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Legislation threatens homeschool freedoms

On December 30, 2002, the House Education Committee of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly introduced a bill that would have effectively destroyed home education in North Dakota. Requested by the state superintendent of public instruction, House Bill 1182 would have required homeschooling students to meet the state content and achievement standards on state tests required of public school students in mathematics, reading, and science. Since the state standards are derived from the public school curriculum, parents conducting home instruction would have been forced to use public school textbooks in order to teach the same content on which their children would have been tested. Home education in North Dakota would have essentially become public school at home.

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Among other things, this federal law requires states to test public school students in the areas of mathematics, reading or language arts, and science at certain grade levels in order to measure their achievement of state academic content and achievement standards. North Dakota's plans to amend state law regarding the testing of public school students were intended to comply with the federal law. However, HSLDA added into this federal law a provision that specifically excludes homeschools from the testing requirement.

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to affect a home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a home school or a private school under State law, nor shall any student schooled at home be required to participate in any assessment referenced in this chapter.

If North Dakota wants to continue to receive federal funds for education, it must enact a law to require additional testing of public school students, but the Superintendent of Public Instruction has wrongly attempted to include homeschool students in this testing.

The House Education Committee conducted a hearing on this bill on January 15, 2003. More than 250 homeschoolers from across the state attended the hearing to express their opposition to the bill. HSLDA Attorney Dewitt Black and representatives of the North Dakota Homeschool Association testified against the bill, after which the Committee voted 14-0 in a "do not pass" recommendation to the full House. On January 30, 2003, the full House voted overwhelmingly to defeat the bill.

Dewitt T. Black