Guarding our rights in 2002: Federal issues
While H.R. 1, President Bush's national education policy, is no longer on the agenda, HSLDA's National Center for Home Education staff report a number of federal legislative issues requiring diligent monitoring in the coming year.
Since 2002 is an election year, many lawmakers will be working vigorously to show their value to their states or legislative districts. On the surface this would seem to bring good service from our elected officials, but unfortunately it often translates into broadening federal authority in an attempt to curry favor from the electorate. As
legislators repeat the time-honored campaign mantra, "Here's what I did for you this year," it is important for citizens to keep watch on those entrusted with the nation's purse strings.
This is especially true in the area of education. Few items resonate more effectively on the campaign trail than the generic idea of "building a future for our children." For Congress, that means spending more money on federal education issues and otherwise getting the government more involved with the education of children. It is this philosophy of government intervention against which HSLDA continues to guard.
"Our top agenda item is always to make certain nothing takes place in Congress that will erode the freedom of parents to educate their children as they see best," said Tom Washburne, director of the National Center for Home Education.
"We see a number of subtle challenges being introduced by the enemies of home schooling and we cannot afford to think we are somehow in the clear or safe," he continued. "Certain media outlets are starting to raise what appears to be a coordinated question regarding the accountability of home schools, as if more government involvement was a greater guarantor of educational excellence. Parents are the ones who know best how to train their children, and we want to make sure that Congress doesn't act to the contrary."
Other, more specific legislative and regulatory issues that HSLDA will track include the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), the Higher Education Act, Education Savings Accounts, and attempts to improve the National Assessment of Educational Progress. HSLDA will also be monitoring attempts to establish a national identification program.
Caleb Kershner, the National Center's manager of federal policy and research, reports that there is a need to clear up misconceptions held by some universities regarding the admission of home schoolers. Unfortunately, a number of schools, misinterpreting the institutional eligibility provisions of the Higher Education Act, have refused to admit "underage" home school students. The National Center will be working to erase ambiguities in the federal code, so home school graduates under the age of compulsory attendance in a given state will not encounter these obstacles.
As we previously reported, HSLDA Attorney Christopher Klicka testified before Congress in a CAPTA hearing on the difficulties parents may face from anonymous tips and overzealous social workers. HSLDA's position is that the act, up for reauthorization next year, should be revised to require states accepting CAPTA funds to eliminate the use of anonymous tips, and establish a state law making the intentional filing of a false report a misdemeanor. HSLDA will also be working to see that any new bill dealing with social services will also specify that social workers must have a warrant to enter a home without consent, and that a Miranda-like warning be read to parents, informing them of their rights.
This will be a busy year on Capitol Hill. HSLDA, along with thousands of home schooling families across the country involved in its Congressional Action Program, will be vigilant in guarding the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
H.R. 2356 passes House: First amendment liberties still infringed
The Campaign Finance Reform bill, House Resolution 2356, passed the House of Representatives in the wee hours of the morning of February 14. The vote on the bill was 240-189 in favor of passage. The bill went through some modifications. However, it does not appear that Congress addressed the free speech issues being raised by HSLDA and others regarding vague definitions of impermissible "coordination" with political candidates. (Read more about these issues in our recent analysis at http://nche.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200202110.asp.)
As this newsletter goes to press, H.R. 2356 heads to the Senate, where a very similar bill passed last year. H.R. 2356 is being sent by its sponsors to the Senate rather than to a House-Senate Conference in order to restrict the options of House Leadership, who actively opposed passage. Thank you to all who made calls. Remember, facing principled defeat is better than doing nothing at all.