January 31, 2012
Update on President Obama’s Attack on Educational Freedom
William A. Estrada, Esq.
Director of Federal Relations
The Story So Far
Last week, we urged you to contact the White House and your members of Congress to oppose any attempts by the federal government to force states to require students to attend school until they graduate or turn age 18. This was in response to President Obama’s State of the Union remarks.
We are grateful to the thousands of homeschoolers and freedom-loving citizens across the nation who have made their voices heard. Certain members of Congress have already responded to your emails and made it clear that they would not support any federal mandate on the states regarding compulsory attendance. Unfortunately, we have not had any response from the White House.
During President Obama’s Google chat with citizens last night, numerous people asked the president to clarify his compulsory attendance remarks that he made in last week’s State of the Union address, but he did not answer any of those questions. Because of the White House’s silence in the face of questions and comments from thousands of homeschoolers, we continue to remain concerned that federal action may be around the corner.
We urge you to continue to share the following message with the White House and Congress:
“In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called for the states to require that all children stay in school until they graduate or turn age 18. This is not the federal government’s responsibility. Leave education decisions to parents, not federal bureaucrats. Tell President Obama that he should not use the power of the presidency and the federal government to pressure the states to change their compulsory school attendance laws.”
If you have already contacted the White House or your member of Congress, you can follow up with them and politely ask them if they have a response yet to your question.
- The White House: 202-456-1414, or send an online message.
- Your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators: 202-224-3121 (Capitol Switchboard) or use HSLDA’s Legislative Toolbox to find their names and contact info.
We received some questions from homeschoolers asking if President Obama’s statement was actually a threat to homeschool freedom.
First, it is important to note the venue for the president’s statement: it was during the State of the Union address, where the president outlines the legislative agenda he hopes Congress will take up in the upcoming year. The president wasn’t making a statement to the media encouraging the states to change their compulsory attendance laws; he was speaking to Congress. We know that there are certain members of Congress who would gladly pass legislation that would require the states to raise their compulsory attendance ages, and many of these same members of Congress would like nothing better than to establish federal control over homeschoolers. We must speak up strongly to discourage any legislation from being introduced in Congress.
Second, this administration has a history of outlining a policy and then not waiting for Congress to pass legislation. We have seen Race to the Top, the president’s signature education policy, mandate that the states adopt the Common Core Curriculum Standards, and other education policies that are priorities for the Obama Administration, as a condition for receiving federal funds. Race to the Top is primarily driven by administrative regulations, not laws passed by Congress. We are concerned that the White House may try to draft regulations that force the states to raise their compulsory school attendance ages without waiting for legislation from Congress. We want to send a strong message to the White House that such a move will not be tolerated by homeschoolers.
If there were a federal mandate (either passed by Congress or through regulations) that required the states to keep students in school until they graduate or turn age 18, this could lead to a federal definition of what constitutes “graduation from high school.” Once the federal government creates federal guidelines or definitions in this area, additional and harmful federal regulations on homeschoolers could easily follow.
It is imperative that we remain united and show Congress and the White House that homeschoolers—and all people who believe that parents should make education decisions for their children instead of federal bureaucrats—strongly oppose any federal compulsory attendance mandate.
| Other Resources|
HSLDA’s Issues Library: “Compulsory Attendance”