Bill Seeks to “Educate” Parents
On June 11, 2008, Home School Legal Defense Association Federal Relations Director Will Estrada testified before the House Education and Labor Committee in opposition to portions of House Resolution 2343, the Education Begins at Home Act.
While the bill’s title may appear to be homeschool friendly, the legislation is actually yet another government encroachment on the sphere of education—literally entering families’ homes by providing for home visitation. H.R. 2343 seeks to expand the Early Head Start home visitation program to educate parents of children from birth to age 5 on parenting strategies with the goal of increasing children’s school readiness and identifying potential developmental concerns. Although enrollment in the home visitation program is voluntary, government employees would then be authorized to impose unelected officials’ educational agenda in private homes. This agenda could prove offensive and contrary to many families’ moral and religious beliefs.
THIS AGENDA COULD
TO MANY FAMILIES’
MORAL AND RELIGIOUS
In his testimony before the committee, Will Estrada focused primarily on § 9 of the legislation, which required the secretary of health and human services to ensure that every hospital, military hospital, and birthing center request parents to participate in a government-approved parenting class. Although it was not clear who would develop the classes, the bill suggested that the educational content would likely be composed by “experts” in child rearing and development, without regard to individual parenting strategies. Therefore, class materials could include highly biased content; for example, some “experts” claim that homeschooling does not meet children’s social and educational needs.
While the classes are optional, it is unclear whether medical centers—including religious hospitals—would have the ability to refuse the educational materials if their content violates the institutions’ fundamental values. Furthermore, according to the bill’s original wording, parents choosing not to participate in the classes would have been asked to sign a document stating their decision. As many homeschool families have unfortunately learned from experience, such records are often a legal powder keg, since opting out of enrollment in a government program is sometimes used against parents as an indication of child neglect.
Following Will Estrada’s testimony, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Danny Davis (IL), and co-sponsor Rep. Todd Platts (PA) conveyed their willingness to work with HSLDA to address our concerns about protecting homeschool freedom and parental rights. The amended version of the bill passed by the House Education and Labor Committee removed the § 9 provisions which could have pressured parents to sign up for parenting classes and might have led to social worker investigations.
HSLDA’s Federal Relations staff will continue to monitor this bill and meet with House committee members to amend the language. For updates on H.R. 2343, please visit HSLDA’s Federal Relations Department webpage and go to the “Federal Legislation” section. œ
|About the author
Amy Lynne Eardley is Congressional Action Program Director for HSLDA’s Federal