God Is Still On The Throne — In Iowa, Too!
By J. Michael Smith
The Iowa Legislature came dangerously close this spring to passing a law which would have compelled home schooling parents to choose between terminating their home school programs or risking the loss of their children. Iowa, one of only two states which still requires home schooling parents to be certified teachers, would have subjected home schoolers to Child in Need of Assistance (“CHINA”) charges in juvenile court if S.F. 149 had passed. S.F. 149rsquo;s language subjected any home schooling family not providing instruction by a certified teacher for 180 days per school year to an investigation by the county attorney to determine if CHINA charges should be filed.
Over 90% of the home schooling families in Iowa would have been considered illegal in their education efforts with the passage of S.F. 149. Many families in weighing their options came to the conclusion that they only had one—moving from the state! Even the previous legal option of independent study programs with the public school commonly called the “Des Moines Plan” would have been illegal. This bill represented the most serious legislative threat home schoolers as a group experienced during the seven years of HSLDArsquo;s existence.
The bill was passed by both houses last year but in different forms. Therefore, it had to go through a conference committee to achieve a unified final statement of the language. Members and friends of the state’s two home schooling organizations, Iowa Home Educators Association and Iowans for Christian Education, then began an intensive lobbying campaign calling for the bill to be totally defeated or its language changed so that their concerns would be removed.
Two days before the legislative session was to adjourn, the conference committee decided to add several aspects of Governor Terry Branstead’s education proposal to the bill in a political move which would have made it extremely difficult for him to veto the final result. They combined these with negative provisions from S.F.472, which was introduced last year and contained requirements such as pre-screening for learning disabilities for home schoolers, dual enrollment in the public school, pre-approval from the school superintendent if a child was deemed learning disabled, and testing administered by the public school as the only evaluation method.
The home educators learned of the changes about noon Friday, and with the session closing Saturday, they used all their efforts to convince as many legislators as possible to vote against the bill. Since it was obvious that the bill would pass the House without difficulty, the major efforts were devoted to the Senate where polls quickly revealed that it would surely pass there as well.
Early Friday evening a motion was introduced in the Senate to accept the conference committee report. This is where the miracle begins to unfold. Parliamentary procedure required that the motion to accept the committee report had to be voted on before the bill could be introduced for a vote. A motion requires an absolute majority for passage (26 votes in this case because there are 50 Senators). The vote was 25 for the motion and 24 against the motion with one absent. The roll call was kept open by the Democratic majority for forty minutes in hopes that the missing Senator would arrive, because no matter how he voted—for or against—the motion would have carried.
Had the missing Senator voted for the motion, it would have passed because 26 votes constituted the majority. Had he voted against the bill, a tie would have resulted, and the Lieutenant Governor would have had the privilege of breaking the tie. He was in favor of the bill. It was later determined that the missing Senator was going to vote against the motion. He missed because he was attending a speech somewhere in Des Moines and did not know about the vote.
The home schoolers who observed the vote indicated that several Senators must have changed their minds moments before the vote. One Senator called a home school leader out of the gallery during the debate and commented that he was having second thoughts about voting for the motion. The home schooler suggested that he talk to several home school families in his district to make sure that they wanted him to vote against the bill. He made his phone calls, and when he came back into the Senate chamber gave the “okay sign” to the home schoolers.
Another Senator (member of the majority party) who had previously not been favorable to the home education view, made an eloquent speech on the Senate floor against the motion, citing constitutional rights of parents as being violated by the provisions of the bill. No one knows how many members of his party were swayed by that speech.
The prayers of his people moved God to have mercy on the home schoolers in Iowa. Isnrsquo;t it encouraging to know that God is still active in the affairs of man, and He loves to show Himself strong on behalf of those who call upon his name?
This incredible victory has brought back to the “front burner” HSLDArsquo;s case, Allen v. Iowa State Board of Education, which seeks to challenge the 1953 law that enacted teacher certification requirements in the first place. Recognition that the law is not consistent with Iowarsquo;s constitution would return teacher qualification requirements to a decision of competence rather than certification. Letrsquo;s pray toward that end!