The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXIV
No. 6
Cover
November/December
2008

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by Will Estrada
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The U.S. Congress and the California Homeschool Decision

While California state homeschooling organizations, pro-family groups, state legislators, and dozens of attorneys were fighting to protect homeschool freedom on the West Coast, state homeschool leaders and HSLDA were fighting a related battle on the East Coast. Here is that story.

As soon as the Rachel L. decision hit the news, HSLDA’s Federal Relations department began fielding calls from conservative organizations in Washington, D.C., and congressional offices. We explained that, while HSLDA opposed the Second District Court of Appeal’s decision, we needed to carefully consider the federal response to ensure that homeschoolers did not suffer unintended consequences.

HSLDA, state leaders unite.
HSLDA/Scott Woodruff
HSLDA and state leaders unite to combat a congressional attempt to “protect” homeschooling at the federal level. Pictured here: Nevada Christian Home School President Randolph Tobey (left), HSLDA President Mike Smith (center), and Christian Home Educators Association of California General Manager Susan Beatty.

At all costs, we knew home educators had to prevent legislation that would seek to “protect” homeschooling at the federal level. While such potential legislation may be well intended, it could lead to numerous unintended consequences, such as creating a federal definition of homeschooling. This could lead to federal regulations governing homeschooling and even open the door to later attacks on homeschooling by unfriendly members of Congress. HSLDA opposes any federal legislation dealing with the right to homeschool, because the Constitution gives the federal government no jurisdiction over education.

On March 12-14, HSLDA hosted state homeschool leaders from 31 states in Washington, D.C. This bi-annual legislative summit had been scheduled over a year in advance, but the providential timing was evident: the plight of homeschool freedom was on the mind of nearly every member of Congress and staffer, giving state homeschool leaders an unprecedented opening to communicate their message.

As the leaders were arriving on Thursday, March 12, for briefings by members of Congress, HSLDA received a heads-up that several very conservative representatives had decided that they needed to introduce bills to “protect” homeschooling at the federal level. On very short notice, we provided the incoming state leaders with talking points, which they then used during their meetings in congressional offices throughout the day. State leaders were able to provide an analysis of the impact of the Rachel L. decision and explain that federal legislation would be harmful, but they made the case that the Parental Rights Amendment would be the best way to constitutionally protect parents and homeschool families.

Our second step was to email all the members of Congress who might support a proposed bill, thanking them for their support of homeschooling, but making it clear that HSLDA would oppose a federal bill to “protect” homeschooling. Together with the staff for freshman Representative Paul Broun (GA-10), the Values Action Team chaired by Representative Joe Pitts (PA-16), and staff for Representative Buck McKeon (CA-25), we were able to get this message to nearly every conservative congressional office in minutes.

Third, we worked with Rep. McKeon and his staff to draft a carefully worded congressional resolution, HR 1076, which condemned the court’s ruling and urged the court to reverse its opinion. Although this resolution never passed the House, it gained 57 cosponsors. Senators Elizabeth Dole (NC) and Tom Coburn (OK) introduced an identical measure in the Senate, SR 572.

Fourth, HSLDA, Liberty Counsel, and Representative Jim Jordan (OH-4) drafted an amicus brief for the court of appeal rehearing of Rachel L., identified members of Congress who would sign it, and circulated the brief on Capitol Hill for signatures.

Although we had less than two days to get signatures, 19 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed onto the brief. They were Ken Calvert (CA-44), John Campbell (CA-48), David Davis (TN-1), John Doolittle (CA-4), Tom Feeney (FL-24), Randy Forbes (VA-4), Trent Franks (AZ-2), Robin Hayes (NC-8), Wally Herger (CA-2), Jim Jordan (OH-4), Doug Lamborn (CO-5), Dan Lungren (CA-3), Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11), Howard McKeon (CA-25), Gary Miller (CA-42), Marilyn Musgrave (CO-4), Ed Royce (CA-40), Pete Sessions (TX-32), and Mark Souder (IN-3). This brief clearly explained that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and should remain legal in California as well.

It was exciting to see this many congressmen so quickly take a public stand for homeschooling. We thank and salute our friends in Congress for their support of the freedom to homeschool.