Preparing for the Future: What’s Ahead?
The top question on many homeschoolers’ minds in 2009 is, “What can we expect from our new president, Barack Obama? How will his administration impact homeschooling freedom and parental rights?”
HSLDA / Art CoxJ. Michael Smith, President, Home School Legal Defense Association
AGAIN I SAY
TO YOU, DO NOT
After Obama was elected last November, members and non-members alike began
calling Home School Legal Defense Association to ask whether their freedom to homeschool would remain safe or whether they should consider moving to another country.
I want to encourage you today—just as HSLDA encouraged our members and friends in a November 2008 email—we cannot react in fear.
Back in 1992, HSLDA experienced a similar response to President Bill Clinton’s election, in large part because his wife, Hillary Clinton, had clearly outlined an anti-parental rights agenda in her book, It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.
Let’s first discuss the issue of homeschool freedom. Although HSLDA asked then-candidate Obama’s campaign, they did not respond to our question about where he stood on homeschooling. In his book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, he did disclose that he knew about homeschooling and conceded that, for some families, it might be the best choice.1 It’s fair to say we don’t know how he will view homeschooling.
We do know that he believes that public education can be improved through standardized curriculum and testing.
We should remember that the United States Constitution does not give the federal government authority in the area of education. However, the federal government obtains control over education through mandating standardization in schools. First, the government offers education funding to states. Then, if states accept this money, they are bound to follow federal rules for using the funds.
Nor does the federal government have
any authority over private schools or homeschools. Since the link to control by the federal government is through grants and benefits, the lesson to private educators is
to stay off the government dole.
So should homeschoolers be concerned about the federal government
imposing its will on homeschoolers? The answer is “yes.”
One major piece of legislation that
will be addressed by the Congress is the massive bill funding public education which is now called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Billions of dollars will be allocated to public schools throughout the United States.
Let’s take a look back to 1994, when this enormous education funding bill was being addressed by the U.S. House of Representatives. At that time, it was called the Secondary and Elementary Education Act, also known as H.R. 6. The bill was over 1,300 pages long, and one amendment to the bill conditioned all the funding on the requirement that all teachers in a given state be certified in every teaching area. The states were given four years to get this accomplished, or they would lose their right to federal funds.
Efforts to get the bill amended to apply only to “public school teachers” were unsuccessful and the famous battle of H.R. 6
ensued. Over a 10-day period, more than a million homeschoolers called their congressmen and essentially shut down Congress’ ability to communicate with their constituents on any other issue. When the vote was finally taken, homeschoolers prevailed 413 to 1. And, as a fitting climax, Representative Dick Armey (TX) introduced an amendment which was voted into law stating that neither the federal government nor Congress has authority over private and home education.
In 2000, HSLDA worked with Congress to add similar language to NCLB.
While we hope there will not be a repeat of the H.R. 6 battle, HSLDA will, through our federal relations department, continue to monitor any and all education bills to make sure that their language clearly indicates that the content of the legislation pertains only to public schools, not to private schools or homeschools.
Additionally, we will seek language that clearly indicates that no provisions of any act dealing with the funding of public education applies to homeschooling, whether the homeschooling is conducted as a
private school or is otherwise defined as a homeschool by the state.
Our second concern has to do with parental rights. The greatest threat
to parental rights on the scene is the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This article does not afford
me the opportunity to explain in detail
why the CRC is dangerous to parental rights, but please go to www.parentalrights.org for a clear explanation. Suffice it to say, the CRC puts into jeopardy the current fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their child. The CRC was signed by the Clinton administration but was not passed because of
the lack of support in the Republican-controlled Senate. Then, when President Bush was elected, he indicated that he would not seek ratification of the CRC and opposed its ratification.
The CRC would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate to pass. At the time of this writing, it appears that the Democrats will end up with at least 60 senators, for a clear majority. We do know that Vice President Joe Biden has publicly indicated that the CRC should be ratified by the United States.
But what do we know about President Obama, who will actually have to put the CRC forward? He was asked his position on the CRC prior to the election, and this was his response: “It is important that the United States return to its position as a respected global leader and promoter of human rights. It’s embarrassing to find ourselves in the company of Somalia, a lawless land. I will review this and other treaties and ensure that the United States resumes its global leadership in human rights.”2 (Obama refers to
the fact that Somalia and the United States are the only two nations that have not ratified the CRC.)
From Obama’s words, it’s hard to predict, but I believe that this will be the next great battle that homeschoolers will face, even more important than H.R. 6, believe it or not. Should the CRC be ratified, it would impose the United Nations’ view of children’s rights on America. I can assure you that we will resist the CRC with every ounce of effort that we have, and with your help, we believe that we will prevail.
Again, I say to you, do not fear. However, do prepare. Be vigilant to keep your
membership active with HSLDA and keep connected to us via email. When and if
we do have to mount an opposition to
the CRC, we will need to be able to
communicate with our members and friends as quickly as possible. Snail-mail will simply not be effective—it is too slow and too expensive.
Thank you for your continued support. The best thing that you can do for yourself, your family, and the homeschool movement is to continue to teach your children
diligently, raising them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.
1. Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006), 344.
2. “Transcript: The Walden University Presidential Youth Debate,” Walden University, http://debate.waldenu.edu/debate-transcript.