Proposed Testing Law Threatens Home Schoolers' Rights
In February 1991, Arizona home school leaders became aware of House Bill 2286, a proposal by the State Department of Education and certain county superintendents, which would have dramatically changed home schooling in Arizona for the worse. Specific provisions in the bill include striking the notice of intent affidavit language presently in the law to require approval by superintendents prior to being able to home educate, granting authority to the State Board of Education to dictate to parents at what grade level their children would have to be tested, and giving county superintendents authority to ascertain which children are “not English proficient” or are “handicapped.” If superintendents could make such a determination, the Department of Education would administer testing to these students. A provision like this would have annihilated the distinction between public and private education and significantly interfered with parental choice for private education in Arizona.
A tremendous lobbying effort was organized by the state home-schooling organizations to oppose the bill, and HSLDA's Michael Smith was able to testify before the Arizona legislature's education committee. In a pre-hearing meeting, the author of the bill agreed to strike the objectionable language, curing the alleged technical problems with the testing provisions of the present home school law.
It was understood that the home schoolers would be given a copy of this amendment prior to the hearing. Unfortunately, the text arrived at 10:00 p.m., allowing the home schoolers very short notice that the language of the amendment was highly objectionable. It now specified that the annual, nationally norm-referenced, achievement tests would be administered by the county school superintendent between the dates of April 15 and May 15 at a site approved by the county school superintendent. This requirement would have eliminated the private school option many home schoolers are currently following in the state.
The home schoolers voiced their opposition to the amendment at a well-attended hearing the following morning and suggested a moratorium on testing for the school year 1991–92. The author of the bill, Nancy Wessel, made the motion, and the committee approved it overwhelmingly. Several committee members congratulated the home schoolers on their deportment at the hearing and their performance on the standardized achievement tests. One legislator even suggested that the state should be “paying” home schoolers because they are doing so well! It was obvious that the committee did not want the state to restrict the rights of the home schoolers in light of their excellent achievement record.
The bill then moved to the senate education committee. Because of a Democratic majority on this committee, pursuant to a five to four vote, the moratorium language was deleted. The committee reinstated the previously offered amendment which would require testing under the authority of the county school superintendent as to place and person administering the test.
Both state home-schooling organizations, Arizona Families for Home Education and Christian Home Educators Association, are working together to defeat H.B. 2286 or obtain an amendment which would be mutually acceptable. To receive the latest update on the legislation, readers are invited to contact either organization directly.