HSLDA Co-hosts ESEA Briefing
On May 25, 2010, HSLDA co-hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), along with the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS) and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). Over 70 people attended from congressional offices and outside organizations. The purpose of the briefing was to educate members of Congress, their staff, and outside organizations about homeschool protections in ESEA.
Courtesy of Amy Sechler
HSLDA Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada addressed attendees at the Capitol Hill briefing.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S
INVOLVEMENT IN EDUCATION
HAS GROWN EVERY TIME
ESEA IS REAUTHORIZED.
ESEA was passed by Congress in 1965 and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. For the first time, the federal government was taking a significant role in education policy and spending. Previously, this area had been left to the states and local governments, in accordance with the United States Constitution. With ESEA, however, the federal government began using federal dollars as a carrot and placing mandates on the states in the area of education policy.
ESEA is reauthorized by Congress every five to seven years. Since 1965, the bill—and the federal government’s involvement in education—has grown every time it is reauthorized. In 2001, ESEA was reauthorized and renamed the No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB, as it is commonly called. During that reauthorization process, HSLDA worked with Congress to include language that specifically protected homeschools and private schools from any federal control, and that prohibited federally funded national curriculum, nationalized testing, nationalized teacher certification, and a national student database.
This was a major victory. The amendments guaranteed that the federal government could not use ESEA to control homeschools, and took steps toward preventing even more federal control over education.
In 2010, Congress is preparing to reauthorize ESEA, and the proposed bill contains mostly the same language as NCLB. HSLDA has been aggressively lobbying for the five sections protecting homeschools and private schools to remain in the reauthorized version. This was the purpose of our congressional briefing.
At the briefing, HSLDA Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada told congressional staffers, “There are hundreds of thousands of homeschooling parents who have dedicated their lives to educating their children, and we need to honor their work and ensure that their freedoms continue.”
HSLDA, ACSI, and AACS explained how national databases, nationalized teacher certification, and nationalized education standards could hinder homeschool and private school freedom. Maureen Wiebe, legislative director for AACS, explained, “A nationalized curriculum would not take into account the autonomy of private, religious, and home schools that allows them to use a curriculum consistent with their mission and purpose. This would have a debilitating effect on the ability of these schools to continue providing a quality education that is in accordance with the theological, spiritual, or pedagogical nature that makes them distinctive. Specifically, the religious freedom of faith-based schools and homeschools would also be jeopardized, should they be forced to comply with a nationalized curriculum.”
Along with urging Congress to keep protections in place for homeschools and private schools, HSLDA’s briefing coalition defended parental rights. Keith Wiebe, the president of AACS, stated, “Without question, quality parenting is the best predictor of a child’s future success and development emotionally, socially, physically, and intellectually.”
Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) and Scott Garrett (NJ) also attended and promised their support.
Estrada closed the briefing by urging the congressional staffers and the representatives of outside groups to fight to ensure that Congress keeps these important protections for homeschools and parental rights in the reauthorized version of ESEA. Although it is unclear whether Congress will reauthorize ESEA this year, HSLDA is on the forefront of educating our elected officials about the importance of protecting homeschool freedom and working to roll back the increasing federal role in education.
|About the author
Melanie Palazzo is the director of HSLDA’s Congressional Action Program.