CURRENT ISSUE ANALYSIS

a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
July 2003

HONDA Summary

Section 1: Title. This is simply the short title of the bill, the "Home School Non-Discrimination Act of 2003"

Section 2: Findings. This Section provides a list of "findings". This is what Congress believes to be true. The findings in HONDA include an affirmation of the right of parents, an acknowledgment that homeschooling is resulting in success academically and socially, a recognition that some federal laws need clarification, and a recognition that "The United States Constitution does not allow Federal control of homeschooling."

Section 3: Sense of Congress. This Section provides a "Sense of Congress". This is a statement of Congress' position. The Sense of Congress in HONDA is as follows: "It is the sense of Congress that - (1) private home education, pursuant to State law, is a positive contribution to the United States; and (2) parents who choose this alternative education should be encouraged within the framework provided by the Constitution."

Section 4: Higher Education Act Clarification. This Section fixes a problem that exists in the Higher Education Act (HEA), the federal law that provides federal financial aid to college students. The problem has been that some colleges interpret HEA to preclude the admission of any homeschoolers under the age of 18 for fear that their "institutional eligibility" to provide financial aid under the HEA program -to any student- will be in jeopardy. This has resulted in homeschoolers' admissions being denied or even revoked. A second problem is that homeschool graduates are currently placed in the HEA under the heading "Students Who Are Not High School Graduates". This is an unnecessary stigma and this provision has been raised in debate on other issues. Both issues are fixed in HONDA, but I caution that the legislative language is hard to follow without the U.S. Code to see what is being amended.

Section 5: IDEA Child Find Clarification. This Section clarifies that nothing in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) actually requires evaluations of children when the parents do not consent. IDEA is the large federal program that provides services for children with special needs. Believe it or not, but HSLDA has experienced the situation, and is now in court in Missouri, where children of homeschoolers, who do not want, nor could even get IDEA services, are being forced to be evaluated. This is ridiculous and HONDA addresses this issue. By the way, this language has already passed in the House when it passed its new version of IDEA earlier this year.

Section 6: Education Savings Accounts Clarification. This Section clarifies that expenses associated with homeschooling are appropriate tax free withdraws from Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. In federal education savings accounts, you can set aside money (up to $2000 per year) for education expenses which grows tax free. They are currently available for expenses associated with education in public, private, and religious schools, but not homeschools. HONDA simply provides that in the existing ed savings accounts section on qualified expenses, the phrase "public, private, and religious schools", includes homeschools.

Section 7: Privacy of Records. This Section grants the records of homeschoolers which are required by state law to be held by public schools, the same, and actually better, privacy protections as the records of the public school kids. With this change to the Family Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA), homeschool records, with very few exceptions (law enforcement, etc.) could not be released without actual parental consent. I should add that as homeschooling grows, so does this issue. As it now stands, records of homeschoolers, their names, addresses, etc., which a public school is required to have, could be sought by anybody and in many places there is nothing that a school could do to hold back the information. Strange as it may seem, the privacy of education records has been handled at the federal level by FERPA for many years and many states do not have law on this issue as a result.

Section 8: Byrd Scholarships. This Section provides that homeschool graduates are eligible for the prestigious Robert Byrd Scholarships, awarded for academic merit to high school graduates. Under current law, only graduates of public or private schools are eligible.

Section 9: Periods of Employment for Student Workers Between 14 and 16 years old. This Section provides that the Secretary of Labor shall extend the hours and periods of permissible employment applicable to students between the ages of 14 and 16 who are educated in homeschools (whether the homeschool is treated as a home school or private school under state law), beyond the hours and periods applicable to traditional school hours. The issue here is that under current law, a student cannot work during traditional school hours. This precludes, for instance, a homeschooler working the noon hour at the local fast food restaurant. Since traditional school hours have no meaning in homeschools, it is time for the federal labor laws to reflect this reality.