Home Schoolers Join Conservives in Opposing Education “Reform Bill”
During the final days of the legislative session, Congress battled fiercely to embarrass President Bush with an “education reform” legislative package that could not be signed without violating parenta authority and any sense of traditional moral values. The conference report of S.2(the Senate’s education bill) with H.R.4323 (the House’s education bill) would have appropriated $850 Million for the purpose of “fixing” America’s public schools.
This omnibus package would have brought no real change to public education, and it opened the door much more widely to the “one-stop shopping” concept of having public schools across America become the center for social services, health clinics, extended childcare, and Parents as Teachers training programs. The legislation would also have created a functioning supervisory body that would easily have become a “national school board,” where at the federal level curriculum decisions and eventually assessment goals could be directed for children across the United States.
Congressman Alan Wheat’s [D-MO] H.R.520, a bill which proposed federal funding for the establishment and growth of Parents as Teachers (PAT) programs throughout the states, was added to H.R. 4323 as an amendment during the final stages of the floor vote. Home schoolers across the nation opposed this effort with such resonance that it was changed from an appropriation in the conference report to a mandated study by the U.S. Department of Education for the purpose of determining the effectiveness of PAT programs.
Recognizing that legislation which applies to public education today often influences aspects of home school regulations tomorrow, home educators joined the efforts of many conservative pro-family coalitions in vigorously lobbying for defeat of S.2/H.R.4323. Victory came shortly before lunch time on Friday, October 2, 1992, when the U.S. Senate voted 59–40 to kill the entire proposal.
Clock Runs Out on Corporal Punishment Legislation
H.R.1522 will not be moved through the U.S. House of Representatives this year because of time constraints. While we can praise the Lord for this reprieve and the additional time we have been granted to gather our research and effectively communicate our position on the danger of such legislation, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the legislation will be introduced again during the next session of Congress. Representative Major Owens [D-NY] is committed to changing the situation that “Children sitting in the classroom are legal and acceptable targets for battery and abuse. In all public institutions in America except the classroom, the use of physical punishment is prohibited.”
Major Owens’ legislation would prohibit anyone connected with the receipt of federal funding from inflicting pain on school children in the name of discipline. In light of increased efforts by the federal government to voucherize our lives and provide parent training through the use of federal funds, even families could be considered the recipients of funds which then prohibit their ability to discipline children with a spanking.
Owens failed two years ago to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to withhold federal special education funds from schools using corporal punishment on disabled children. House Republicans have promised similar opposition to the corporal punishment legislation. But much remains to be seen as the composition of the House undergoes dramatic changes during this year’s elections.
NCLD Recognizes Importance of “Family” in Special Education
The National Center for Learning Disabilities Summer 1992 Newsletter makes a clear point that “The national emphasis on the idea of strong family influence [referring to America 2000 school readiness goal #1] has NCLD’s whole-hearted endorsement. In order to provide the kind of preventive measures which early identification underscores, it is critical to have a strong, supportive family. We must be careful to remember, however, that in this generation ‘family’ is taking on a variety of forms and that, for many youngsters, this does not mean the traditional family. For many, the notion of family will include all those who come into regular contact with the child, and it is important that those individuals have a sense of the at-risk factors for learning disabilities.”
The obvious problem with the statement above reinforces the concept that more and more government agencies are looking at all the professionals who work with a child as that child’s “extended family”—hence, the weakening of real family ties and parental authority in the child’s life. With these kinds of attitudes, it will not be long before the teacher or PAT (Parents as Teachers) trainer will be as viable a member in the extended family as the child’s mother or father. Children who have been diagnosed as “at risk” are especially vulnerable, and children who have been designated “special education” or “learning disabled” already have a vast amount of government regulation which governs the “protection of their rights.”
The NCLD newsletter article goes on to comment that “Keeping track of developmental factors will help diagnosticians later to assess the nature of any problem. It can also provide the opportunity to help the child overcome difficulties later.”
“Much of the focus on learning disabilities over the years has been in the school setting. We need to do much more to bring about the earliest possible interventions to put children on the right track, even before they start school. Learning disabilities occur throughout life and the success of each individual can be heavily dependent upon the help he or she receives at the earliest possible age.”
4-H Club Requests for Social Security Numbers Clarified
After many home-schooling families reported their dismay at being asked to give social security numbers for their children when registering them for 4-H Club participation, the National Center for Home Education called the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find out if this policy was being generated at the federal level. They assured us it was not and emphasized that the original legislation creating the Social Security Administration specified that social security numbers were to be used only for the purpose of identifying contributions to the program and service recipients of program benefits. The law specifies that social security numbers should not be used for general identification purposes.
Any 4-H Club in the country should allow your child to participate in activities without a social security number being given. The only exception to this policy comes when the child would be in a position to earn money from awards or the sale of animals/products. Then the laws which govern reporting of income affect your child, according to the policies of your state.
Clarification Regarding Fairfax Board Member
In the May-June 1992 issue of the Home School Court Report, we reported that families applying for a religious exemption from the compulsory attendance law in Fairfax County were being met with a new requirement. The Fairfax County School Board has begun operating under a new policy which requires children 14 years and older to be interviewed by either the school district psychologist or the school board. The purpose of this interview is to ascertain whether the child holds the same religious beliefs as his parents.
In the same article we reported the school board’s denial of Ron and Cheryl Downing’s religious exemption based on their refusal to submit their 17-year-old daughter for questioning. Describing the hearing, we stated, “The newest member of the school board appears to be particularly hostile to home schooling.”
While it is true that this board member openly and strongly disagreed with our legal theory, he was one of the few board members to vote for the family. We regret that we neglected to state this fact in our earlier report.
Gary Reese, the unnamed board member in our previous article, asked us to set the record straight, and we were happy to do so.
Virginia Family Celebrates Victory
After four long years of battling the Prince William County School Board, Tracy and Kathleen Johnson have finally received their official religious exemption. Earlier last year, the Virginia Supreme Court decided that it was possible that the Johnsons’ beliefs were not religious, but merely philosophical. In spite of the court’s disappointing ruling, progress was made and Virginia families have found it much easier to obtain religious exemptions. We praise the Lord for turning Prince William County from the worst schoolboard in the state of Virginia to one of the best in recognizing the religious freedom of home schoolers.
Dear HSLDA Staff & Fellow Members,
We just wanted to say a few words of thanks to all those who have stood by us over the past four years throughout our struggle with the Prince William County School Board. We have known not only the excellent legal expertise of HSLDA, but the support in prayer which they pooled for us from all over the country. We have been personally encouraged from people who heard of our situation from all over, and can tell you that we took great comfort in some of our darkest hours from many of our fellow members sharing how they had been faithfully praying for us. (Even as far away as California.)
We are thankful to God for our extended and growing family. The Lord has added two children to our immediate family since the beginning of this fight. However, through our home-schooling struggle we realized that we were not just members of an association, but part of a growing home school family in this country made up of families who have made the same personal and financial sacrifice to fulfill their Godly call as pioneers in the home school movement. Thank you for being there for us, and we hope to be as faithful to you in your times of weariness.
Thank you to the HSLDA staff for answering the call to build your careers around the kind of help you have sent us in the past four year. You never treated us like “just another job,” and I can speak for those who make the frightened call for help when I say that the loving commitment to the people you serve made the difference. The Lord bless you all!
Thank you also to Chris Klicka who was tremendous in his preparation and fast thinking on his feet before the courts during our appeals process. He did an excellent job fending off trouble behind the scenes at key points. There were times it seemed he pulled us from the mouths’ of alligators just before they snapped shut. It was a great to watch Chris before the Virginia Supreme Court. With a 20 minute time limit, he showed not only that he could think fast on his feet, but talk fast too! Many would not have gotten away with it—sounding too much like used car salesmen—but Chris’ softspoken style is custom fit for the defense of God’s people, as is the collective voice of the entire HSLDA staff. You are all polished warriors in the fight for home schoolers, and for that we will be forever grateful.
Tracy and Kathy Johnson