Here are some highlights of the federal legislation HSLDA is tracking this year:
Important Changes for Senate ESEA
On February 16, the Senate released its initial reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act. HSLDAs National Center for Home Education legal staff have reviewed this bill and are working closely with Senate staff to make important changes that will protect home schoolers and curtail the growth of wasteful government education programs.
On the House side, HSLDA worked with the Education and Workforce Committee to add several important measures to the ESEA reform package. The four most significant are:
1) Specific language that exempts home schoolers from any regulation under the ESEA or any other act administered by the Department of Education;
2) A section prohibiting development or implementation of a National Test;
3) A complete repeal of the remaining portions of Goals 2000; and
4) An exemption for all home schools from the Gun-Free School Zone Act.
The current Gun-Free School Zone language dictates that guns cannot be brought within 1000 feet of a school. However, because this law does not distinguish the difference between a home school and a traditional school building, some officials have interpreted this to mean that having a firearm in a home school is illegal. Thankfully, the staff at the House of Representatives has agreed to clarify this law in this years bill.
Straight As Poised to Pass Senate
HSLDA supports efforts to reduce the federal role in education and return education spending decisions to the states and local government. The Academic Achievement for All (or Straight As) Act takes a huge step in this direction. This spring, Senate leadership is moving ahead with Straight As, passed by the House last year. This legislation allows up to 15 states maximum flexibility in how they use federal K12 funds and eliminates federal strings from many failed education programs. Straight As will not be passed as a stand-alone bill. It is part of this years Elementary Secondary Education Act reauthorization, which the Senate Education Committee already passed.
Senate Scheduled to Vote on Dangerous RLPA
After passing the House last year, the Religious Liberty Protection Act is back on the radar screen. Senate leadership has placed the RLPA on their official calendar for a vote soon. However, many senators plan to offer amendments to the legislation, and opposition is increasing. These factors are weakening the coalition of RLPA supporters.
HSLDA opposes the RLPA because it will authorize the protection of religion through the constitutional power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. We believe that relying on the Commerce Clause will actually lead to increased federal regulation of religion.
House Passes Marriage Tax Penalty Relief
Although the phrase H.R. 6 has become synonymous with a 1994 legislative battle home schoolers fought against a federal teacher certification mandate, this years H.R. 6 is actually a good thing for families: the Marriage Tax Penalty Relief Bill proposes to eliminate the IRS unequal treatment of married vs. cohabiting couples.
On February 7, HSLDA issued a national alert asking home schoolers to call and ask their congressman to support H.R. 6. On February 10, the Marriage Tax Penalty Relief Bill, passed the House of Representatives.
For more information, visit http://www.hslda.org/docs/IssueCenter.asp?IssueID=79.
Senate Passes Education Savings Accounts
On March 2, the Senate approved the Education Savings Account bill (S.1134) for the fourth year in a row. This bill allows parents to save for a childs elementary, secondary or college education by using special accounts that earn tax-free interest. The decisive 6137 vote is the widest margin of Senate support this proposal has ever received.
S. 1134 would expand existing college-only savings accounts by increasing the maximum annual contribution from $500 to $2,000. It also would allow this money to be used for expenses connected with K12 education in public, religious, independent, or home schools.