HSLDA has had the opportunity to provide testimony in several states concerning new proposed homeschool laws and regulations.
In Maryland, on February 16, 1987, the executive director of HSLDA testified before a joint education committee concerning new homeschooling regulations that had been proposed by the state board of education. The board had introduced the new regulations in response to the homeschoolers’ pressures last year that resulted in passage of an excellent homeschool bill in the house which was narrowly tabled in the senate.
The board’s new regulations eliminated the requirement for homeschoolers to have a BA degree or a teaching certificate and eliminated local approval of textbooks and curriculum. However, the board added the requirement of a periodic home visit, up to three times a year. Klicka testified that the regulations were excellent except as to the home visits. Klicka argued that mandatory home visits violate families’ right to privacy and their right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.
The legislative committee agreed that the home visits were unconstitutional and recommended to the state board of education that it is necessary that the home visit requirement be made optional. The state board of education is presently rewriting their regulations (by-laws) in order to satisfy the legislature. A special thanks to local homeschool leaders Ellen Foster, Manfred Smith, and Gary Cox for their tireless efforts to push for better homeschool regulations.
In North Dakota, on February 19, 1987, President of HSLDA Michael Farris testified before the house on behalf of HB 1523 which would have replaced the requirement of a teaching certificate with a requirement that teaching parents have a bachelor’s degree. The bill was narrowly defeated by one vote! Farris testified a few months earlier before the education committee helping kill an extremely restrictive bill. Thanks to Clinton Birst, Executive Director of the North Dakota Home School Association, for his diligent work in preparing the way for a favorable homeschool bill.
In Arkansas, on February 18, 1987, Vice President of HSLDA Michael Smith testified before the senate education committee. The committee was considering SB 406 which would have amended Arkansas’ favorable homeschool law to require parents to have a high school diploma and to pass a teacher’s competency test. Smith argued that there was no evidence that the present law requiring the students take an annual standardized test was not working. In fact, Arkansas’ homeschool law has been very successful in meeting the state’s interest while simultaneously preserving the parents’ right to teach their own children. Smith emphasized that the proposed amendment was not the least restrictive means of fulfilling the state’s interest. Although the bill still passed out of committee, a couple key senators were persuaded that the bill was not needed and that it was constitutionally questionable.
Meanwhile, the sponsor of the restrictive bill, sensing opposition, delayed presenting the bill to the senate for three weeks. During this time there was intense lobbying by the Arkansas Christian Home School Association (ACHEA) and the teachers’ union. On the day of the vote, the bill was one vote short, so the sponsor had the vote “expunged” in order to vote again the following day. The sponsor figured he could win a few more votes. ACHEA, directed by Tom Holiman, however, concentrated on calling and lobbying key senators all that day and into the night. By the next day, the sponsor of the restrictive homeschool bill withdrew the bill announcing that not only was he unsuccessful in winning over another senator but he had lost several votes.
Through God’s grace this victory was achieved. This association, in the area of legislative matters, is a model. We suggest that any state homeschool organizations dealing with homeschool legislation should contact the Arkansas Christian Home Education Association, P.O. Box 501, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203, for information.
In Nebraska, on March 17, 1987, Michael Smith testified before the senate education committee in opposition to LB 682. This bill would have returned Nebraska to pre-Pastor Sileven days when fathers, private school administrators, and home schoolers were being jailed for not using certified teachers and meeting extensive accreditation requirements. Over 500 homeschoolers turned out and in addition to Mike Smith, Dr. Raymond Moore, attorney Tom McNally (of Alma, Nebraska), and several homeschoolers testified.
Smith testified that the proposed bill was unconstitutional because it would violate the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the homeschoolers. In essence, it would effectively prohibit homeschoolers from existing in Nebraska. Smith also objected to the home visitation requirement in the present law which has not been enforced since its passage in 1984. Smith responded to the state board of education's recent announcement that they would begin enforcing periodic home visits by May 1. Smith recommended that the home visit requirement be removed from the present law because it violates the homeschoolers’ right to privacy and their Fourth Amendment rights and it could result in many prosecutions.
As a result, the senate committee killed the restrictive bill (LB 682) and the state board of education has backed down somewhat from their plan to implement home visits under the present law. Homeschoolers need to keep alert and attend any future hearings on the implementation of home visits.
In conclusion, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Many homeschoolers living in states where good homeschool laws have been passed must be ready for attempts to overturn those laws. The examples above, in which HSLDA was involved, give us some indication that the NEA and other forces will not be content with homeschool laws that give them no power over homeschoolers.