Religious Freedom Restoration Act Still Awaiting Senate Vote
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) unanimously passed the House of Representatives in June, but has yet to be scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate. In the weeks preceding the Senate’s fall recess, the RFRA took a back seat to other high priority legislation. At the time of this report, it is expected that the RFRA will be voted on within a matter of days.
Originally, the goal of the coalition of groups working on the RFRA was to have the act voted on by the July 4th break in the Senate. However, the RFRA was temporarily sent back to the Labor and Human Resources Committee in the Senate for a minor adjustment. Two officials in the Justice Department Bureau of Prisons sent around a letter indicating that passage of RFRA would cause havoc in the prison systems. It called for an exemption for prisoners from coverage of the legislation. The letter stirred up a limited amount of controversy within the Senate, but it appears that the controversy is dying down.
Prior to recess for the Fall break, a “hold” was placed on the RFRA. No vote is allowed on the bill in question for 48 hours after the hold is in place. It appears that a majority of the Senate strongly favor the RFRA, and the greatest threat to a quick passage is that the Senate will, once again, allow other “priority” items, like the Clinton health care package, to stand in the way of a final vote.
House and Senate Resolutions Urge Ratification of the United Nations Convention
Decrying America’s allegedly low immunization rate, high infant mortality and child abuse rate, and the need for codifying “society’s responsibility to children in setting minimum standards for … education and … respect for the child’s dignity,” over 100 members of the House of Representatives have signed House Concurrent Resolution 15 calling for immediate ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Over 30 Senate lawmakers have signed a similar measure, Senate Resolution 70, which states: “Resolved, that it is the sense of the Senate that (1) the issue of children’s rights and well-being is important to the United States and the world; and in consideration of the importance of the issue, the President should promptly seek the advice and consent of the Senate to the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Concerned parents are urged to obtain a copy of HSLDA’s two-page summary on the Convention and distribute these summaries at church and within their communities. At this time, it is premature to launch a telephone blitz of Congress, but home schoolers are encouraged to write letters to their Senators urging them to reject all efforts to ratify the Convention.
It’s Time To Change State Attendance Laws!
An editorial in Teacher magazine (August 1993), co-authored by George McShea and Mary Babcock, calls for all the proponents of “restructuring schools” to “include in [their] discussion a reexamination of state laws requiring students to attend school.” They explain that “49 states have compulsory attendance statutes that require young people up to the age of 16 to go to school; Mississippi is alone in requiring students to attend school only up to age 14…. We think Mississippi has the right idea; states should lower the age for compulsory attendance to 14.”
Cited as rationale are several factors, not the least of which is the history of the concept itself: “Not until the 1930s did the idea of universal high school attendance gain currency. During that decade, most states raised the compulsory school age, hoping to remove teenage workers from a depressed job market.” (And you thought the law had something to do with goals like having an educated populace in our country!) “There is little evidence to suggest, however, that secondary school is the appropriate place for all young people. Educating students should be our number one concern, not keeping teenagers out of the job market.”
McShea and Babcock generalize that the nation “could easily be spending $500 million to $700 million of education money each year just trying to enforce attendance requirements. This expense is unjustifiable to the overwhelming majority of students who attend class regularly and willingly … Juvenile courts are also wasting taxpayers’ dollars dealing with this problem.”
Finally, “when coercive efforts are successful in getting non-attenders to attend school, the students are, at best, passive learners who do not complete much work. At worst, they are disruptive and interfere with the learning of other students. In an effort to afford the infrequent attenders some experience of success, acceptable performance standards are often lowered, resulting in lower achievement throughout the class … So, by compelling attendance, we end up devaluing education for all students. School should be a right, not a requirement.”
These arguments could be used very effectively by taxpayers across our nation to appeal for changes in the law. Unfortunately, legislation introduced in a number of states indicates a trend toward increasing the range of compulsory attendance ages. Not only does expanding the compulsory attendance age contribute to the public schools’ disrupted classrooms and lowered expectation of student achievement as mentioned in the article quoted above, but it is important to note that it carries ramifications for home education programs as well. Expanding compulsory attendance ages means expanding the number of years home schools are subject to government supervision.
Schools simply offering their services and allowing those who wish to claim them and participate is a novel concept. How encouraging to see such ideas come from the education community!