The Home School Court Report
No. 3

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Legislative Flurry

Vermont's homeschool law, as applied by the state department of education, has become so oppressive that the number of registered homeschoolers in the state has actually decreased. Whether this is because there truly are less homeschoolers is not at all clear-it is probable that more and more homeschooling families are simply refusing to jump through the department's hoops.

However, many Vermont families will soon enjoy the benefits of a new law. The original draft of House Bill 862 was a compromise between the commissioner and homeschoolers. Although the bill was an improvement over the existing law, it was far from perfect, and Home School Legal Defense Association could not support it as initially drafted.

Through the determined work of Retta Dunlap, director of the Vermont Home Education Network, HSLDA Attorney Scott Somerville was able to meet face-to-face with the commissioner. By the end of the meeting, the commissioner had agreed to scrap the draft form and HSLDA had agreed not to oppose the legislative effort. The commissioner then filed an improved version of H.B. 862, which became even better as it went through the House.

But the bill still had some drawbacks; at least a few families would be worse off if it passed. One particularly offensive provision kept certified teachers from evaluating their own children! As homeschoolers continued to voice their concerns, Retta Dunlap pressed for more improvements, and the commissioner demonstrated his good faith one more time by dropping the provision restricting who certified teachers could evaluate.

With that change, HSLDA was finally able to support H.B. 862. The bill was subsequently approved by the House and Senate and has been signed into law.

The biggest benefit of H.B. 862 is that homeschoolers who have been enrolled in Vermont for three consecutive years no longer need to file an "annual detailed outline or narrative describing the minimum course of study" for any one child. (This three-year stipulation will be reduced to two years in the future.) After being enrolled for three years, homeschoolers will only have to file one additional outline per child, when that child turns 12.

This helps the families that have been enrolled for three years, but it does nothing for the families who could not enroll in the past due to conscientious objections to the old law. Their struggle for liberty is not over, and HSLDA is committed to helping these families, too. We believe the success of H.B. 862 will pave the way for even more freedom before long.

— by Scott W. Somerville