Victory for home schoolers
Michigan home schoolers have won a great victory! Responding decisively to a call to action with an overwhelming number of telephone calls to state representatives, home schoolers defeated House Bill 4521.
This bill would have modified the compulsory attendance law to require all home school children to take the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test and submit the scores to the state department of treasury. Families home schooling under exemptions (a) and (f) would have been required to comply with this law.
H.B. 4521 was referred to the House Committee on Education on March 27, 2001. Home School Legal Defense Association sent the first e-mail alerts to our Michigan members on April 2, 2001, urging them to tell the bill's sponsors they oppose it. HSLDA sent out two more e-lerts (April 6 and 16) updating the status of the bill and urging more calls.
Michigan home schoolers responded immediately. Representative Mark Schauer (D-62nd) received 700 calls-the highest number of calls his office has ever received on a single piece of legislation. Representative Julie Dennis (D-92nd) received over 500 calls in one week, and Representative Michael Switalski (D-27th) received 100 calls a day.
Bill sponsor Representative Schauer e-mailed his home schooling constituents:
Based on your input, I have concluded that H.B. 4521 misses the target in many ways, and I have decided to no longer support this bill. H.B. 4521 threatens to remove the flexibility that you enjoy in customizing your child's education. It could also result in encouraging home schoolers to "teach to the test"-a phenomenon that I don't feel is healthy in any setting.
Also in response to the overwhelming opposition, sponsor LaMar Lemmons (D-2nd) withdrew his support of the bill. HSLDA has received reports that other legislators have pledged to oppose the bill if it ever reached the House floor.
While the phone calls were pouring in, Dennis Smith of Information Network of Christian Homes (INCH), home schooling attorney Dave Kallman, and other Michigan home educators personally visited House Education Committee Chairman Wayne Kuipers (R-90th) and urged him to oppose this bill. On May 11, HSLDA asked Representative Kuipers to formally declare his position. These efforts were rewarded when the chairman issued a statement that he does not support H.B. 4521 and will not bring it up for discussion or vote in committee.
HSLDA rejoices with Michigan home schoolers in this victory, and we will continue to monitor the state legislature for any future legislation that might threaten home school freedom.
Fending off harrassment
The management of a subsidized housing development in Romeo sent a notice to an HSLDA member family who lived there, demanding report cards for each school age child living in the home. HSLDA staff spoke with the manager and pointed out that Michigan law does not require home schoolers to submit report cards. The manager agreed and withdrew the demand, indicating that a letter from HSLDA stating that the family is in compliance with Michigan law would be sufficient. We sent the letter and resolved the matter.
In Hanover, Mr. and Mrs. M were surprised and disturbed by a packet of letters their daughter recently received from a class of 3rd graders at their local public school. The students' letters described classroom activities and schoolwork. Many included statements such as "I'm sorry you don't have a class or classmates," "I hope you go to a public school someday," "Do you like home school?" and "I'm sorry you don't have friends to play with." It's unfortunate that the local 3rd grade teacher is using her students to make a home schooled student feel inferior simply because her parents have chosen home schooling.
Two other Michigan contacts deserve attention, and not because they were hostile. First, the assistant district administrator of Calhoun Intermediate School District contacted us regarding a home schooling family. The district stated that "the M's letter [of intent to home school] is inadequate, and we would appreciate a letter similar to the ones submitted [by HSLDA on behalf of] the H and B families." Second, in Grand Traverse County, the local prosecuting attorney contacted a member and asked to have us approve the wording of a letter that was being sent to home school families. The prosecuting attorney wanted to ensure that his letter explained home school law properly. We are thankful that these school districts are willing to consult with HSLDA regarding the home school law. This would not have happened 10 years ago.
We continue to receive calls from members on a variety of subjects and are able to resolve most of the social worker and school district contacts quickly. If you need assistance with a problem regarding your choice to home school, please contact HSLDA's legal staff.
- Christopher J. Klicka