Every day Congress is in session, our freedom can be impactedfor better or for worse. And in the fast-paced world of Capitol Hill, timely information is everything. Thats why, one year ago, Home School Legal Defense Association moved our federal legislative team to an office building right in the middle of the action. In a townhouse on picturesque C Street, within walking distance of the House and Senate office buildings, HSLDAs Capitol Hill staff works daily to track any and every piece of legislation that could impact the freedom of our member families.
Now that the 105th Congress has come to an end, we have taken time to reflect on its highs and lows. The following list is a compliation of the top nine victories achieved during the past two years, as well as a brief review of this Congress disappointing moments.
Victories of 199798
In 1997 and 1998, these were the high moments for home school families and other advocates of liberty:
Securing a permanent ban on federal testing
In October 1998, language was inserted in the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1999, prohibiting the Department of Education from implementing, field testing, or distributing a federal test without explicit authorization from Congress. This represents a tremendous victory for those who believed that a national test would inevitably lead to a national curriculum. (See the November/December 1998 Court Report for a complete report.)
Removing dangerous language from the Religious Liberty Protection Act
The Christian community was abuzz with this legislative battle during the summer of 1998, while the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee was considering the Religious Liberty Protection Act (RLPA). This legislation, in attempting to reinstate religious liberty as a fundamental right, misused the Congresss authority under the Commerce Clausea classic case of achieving a good end through faulty means. Furthermore, anyone asserting their rights under the RLPA would have had to prove the economic impact of their religious beliefs. Thanks in large part to the efforts of informed home school families, the Constitution Subcommittee passed a version of the RLPA which made no reference to the Commerce Clause. The legislation was ultimately stalled in both the House and Senate for this Congress. (See the July/August 1998 Court Report.)
Progress toward eliminating college discrimination against home schoolers
While many colleges actively recruit home school students, others are not always so open-minded.
Thus, some home schoolers have been the victims of discrimination in the application process. In September 1998, HSLDA convinced Congress to include a condemnation of such discrimination in the Higher Education Reauthorization Act. While this condemnation is in report language, not law, it does make significant progress toward eliminating this problem. This bill also repealed the requirement that home schoolers have a GED before receiving federal scholarships or grants. (See the July/August and November/December 1998 Court Reports.)
Progress toward eliminating military discrimination against home schoolers
In another tremendous breakthrough for home school graduates, the military launched a pilot program to move home schoolers to Tier I recruitment status and track their success in the military for five years. This victory, which was achieved through an amendment to the Department of Defense Reauthorization Act, reverses the previous military policy of placing home school graduates in the same recruitment category as high school dropouts. (See the July/August and November/ December 1998 Court Reports.)
Protecting home schoolers from vocational education measures
When this Congress reauthorized vocational education programs, advocates of home school freedom succeeded in adding certain key provisions to the bill. These included: 1) non-applicability of the bill to home schooling; 2) no requirements for certificate of mastery; 3) no mandated career paths; and 4) no national databases. (See Freedom Watch on page 37.)
Protecting home schoolers from job training measures
The 105th Congress reauthorized adult job training programs, and HSLDA worked to prevent home school families from the expansion of federal power contained in this legislation. We successfully added the following measures to this bill: 1) non-applicability to home schools; 2) a ban on using these federal funds for School-to-Work programs, and 3) a ban on using federal funds to create or implement curriculum by local workforce boards. (See the May/June 1998 Court Report.)
Halting a national ID card
When the Department of Transportation proposed regulations that would have created a national ID card, home school families and other advocates of liberty moved to prevent the implementation of such an intrusive program. This battle resulted in the passage of a one-year moratorium on a national ID card, contained in the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1999. (See the November/December 1998 Court Report.)
Stopping citizen tracking measures
Another defeat of intrusive federal tracking measures came in the early days of the 105th Congress. Home school advocates successfully opposed provisions of the Welfare Technical Corrections Bill which would have expanded the use of social security numbers for identification purposes. When the same language surfaced again in the Deadbeat Dads Bill, we were again able to remove these provisions. (See the July/August 1998 Court Report.)
Causing the withdrawal of Executive Order 13083
There was a huge outcry when President Clinton issued his Executive Order 13083. This act repealed President Reagans federalism EO, which reaffirmed the Founders intent of strong state sovereignty and limited federal government. Furthermore, it replaced Reagans EO with nine exceptions to the standard of federalism found in the Tenth Amendment, which affirms the right of states to keep all authority not specifically delegated to the federal government in the Constitution. Thanks to the hard work of concerned citizens, the president has conceded to rewriting Executive Order 13083. (See the September/ October 1998 Court Report.)
Setbacks of 199798
The past two years were not without their disappointing moments. Our Capitol Hill team identified two legislative initiatives that were particularly disheartening to family activists during the 105th Congress. One was a good bill that failed to pass; the other was a dangerous provision that became law.
The failure of family tax relief
Although this Congress did pass a phased-in $500-per-child tax deduction that will benefit many families starting in the 1998 tax year, it failed to significantly lower the tax burden on families. HSLDA and many other family groups in Washington worked to pass legislation that would have ended the tax penalty for married couples. While the House did pass a tax package that would have eliminated approximately $200 of the $1300 marriage penalty, the Senate refused to pass any pro-family tax measure.
Increased federal education spending
The 105th Congress continued the trend of unconstitutional federal education spending, voting to increase such spending in both the Fiscal Year 1998 and the FY 1999 budgets.
On the whole, much was achieved during the 105th Congressmany pieces of dangerous legislation were defeated, and several new laws passed to advance the cause of home school freedom. HSLDA thanks our 60,000 member families and the home school community at large for its extraordinary vigilance. Hard work, however, can only go so far. Each victory was achieved by teamwork and prayer, and we thank God for His mercy. We also thank Director of Government Affairs Doug Domenech and Legislative Assisant Darcy Faylor for their excellent day-to-day work on Capitol Hill. With a smaller conservative majority, similar gains will be harder to achieve during the 106th Congress. Nevertheless, we pray that God will continue to bless our movement, and we look forward to what the Lord has planned for His people in the future.
R E L A T E D I T E M S
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