The Home School Court Report
No. 5

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Regulatory Power Abolished

With a stroke of the pen in May 2007, Governor John Baldacci raised protection for homeschool freedom to a new level by taking away the commissioner of education’s power to make new homeschool regulations.

The requirement that homeschoolers seek “approval” from the state commissioner of education was abolished in 2003 with landmark legislation that helped Maine join the mainstream as more and more states move toward increasing homeschool freedom. This legislation had the effect of voiding all of Maine’s then-existing homeschool regulations, but it also gave the commissioner power to make new homeschool rules—with the added limitation that new rules would be subject to the legislature’s review and approval.

Even with this limitation, the renewal of the commissioner’s regulatory power was troubling because on at least one occasion prior to 2003, the commissioner had brushed aside overwhelming opposition from homeschooling families in adopting a rule affecting home educators. The 2003 law was designed to include enough detail that added regulations would be unnecessary, but we nonetheless braced ourselves for the commissioner to attempt adopting regulations.

As time passed, however, it became obvious that the new law was so clear and simple that regulations were indeed unnecessary. The Maine Department of Education never felt a need to propose regulations.

In recognition of this reality, Representative Jacqueline R. Norton (Bangor), chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, filed Legislative Document 150 a few months ago. L.D. 150 was designed to remove the commissioner’s unused power to make new homeschool regulations, as well as to effect several other changes inapplicable to homeschooling families. The legislature passed L.D. 150 on May 8 and the governor signed it on May 14.

Our thanks go to Governor Baldacci, Rep. Norton, the Maine Legislature, and especially to God, from whom all good gifts come.

The 2003 victory involved tremendous exertion on the part of homeschoolers, and significant publicity. This 2007 victory, however, was won silently. Moses’ words to the Israelites in Exodus 14:14 seem particularly relevant to this situation: “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent” (New American Standard Bible).

— by Scott A. Woodruff