The Home School Court Report
VOLUME IV, NUMBER I
- disclaimer -
Early Spring 1988
Cover
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Cover Stories

Is Certification Compelling?

Victory in Ohio

Contact Countdown

Negotiations in New Hampshire

Legislative Update

Farris Before President’s Commission

States in brief . . .

HR 5 update: School Improvement Act of 1987

Superintendent Declares Homeschooling Illegal in Illinois

Iowa on Hold

Pennsylvania: Worst State of the Year

School Boards Prosecute, Not Protect, Religious Freedoms

Superintendent Smokescreen

Climate in California

Features

President’s Corner

Across the States

C O V E R   S T O R Y

Legislative Update

Alabama

As in Kansas, there is no homeschool statute in Alabama. Therefore, homeschoolers have been operating either by using a certified teacher, or have operated as a “. . . ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches . . .” [Alabama Code 16-28-1(2)].

Although the law does not require church schools to have any certain number of students or meet in any particular type of building, the state superintendent, Wayne Teague, stated in June 1987 that he does not think that homeschools satelliting with church schools meet the criteria of a church school found in 16-28-1. Teague believes that homeschools can only legally operate if they are using certified teachers.

Even though Mr. Teague’s opinion has no force of law, it has caused much concern among Alabama homeschoolers, and has created a new boldness in certain Alabama superintendents. Since Mr. Teague’s opinion became public, homeschoolers in the state have sought to change Alabama law and make clear statutory provisions for homeschooling.

Homeschoolers have been successful in getting legislation proposed that would be favorable to homeschooling. House Bill 69 appears to have widespread support among legislators. While no legislation is perfect, HSLDA is encouraged by this bill. If passed, the new law would specifically recognize homeschools as legitimate schools in Alabama. A notice of intent would be required at the beginning of each school year and parents could choose from several different types of measurements to evaluate a child's progress at the end of each school year.

On February 24, the Joint Education Committee will hear testimony on the proposed legislation. HSLDA’s executive director, Chris Klicka, will be traveling to Montgomery to testify before the committee.

At present, the situation in Alabama is volatile. If passed, this legislation will provide the needed stability so that homeschoolers can instruct their children at home without fear of prosecution.

Colorado

The Colorado legislature is considering a new homeschool bill, Senate Bill 56. This measure has passed the senate and the house will be considering it soon.

In the last issue of the Home School Court Report, HSLDA reported that “emergency rules” had been adopted by the state board of education. This legislation is similar in some ways to these rules, but is less burdensome to homeschoolers. The bill’s requirements include: written notification to the local school district 14 days prior to the establishment of a homeschool and every year thereafter; certification in writing (from the parents) of the name, age, place of residence, and number of hours of attendance for each child enrolled in the program; standardized tests for grades 2, 5, 8, and 10; record keeping by the parents, which must include attendance data, test and evaluation results, and immunization records; and a curriculum which includes reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, history, civics, literature, science, and instruction in the Constitution of the United States.

While HSLDA would like to see an even less burdensome bill passed in Colorado, it is certainly an improvement over the present situation because the bill removes the power of approval from the hand of the local school district.

In Stratton, an HSLDA family was charged with violating the compulsory attendance statute. Attorney Chris Klicka called the lawyer representing the school district and discovered he was not aware of the provisions of the new “emergency regulations.” Upon further negotiation with both the school district and the family, he persuaded the school board to drop charges and recognize the family’s homeschool. The parents volunteered to provide a notice of intent and have their children take a standardized test in the spring.

In February, Bill Moritz of Woodland Park will file his answer brief with the court of appeals in the case Widefield School District v. Bohl, No. 86 JV 1389 Colorado District Court, El Paso County (1987). Chris Klicka of HSLDA will submit an amicus brief to the court supporting the Bohls’ position. This case has been upheld by two Colorado courts, but the school district has appealed it to the Colorado Court of Appeals. The courts in Bohl confirm the legal right of a Colorado private school to allow children to be enrolled in their school but attend classes at home. HSLDA has used the Bohl decision to protect dozens of homeschools that operate as “satellites” of Colorado independent schools. In La Junta, for example, five homeschool families enrolled in a private school were served five-day notices that they would be prosecuted. After Klicka talked with the school lawyer and sent him a legal memorandum concerning Bohl, the school district decided against bringing charges.

Nebraska

The state board of education voted unanimously to request that the legislature amend the present law regarding the testing of students in unapproved private schools (which includes homeschools). The law presently provides that regular achievement tests may be given. In the past, achievement testing has not been required. As a result, the state board had received criticism from members of the legislature for not monitoring how the students in these unapproved schools are doing educationally.

The law would be changed to indicate that regular achievement tests shall be given. “The results of such testing shall be used as evidence that such schools are offering instruction in such skills.” Should this proposed amendment pass the legislature, it would be up to the board to implement the procedure to be followed in order to fulfill the testing requirement.

HSLDA attorney Michael Smith believes that if the legislature truly supports mandatory testing, the legislature, not the board of education, should set out the complete procedure, as has been done in other states where testing is required. If the legislature decides testing is appropriate, it should leave no discretion to the state board or local school districts in order to avoid the inherent conflict of interest.

Smith also stresses the necessity of the legislature hearing differing views before it makes its determination. In order to accomplish this, Smith recommends that a committee hearing composed of representatives from all concerned parties, including homeschoolers, should be held so the legislators will be certain to hear from homeschoolers on this issue. The legislature must be alerted to the peril a testing requirement would have on the homeschoolers should the discretion for the implementation of the program be left in the hands of the state and/or local school officials.

As indicated previously, in order to keep a fairly reasonable homeschool law in Nebraska, homeschoolers are going to have to be active. Homeschool leader Ilo Tefft of Lincoln has already spoken out publicly on this issue indicating that there is no evidence to indicate that homeschoolers are failing to educate their youngsters. The evidence, in fact, is to the contrary.

There are elements in Nebraska that are very unhappy with the present law and they are going to make continuing efforts to “chip away” at it until the state has much greater control. Please keep informed as to the latest developments by becoming involved with your local support group.