Presenting the most intrusive plan of testing which has ever been attempted, the Montana School Board Association proposed legislation designed to force home-schooled children to participate in all public school assessment programs authorized by the state board of education. The range of the board's proposal was so broad that home school children would not only be required to come to the public schools for achievement tests, but students could be required to come in for the weekly spelling, history, and math tests each public school teacher gives to his/her class.
The Montana Coalition of Home Educators (MCHE) organized a massive counterattack with a letter-writing campaign directed to the chief sponsor of the legislation. As a result, the School Board Association was forced to find a new chief sponsor since the original legislator declined to continue in light of the massive outcry.
MCHE consulted with HSLDA attorneys and other Montana attorneys to draft legislation which would further secure Montana's good legal situation by clearly specifying that all decisions regarding the education of home-schooled childrenóincluding testingówere the sole responsibility of their parents.
A successful hearing before the legislature, including the testimonies of both HSLDA's Michael Farris and Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, yielded a favorable Senate Education Committee vote for the MCHE bill on February 18. The full senate passed the bill 44-5 a few days later. On February 20, 1991, the house voted 11-9 to table the School Board's bill, effectively killing it for this session.
MCHE orchestrated a superb and balanced group of witnesses and produced over 400 home schoolers who jammed the legislative hearing room on February 18. A similar crowd was present in the senate hearing. Steve White, Kent Gilge, Danita Hane, and Linda Collins, are the members of the executive council for the Montana Coalition for Home Education.
HSLDA was particularly concerned about this legislation because it represents an attempt to move legislation in a more restrictive direction. Not every law which has passed in the last decade has been perfect, but none have gone backwards. The School Board's bill would have represented a direct attack on our philosophy of “no retreat.” HSLDA is committed to opposing any legislation going in the wrong direction.