commissions, and boards with combined funds totaling $120 billion! Furthermore, they found that only 6% of these programs have as their primary function the teaching or support of math, reading, or science.
Congressman William Goodling (R-PA) stated, "This massive list of federal education programs clearly demonstrates what many of us had suspected for quite some time-that Washington is out of control and out of touch." He stated further, "Federal education programs have been focusing on government bureaucrats, rather than on educating our children … research clearly shows that the key to success for our children is three-fold: local control and flexibility, parents that are committed and involved, and a strong emphasis on basic academics." Congressmen Peter Hoexstra (R-MI), Buck McKeon (R-CA), and Randy Cunningham (R-CA) joined with Goodling. McKeon stated, "The Clintons say that it takes a village to raise a child, but that is only because it takes a village just to fill out this paper work," as he pointed to a huge stack of papers that are required for all the Education Department's programs.
In the meantime, our Restoring Local Schools Act continues to receive attention. A number of Congressman who were previously co-sponsors of H.R. 1883 have contacted us showing greater interest in co-sponsoring the Restoring Local Schools Act. We hope this momentum will establish the groundwork for truly abolishing the federal role in education in 1997.
EA Programs Would Cost $702 Billion
The Alexis de Toqueville Institute has issued a report analyzing the National Education Association's funding bid. Entitled "The Fiscal Impact of the NEA's Legislative Agenda," the de Toqueville Institute reports that if every item in the NEA's "Legislative Program for the 104th Congress" were enacted, federal spending would increase by at least $702 billion annually! This translates to an approximate annual tax increase of $10,554 for a family of four! This study exposes the costly, big government agenda of the NEA as it seeks to expand its control.
Copies of The Fiscal Impact of the NEA's Legislative Agenda are available from the National Center for Home Education, P.O. Box 125, Paeonian Springs, VA 22129; (540) 338-5600. With your request, please include a self-addressed, 9"x13" envelope, metered or stamped with 78¢ postage.
South Africa Still Needs Our Help
In previous reports we have explained the trouble facing home schoolers in South Africa and encouraged our members to write to the South African Embassy in order to pressure the South African government to formally legalize home schooling. Through past efforts, home schoolers have successfully affected the South African government. However, Leendert van Oostrum, a home school leader in South Africa, urges us to continue writing.
In a recent meeting with the National Ministry of Education, home school leaders were told that the Ministry is drafting legislation which would amount to a very restrictive version of "approval legislation." Other senior provincial officials have started making statements "to the effect that the holiday from persecution that home schoolers have enjoyed over the past three years is almost over."
Many U.S. home schoolers can empathize with this situation it has not been that long since many of our states were afflicted by the arbitrary discretionary approval of school authorities. Again we ask you write a letter to the South African Embassy, urging them to specifically recognize home schooling in their country.
Ambassador Franklin Sonn
Embassy of the Republic of South Africa
3051 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
(Please also send us a copy of your letter.)
Writing letters to the South African Embassy can be a great project for the whole family. You could even use it as a catalyst for a unit study on the country. Christopher J. Klicka, Esq., Executive Director of the National Center for Home Education, a division of HSLDA, has prepared a brief history of South Africa and more details on the political efforts to legalize home schooling in that country. You may request a copy from the National Center for Home Education, P.O. Box 125, Paeonian Springs, VA 22129. Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.