The Home School Court Report
No. 5

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Legislative Wrap-up

With the close of the 2007 legislative session, it is time to assess both the good and the bad.

Despite overwhelming evidence that putting 4-year-olds in classrooms brings no lasting benefits—and may cause harm—Iowa became one of the only states in the nation to force taxpayers to foot the bill for statewide government-financed classroom time for 4-year-olds. Teacher’s unions around the nation are pushing hard to get more and more children into their system at earlier ages. In Iowa, the unions found a receptive audience, the legislature having taken a strongly statist lurch in the last election.

The legislature also passed mandatory lead testing for all children, including homeschoolers. It is not entirely clear when the law will be enforced, but in the future, homeschoolers will be required to have their children tested for the presence of lead in the blood, unless they have a religious exemption, they are exempt under rules to be adopted by the state department of health in the future, or the law is modified.

We can rejoice, however, at the defeat of several measures that would have eroded educational liberty. Although there was a tremendous push to expand the age of compulsory attendance, and passage of at least one bill looked all but certain, every proposal to start compulsory attendance earlier or extend it longer failed to become law.

The legislature rejected the opportunity to establish a definition of marriage through the democratic process, thus putting Iowa citizens at risk of unpredictable judges imposing their own idiosyncratic definition of marriage.

A bill that reflected a nationwide trend to expand the reach of social services workers into every home, Senate File 481 failed to become law. The bill would have created a new wide-sweeping program for government agents to visit the home of every newborn baby—except the homes of those few families who know their right to reject the visit.

While Home School Legal Defense Association believes that child abuse and neglect are crimes that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution makes it clear that families may not be targeted for government visits without a warrant. In our nearly 25 years of experience in dealing with social services workers, HSLDA has found that the vast majority of investigations turn out to be unnecessary, unfounded, and highly traumatic for families. We’ve observed that government workers who purport to visit a family for the purpose of helping them have sometimes turned out to be looking for justification for government intervention in the family’s lives.

This invasive program unanimously passed the Iowa Senate Committee on Human Resources. However, the 2-million-dollar price tag for this “big brother” program may have contributed to it running out of steam and failing to reach a vote on the Senate floor. This type of dangerous bill may surface again in Iowa or other states, and we encourage our members to oppose such measures.

House Joint Resolution 4 would have created “Home Rule,” giving counties much more power over citizens. This measure easily could have resulted in counties trying to impose their own homeschool requirements. Fortunately, H.J.R. 4 failed to become law.

A bill that would have helpfully established September 15 as the uniform date for filing the annual Competent Private Instruction (CPI) form (as opposed to the deadline being the variable first day of school in each district), failed to become law. However, the Iowa Department of Education has sensibly and independently adopted this date as policy, and the new CPI handbook and form state that September 15 is the filing date.

HSLDA members were active on many of these issues, making phone calls and visits to legislators, and the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) once again played a central role in protecting liberty. Our thanks go to all who helped defend homeschool freedom this year.

— by Scott A. Woodruff