The old adage attributed to Mark Twain, that "no man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session," is true. January through May-when most state legislatures are in session-is one of the busiest times of the year for our attorneys and their assistants at Home School Legal Defense Association.
Every year, HSLDA monitors hundreds of bills, working in conjunction with our online tracking service, state home school leaders, and family-friendly legislators. A few of these measures would increase freedom, but most are attempts to tighten the noose of state regulation around the neck of home schooling families.
The granddaddy of this spring's freedom-grabbing legislation was Kentucky House Bill 54. Although home schoolers in the Bluegrass State have happily and successfully operated for years under the state's private school exemption, H.B. 54 would have done away with this option for families, instead creating a newly defined "home school" status with its own new law.
Under H.B. 54, families would have to comply with a long checklist of unnecessary new regulations. Every home school instructor would have to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Each home school family would have to submit a traditional report card, a portfolio of the child's work, and a narrative assessment in planned intervals throughout the year to coincide with the grading periods of the local public school. Home schoolers would have to submit attendance reports, and take annual standardized tests with the results being submitted to the local school district. To top it off, truant officers would make annual home visits to observe the family.
Thankfully, Kentucky home schoolers effectively defeated this proposal. (Read the whole story "Head to head with the house".)
Unfortunately, the sponsor of H.B. 54 introduces home school regulation bills every year. This presents a significant threat to liberty that we cannot ignore.
A strategy to protect liberty
Liberty is the primary ingredient behind the success of the home schooling movement. It is vital that we preserve and promote liberty. So what should our strategy be as we face these legislative battles?
First, it is important to identify our motivation. We're not opposing restrictive laws for freedom's sake alone-we oppose them because they interfere with our liberty as parents to effectively teach our children at home. Some critics question why many home schoolers are concerned about "small," seemingly unrelated issues-like the District of Columbia's proposal to expand compulsory attendance to 3 year olds and some 2 year olds. Home educators have learned from history and their own experience that when one parent's freedom is restricted, the government has taken the first step toward restricting all parents' rights.
Second, we must understand the true implications of increased regulations. Where there is a high degree of individual responsibility, there will be a high degree of success. We are fighting to protect parent's responsibility and flexibility to adapt the educational program to their child rather than forcing the child to conform to an educational program. More regulation means less choice, less freedom, and less flexibility.
Third, we must have and diligently follow a plan for specifically opposing restrictive regulations. To that end, HSLDA continues to track all the legislation in all the states that has anything to do with parental freedoms and home schooling. We continue to work with the state home school leadership to prepare summaries of the legislation, pointing out why threats to liberty should not be passed.
HSLDA continues to notify our members of bad legislation through email alerts and letters, working in conjunction with the state organizations. Ability to defeat this legislation ultimately depends upon the grassroots response. You must be willing to write letters and make phone calls (emails are rarely as effective) to your representatives. You must be willing to attend committee hearings en masse. Telephone calls and letters, accompanied by a large turnout of families at the state capitol, are the real key to defeating bad legislation.
Your participation is essential to preservation of liberty. Join your local support group and state organization-they play a key role in legislative battles and need your support. Continue to partner with Home School Legal Defense Association to fight the good fight for liberty.
Finally, the value of prayer cannot be ignored. Please pray for the protection of home school freedom in your state. Where much is given, much is required. If we do not use our liberty as a license to be slothful, I believe we will, with God's help, keep liberty safe, and see that liberty expand in some of our more restrictive states.