Legislation Succeeds in North Dakota Senate
Legislation drafted by Clinton E. Birst of the North Dakota Home School Association with the assistance of HSLDA has miraculously passed the state senate by a vote of 48-4 and has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. Designated as Senate Bill No. 2542, the proposed legislation improves existing North Dakota law for home schoolers in a number of different areas:
- Removal of the requirement that a supervising certificated teacher be employed either by the public school district in which the parent resides or by a state approved private or parochial school;
- Substitution of the existing requirement that a parent pass the National Teacher Exam given in North Dakota for a requirement that the parent achieve or exceed the cutoff scores on the exam;
- Definition of an “appropriately licensed professional” as someone who is professionally licensed in North Dakota or equivalently licensed in any state in the area of the apparent deficiency of the child;
- Revision of the amount of time spent by a certificated teacher supervising home-based instruction from a minimum average each month of one hour per week with each student to a minimum average of one hour per week in contact with the first student in conjunction with the parent, with an additional minimum of one-half hour per month for each child when two or more children are being supervised; and
- Definition of “reasonable academic progress” set as attaining a composite score at or above the thirtieth percentile on the required standardized achievement test.
The senate bill also provides that no state agency, public school, or county superintendent shall incur liability for accepting as correct the information on the statement of intent or for any damages resulting from the parents’ failure to educate the child. This addition to the existing language of the statute does nothing more than acknowledge what the vast majority of home schoolers are already committed to do: to tell the truth and to assume responsibility for the education of their children.
On March 6, 1991, HSLDA Attorney Chris Klicka, local attorney Greg Lange of Hazen, and Clinton Birst testified before the nineteen-member House Education Committee. Mr. Klicka emphasized the necessity of enacting S.B. 2542 in order to protect home schoolers from the arbitrary discretion of local superintendents. He specifically explained the importance of honoring the bill's definition of “reasonable academic progress” so that the objective standard of the thirtieth percentile would be preserved.
Attorney Klicka testified that the bill's definition would derail the Department of Education's attempt to supersede the thirtieth percentile standard through its recently adopted regulation. The Department of Education regulations require each home school child to take a “mental aptitude test,” even though no such test can be found in the law. If the child's standardized achievement test scores are more than five points below his score on the mental aptitude test, the superintendent could arbitrarily find that the child is not making “reasonable academic progress” and refer him to the prosecutor.
As of press time, the North Dakota House has not yet voted on S.B. 2542. Please pray that the Lord will turn the hearts of the legislature to enact this much needed legislation.