|| LEGAL/LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
ACROSS THE STATES
Operating under the new homeschool law
On Friday, May 16, Governor John Baldacci signed into law Legislative Document 160, putting into effect a complete overhaul of Maine's homeschool law.
L.D. 160 repealed the law that required homeschoolers to obtain approval from the Maine Commissioner of Education. The many demands Chapter 130 regulations placed on homeschoolers in order to obtain approval are likewise a distant memory.
The authority of local school boards to exercise "oversight" of homeschooling has been abolished. Thanks to the hard work of home educators across the state, Homeschoolers of Maine, and Senator Carol Weston, the Maine Department of Education's role has been dramatically reduced.
During the final two years of Duke Albanese's tenure as commissioner of education, the department of education treated homeschooling families disgracefully. In February, Governor Baldacci nominated Susan Gendron as the new commissioner.
On June 3, several state homeschool leaders and Home School Legal Defense Association Attorney Scott Woodruff met in Augusta with Buzz Kastuck of the department of education to discuss the transition to the new law. It was evident during the meeting that Commissioner Gendron has a much more conciliatory attitude toward the homeschool community than Albanese. The department sees L.D. 160 much the same way we do and appears very willing to address issues that arise during the transition on a consensus basis with the homeschool community. This is a welcome change from the last two years.
HSLDA's advice to follow Maine's new law this summer
- File a written notice of intent (not "application") 10 days before or after the child's home instruction begins.
The notice includes the following:
|>>||name, signature, and address of the parent or guardian;|
|>>||the name and age of the student;|
|>>||the date home instruction will or did begin;|
|>>||a statement of assurance that instruction will be provided for at least 175 days annually and will cover the required subjects (same as previously required); and|
|>>||a statement of assurance that the parents will submit a year-end assessment (same options as before). If you homeschooled during the 2002-2003 school year, include your annual assessment with your notice of intent.|
- The notice of intent must be filed simultaneously with the local school administrative unit (SAU) and with the commissioner of education. Although no specific form is required, one is available on our website, and we recommend that members use it. (See link below.)
- By September 1 of each subsequent year, submit a letter to your SAU and the commissioner of education stating whether you intend to continue the child's home instruction program. Enclose with it a copy of your year-end assessment.
- Although not required, we strongly recommend that you send all copies of the notice of intent and all subsequent annual letters (with the accompanying assessments) by certified mail, return receipt requested, whether to the SAU or the commissioner. Staple the green postal receipt to the appropriate document when the post office returns it to you so you can readily document your compliance if a question ever arises. (Occasionally school officials do misplace paperwork.)
- The academic year is no longer rigidly required to begin September 1 and end August 31. You may determine when your academic year begins and ends. The subsequent letter and assessment, however, are due no later than September 1, even if this does not coincide with the academic year you choose.
- You must keep the following records until the homeschool program concludes: all notices, letters, and assessments you file with the SAU and commissioner. HSLDA recommends that you keep the high school-level records longer-until the student has finished all higher education, trade, or professional school, and all trade or professional licensure he may seek.
- If your local SAU notifies you that they will release "directory information" about your student unless you reply, the SAU is not aware of the additional privacy protection L.D. 160 brought. Please inform HSLDA immediately.
- L.D. 160 has no impact on those who homeschool via a non-approved private school. It has no impact on access to public school sports, classes, etc.
During this period of transition, we must be especially vigilant to guard the new homeschool freedoms enacted under L.D. 160. Please let HSLDA know at once if any official places any unauthorized demands on families. If one family acquiesces when an official oversteps proper bounds, it encourages the official to violate the rights of other families, as well. If such actions continue unchallenged, they may become policy.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The value of liberty, however, and all the blessings that flow from liberty, far surpass our small burden of vigilance. Maine homeschoolers, who came to Augusta by the hundreds to support L.D. 160, hold this conviction deeply.
To read the text of L.D. 160 visit: http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?ID=861.
— Scott A. Woodruff
Editor's note: See the Active Cases for an update concerning a sports access lawsuit in Maine.