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No. 3

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Bad Bill Kindles Record Opposition

Nebraska homeschoolers overwhelmed legislators at the state capitol on February 26, 2008, when they rallied to demonstrate their opposition to Legislative Bill 1141, Senator DiAnna Schimek’s onerous testing bill. Thirteen hundred homeschoolers showed up for a public hearing before the Nebraska legislature’s Education Committee, shocking capitol staffers who were not prepared for the response. The attendance was a record for a single bill, and capitol police were heard commenting on the homeschoolers’ polite behavior.

Introducing her restrictive testing bill at the hearing, Senator Schimek said that she believes a majority of homeschoolers do a great job and that there is only “anecdotal evidence” that homeschoolers are not fulfilling their responsibility. She acknowledged she was motivated to introduce the bill because “we don’t know what is going on” and to “catch kids who fall through the cracks.”

Senator Schimek pointed to Iowa as a model for her legislation. She even used information from the Home School Legal Defense Association website to identify Iowa (and other Midwestern states) as having a “medium” level of homeschool regulation. However, she failed to note that HSLDA’s website also indicates that, from Michigan to Idaho, a majority of the states surrounding Nebraska have very low regulation of homeschoolers.

Opponents of the legislation testified for over an hour as Senator Ron Raikes, the committee chairman, graciously allowed testimony to continue 20 minutes longer than scheduled. Dave Lohstroh, homeschooling father, former legislative liaison, and veteran of the early-1980s controversies surrounding Nebraska homeschoolers, testified that the current bill would violate the religious convictions of “Rule 13” homeschoolers (homeschoolers who maintain religious objections to meeting certain state education requirements). He also questioned the Nebraska Department of Education’s ability to administer the new law with its history of scandal and its current difficulty in managing Nebraska public schools.

HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly testified that Nebraska’s current law properly balances the interests of the state and the rights of parents. He went on to point out that L.B. 1141 would make Nebraska’s homeschool regulations the most restrictive in the country.

Following Donnelly’s testimony, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute presented widely known research that homeschoolers perform above their public and private school peers on objective measures of academic and social performance. Dr. Ray asserted that L.B. 1141 operated from a “flawed premise” because it wrongly assumed that the state has “prior authority” over children.

The 1,300 rallying to the capitol that day were an amazing testimony to the dedication of Nebraska homeschoolers. It is such a privilege for HSLDA to serve the people of Nebraska, and we pray that the Education Committee will see that there is no need or public demand for restrictive legislation. We will keep you informed as the work continues.

— by Michael P. Donnelly