When facing a barrage of bad legislation, as they did this January, home schoolers dont hide behind their books or cower around the kitchen table. They get out and fight for their rights.
Every legislative season a barrage of bad bills pepper home schoolers, but this year, the legislative attack was particularly harsh. Each one of the bills described below would have blasted another hole in the freedoms underlying the right to home school.
Defending the right of every parent to home school has been Home School Legal Defense Associations primary purpose from day one. We do that in many waysone important way is tracking legislation in all 50 states and working with state home school organizations to fight bad legislation and develop positive working relationships with state legislators. We are grateful for your participation in fighting these battles, and for the clear hand of Gods deliverance this spring.
Fights Weve Won
One of the worst bills to appear this year was Kentucky House Bill 960. This measure would have forced home schools to comply with all private school regulations. It would have dramatically curtailed the freedom of Kentucky home schoolers, imposed several unconstitutional requirements, and certainly led to serious litigation.
Among other things, H.B. 960s comprehensive new regulations would have:
- Required home school parents to give detailed notices to public school officials who impose school calendar and hours of instruction requirements. School officials are allowed to use this information for other purposes for which similar information on public school students may be used.
- Imposed difficult and invalid testing procedures. Kentucky home school students would be subject to testing using public school tests under public school control unless the parent provides an alternative test. The practical realities imposed by the short three-week notice from school officials and the imposition of a particular date for testing make it extraordinarily difficult for families to opt out of public school testing.
- Imposed teacher qualification standards: high school graduation, the GED, or passage of the Test of Adult Basic Education.
- Allowed public school officials to enter home school family homes at any time.
- Banned guns in all home schooling homesa blatant denial of both Second Amendment rights and equal protection of the law.
- Imposed earthquake management standards on home school homes (an unintended consequence of forcing home schools to comply with ALL private school regulations).
- Given local school boards authority to regulate all home shop equipment if parent teaches shop skills as part of the home schooling program.
- Created confusion concerning the legality of group classes sponsored by home school support groups. Section 1(1) limits home schooling to children of not more than two families or households [provided] by a parent, legal guardian, or member of either household. Group music lessons, physical education, or science classes would be of uncertain legality because of this definitional section.
- Allowed public school officials to collect and use personal data concerning home schooling parents and children. This wide-open provision invites massive invasions of privacy.
- Required home schooling families who move to Kentucky to attend public schools (or some alternative) for two weeks (unless the family knew to notify local authorities of their intent to home school in advance of arriving in Kentucky).
H.B. 960 was introduced on March 1 by Representatives Barbara White Colter (R-90), Howard Cornett, and Scott Alexander. In response, HSLDA, Christian Home Educators of Kentucky, and Kentucky Home Education Association promptly sent alerts, urging their members to take swift action to oppose the bill. The Kentuckians immediately and spiritedly informed the legislature just how bad an idea H.B. 960 was.
When CHEKs Joe Adams learned that the house education committee would be discussing H.B. 960, HSLDA and the state organizations alerted their members again. Following that March 22 committee meeting, it appears that H.B. 960 is dead for this year. However, HSLDA anticipates a future similar attack, since the bills author seems determined to impose at least testing and teacher qualifications upon home schoolers.
Kentucky home schoolers werent the only ones facing threatening legislation. Teacher certification recently reared its ugly head in Rhode Island. Introduced by Senator Jonathan Oster (D-34) on February 8, this outrageous and unconstitutional proposal sparked an alert by the Rhode Island Guild of Home Teachers (RIGHT) and articulate, passionate protest from hundreds of parents across the state. In response to the groundswell of opposition to S.B. 2308, the Senate Minority Whip wrote, I have spoken to the bills sponsor . . . He assures me that there will be no action whatsoever on the bill this yeari.e., it is dead. However, this attack has rallied Rhode Island home schoolers to reform the states statute, and HSLDA is working with state leaders on reform strategy for next year.
Another control tactic is trying to force home schoolers to register. On December 9, 1999, Michigan Representative Gilda Jacobs (D-35) introduced House Bill 5198, which would have required all home schoolers to register the name and age of each school age child with the local school district. This is a significant departure from current law, which gives home school families the right to operate without registration or notice of any kind.
Ironically, Representative Jacobs told HSLDA that home schoolers should be happy to register because it would enhance their credibility. But the credibility the home school movement now enjoys was not granted as a government favor. It was earned years ago as families who felt that God had called them to home school chose to suffer persecution rather than reject their calling and chose to help their children achieve success during an era of academic and social decay in public schools.
HSLDA and Information Network for Christian Homes (INCH) quickly alerted their members to start a calling campaign as soon as the legislature reconvened in January. Michigan home schoolers responded resoundingly, with some legislators reporting 80 calls a day! HSLDA received assurance from leaders in both the senate and the house that the bill would not be acted upon.
An excellent home school friendly bill was drafted by Will Shaw of Virginia Home Educators Association. However, an eleventh hour amendment to House Bill 486 would have required all home school students to pass a statewide Standards of Learning assessment test. HSLDA alerted our members and Virginia home schoolers lit up the phone lines across the state. With prompt action from Mike Farris, Home Educators Association of Virginia, and Virginias home schoolers, senators responded to trounce the amendment. Unfortunately, even the beneficial aspects of the bill failed to pass the senate.
An example of legislation which did not directly mention home schooling, but would have nonetheless been a serious threat to parents appeared in the form of New Hampshire H.B. 1565, introduced on January 5 by Representative Irene Puatt (D-5). This child welfare bill would have expanded the definition of child neglect to include the failure to provide appropriate educational treatment, inadequate nurturance or affection, and verbal or emotional assault. If this bill had passed, it would have given judges the power to decide exactly how much affection would be legally adequate.
Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire posted an alert on their website and lined up several people to testify at the February 2 committee hearing. Meanwhile, HSLDA alerted our own New Hampshire members to H.B. 1565s dangerous proposals. Thankfully, this spectacular collection of psychobabble died in committee following this opposition.
Introduced by Colorado Representative Valentin Vigil (D-32) on January 26, H.B. 1335 would have stripped parents of their right to choose a qualified person to perform annual evaluations, given the superintendent approval power over the curriculum for home schooled children who had been habitually truant while in public school, and given the state board of education vast new powers to require information on the annual notice. Home School Legal Defense Association, Christian Home Educators of Colorado, Concerned Parents of Colorado (Treon Goossen), and other organizations alerted their members, generating a flood of calls and letters bringing the bill to a dead stop in committee.
Following a spate of compulsory attendance age expansion attempts across the nation last year, on January 31 of this year, Maryland Senator Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-45) introduced Senate Bill 298. This bill would have raised the age of compulsory attendance from 16 to 18 years of age. Maryland is one of the more heavily regulated states in the country. In addition to diminishing parental rights, this measure would mean two more years of bureaucracy for all home schoolers.
In response to alerts issued by HSLDA, Christian Home Educators Network, and Maryland Association of Christian Home Educators, home schoolers called, wrote letters, and prayed. CHEN and MACHE representatives lobbied legislators. A number of people, including MACHE representative Daniel Cox, testified against the bill at a February 16 hearing. Chairman of the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee, Senator Clarence Blount (D-41), respectfully took McFadden to task for not providing funding for the thousands of unwilling teenagers this bill would force back into public schools and for the special programs necessary for them. As a result of the hearing, the chairmans vocal opposition, and the many phone calls from Maryland home schoolers, these bills are effectively dead. (For more on this battle, see http://www.wcfs.edu/legal/.)
For approximately 10 years, home schoolers have wrestled with the South Dakota State Department of Education over the meaning of a law requiring birth certificates to be filed at the school. Naturally, the home schoolers claim the certificate should be at home, while the school officials contend that the certificate must go to the public school. Eight HSLDA members (four sets of parents) have been arrested and prosecuted for failure to supply their childrens birth certificates to the public school. To clarify this issue, Senator Kenneth Albers (R-16) and others tried to add a new sentence to existing law through Senate Bill 59 which would have required home schooling families to file their childrens birth certificates with the school district.
In a dramatic turn of events, home schoolers witnessed the power of concerned citizens at the statehouse in Pierre. Following HSLDAs January 19 e-lert, home schoolers Mona Brush and Joanne Cutchin, two of the mothers who had been arrested, testified before the senate education committee at a January 20 hearing, backed by a score of other home educators. Five days later, Senator Albers amended the bill to permit birth certificates to be maintained at the site of the alternative instruction programcompletely reversing the original intention of the legislative effort. Victory was clinched on March 2 when the governor signed the bill.
It is interesting to note that on March 1, in the cases of State of South Dakota v. Conrad and Joanne Cutchins and State v. Nabholz, the trial judge held that the birth certificate statute was unconstitutionally vague. Following closing argument, the judge explained that it was just as plausible for the statute to require filing the birth certificate in the home as in the public school. The charges were dismissed.
These South Dakota families insisted that the school is where their child attendshome school, not public school. Both the courts and the legislators agreed with these dedicated parents.
Another South Dakota bill would have required up to six additional years of testing (current law requires three) for home schooled students. After H.B. 1249 was introduced on January 21 by Representative Daniel Sutton, (D-8), it passed the house, but was stopped in its tracks by the vigilance of HSLDA, South Dakota Christian Home Schools, and the South Dakota Association of Alternative Instruction Programs.
HSLDA sent an e-lert to all South Dakota members on February 18. While the legislation was still before the senate education committee, home schoolers from all over the state called to express their opposition. Thanks to their efforts, the chairman of the committee assured HSLDA that the testing provision would not survive. Shortly thereafter, the bills original contents were replaced with something entirely different.
In Mississippi, home schoolers enjoy one of the best home school laws in the nation. But Representative Roger Ishee (R-118) tried to impose mandatory testing of home instructed students through H.B. 582. Representatives of Mississippi Home Educators Association, after consulting with HSLDA, went directly to the committee assigned to handle the bill and clearly explained their opposition to this additional burdensome state oversight. In response, committee members assured the home schoolers that the bill would not make it to the floor. MHEA leaders credit the Lord for blessing their efforts to head off H.B. 582 at the pass. The bill subsequently died in the house education committee.
While home schoolers in Kentucky, Rhode Island, and the other states mentioned above are breathing a sigh of relief and getting back to the task at handteaching their childrenhome schooling families in other states are still embattled.
Anti-truancy and daytime curfew ordinances are dangerous tactics that undermine constitutional rights. While home schoolers have been opposing such measures on the local level for some time, now these ordinances are surfacing in state legislation. Tennessee H.B. 3149/S.B. 2425 and H.B. 1065/S.B. 536 would authorize attendance officers, sheriffs, and police to take into custody school age children found in public during school hours. New Jersey S. 227 and A. 1032 would authorize municipalities to enact daytime curfews.
Other legislators think that the way to keep children out of trouble is to keep them in school longer or make them start school sooner. South Carolina H.B. 4366 would raise the compulsory attendance age from 17 to 18 for all students including home school students. In Georgia, H.B. 1187 is awaiting the governors signature. This measure would lower compulsory attendance age from seven to six. Even more intrusively, it creates a provision for voluntary pre-enrollment of two year olds with the local public school district. Such pre-enrollment would require a certificate of immunization indicating that the child had received age-specific immunizations.
California is considering mandatory kindergarten for private school children (Assembly Bill 25) and mandatory health insurance coverage for children in private schools (S.B. 2020). Many home schools operate as private schools in California and thus would be forced to comply with these measures.
Another issue important to many home schoolers is exemption from state immunization requirements. While this does not seem like a home schooling issue on the surface, it ties directly to the constitutional rights underlying the right to home school: religious liberty and parental rights. Both Iowa Senate File 2314 and South Carolina S.B. 1061 would repeal those states religious exemptions from immunization.
These recent threats in state legislatures go to the heart of why HSLDA and your state organization exist. Our mission is to protect the freedoms of home schooling parents, whether a lone family is prosecuted for violation of compulsory attendance in a remote courthouse, or families throughout the most populated state in the nation are under attack by a legislator. By joining together, the voices of 60,000 families are being clearly heard. Thank you for supporting us and for working diligently. Together, we can restrain the arm of government control and advance the cause of parental rights.
NOTE: Federal legislation is tracked by HSLDAs National Center for Home Education. (See Freedom Watch)