New Hampshire Gets First Home School Law
By way of quick review from our last newsletter, Senator George Disnard introduced home school legislation that was requested by the superintendents in the state. The law was not favorable to home schoolers. Attorney Michael Smith traveled to New Hampshire and was given assurance that the author of the bill would be open to amendments by the home schoolers. The home school leaders then went to work and were able to get the Department of Education to draft a bill favorable to home education. The bill passed the Senate and went to the House where great opposition was anticipated.
The bill was debated on March 15 before the House Education Committee. The home school leaders were able to schedule a pre-hearing with Education Committee members in which Dr. Sam Peavy and HSLDA's Michael Smith presented arguments and answered questions in an informal setting prior to the formal hearing.
The hearing brought an interesting development. Claiming she had been left out of the previous amendment process with the Department of Education, the co-author of the bill, Ellen Ann Robinson, introduced what she called a compromise amendment. Her amendments were very restrictive for home educators and would have made the new home school law worse than the existing law. (This is the same lady who was on the school board which brought suit against a home schooler after the board refused to recognize the family's program. She was also on the advisory committee to the State Board on regulations for home education and there expressed a strong statist view of educating children.)
The Education Committee appointed a sub-committee to review and make recommendations regarding the bill. They rejected the amendments offered by Ellen Robinson and accepted some suggested by the home schoolers. When the Education Committee voted on the bill, the result was “do pass” with a 14-0 decision. The bill passed the full House with a vote of 301-27, after which it was referred to the appropriations committee. There it passed with only two dissenters.
Senate confirmation and the Governor's signature on April 28, 1990, gave New Hampshire its first home school law. The new law allows parents to give a notice of intent to home school by August 1st, which would include the names, address, and birthdates of children being home educated; a list of subjects taught each child; the name of the correspondence school or commercial curriculum provider; the scope and instructional sequence for each subject; and a list of textbooks or other instructional materials. The bill provides for notice to be given to a non-public school principal and the home education program administered through the private school should the parent so desire.
Each home school must maintain a portfolio of its educational program which should include a log of reading materials, samples of writings, worksheets, workbooks and creative materials used. The portfolio is to be maintained for two years. An annual evaluation demonstrating educational progress “at a level commensurate with the child's age and ability” is also required. Four options are available for evaluating educational progress: (1) review of the child's portfolio and a written evaluation by a certified teacher or a teacher in a non-public school; (2) submission of test scores at the 40th percentile on any national achievement test (must be administered by a person who meets the qualifications of the provider or publisher of the test); (3) submission of test scores at the 40th percentile on a state student assessment test used by the resident district; or (4) evaluation by any other valid measurement tool mutually agreed upon by the parent and the superintendent.
The law also provides for due process hearings in the event the child does not demonstrate educational progress for age and ability, or if the superintendent has strong evidence that the home education program will not meet the requirements of the new statute.
Much prayer, travel, testimony, and creative amendments produced real victory in this bill. We congratulate the home schoolers of New Hampshire!