HSLDA News
May 7, 2001

House Education Committee Votes to Protect Home School Freedom
Further Action Pending

WASHINGTON, D.C.—"All in favor of the Hoekstra amendment say 'aye.'"

"AYE."

"All opposed, 'NO.'"

Silence . . .

"Victory is sweet," said HSLDA's Mike Smith, back at Home School Legal Defense Association headquarters in Purcellville, Virginia. "And we know that this victory is the Lord's."

On Thursday, May 4, 2001 the House Education and the Workforce Committee voted unanimously for a two-part amendment to H.R. 1—the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. H.R. 1, which reflects many of President Bush's education reforms, is also the reauthorization of the massive Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The two-part amendment, offered by Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, greatly expanded the home school protections won during the infamous "H.R. 6 battle" of 1994.

Home Schoolers Exempted from ANY Federal Education Act

The most important part of the Hoekstra amendment inserted the phrase "or any other Act administered by the Department" after "Act" in section 8511 of the bill. Current law, which we won in 1994 with the Armey amendment, exempted home schoolers from provision only in the ESEA itself. The addition of the Hoekstra language effectively ends all federal control over home schoolers by ANY law administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Section 8511 now reads: "Nothing in this Act or any other Act administered by the Department shall be construed to permit, allow, encourage, or authorize any Federal control over any aspect of any private, religious, or home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a private school or home school under state law."

During the debate, committee staff insisted that the change could not be done. "The other side simply will not agree," said the staff director to HSLDA's Doug Domenech.

But Doug went on to explain that the provision was not designed to add any privileges for home schoolers—it simply protected home school families' rights to home school free of government intervention. "After that," Doug said, "they understood."

Home Schoolers Protected From Federal and State Assessments

The second section of the Hoekstra amendment added language in Section 8508 that included protections for home schoolers from the testing requirements in the bill. The amendment added the words, "whether or not a home school is treated as a home school or a private school under state law."

This private school distinction is important in states that recognize home schools as private schools and provides the maximum protection for home schoolers in all 50 states from "any assessments referenced in this act."

Just within the last four months, several states attempted to pass laws forcing home schoolers to take the states' content-based assessments, but a vociferous outcry from the home schooling community defeated these measures. This Hoekstra amendment would prevent these kinds of bills from even being introduced.

Home Schoolers in 41 Districts in 20 States Make a Huge Difference

HSLDA had asked for these wording changes throughout the drafting stage of H.R. 1. However, since the committee was committed to drafting a bi-partisan bill, our language was rejected. HSLDA then approached Mr. Hoekstra with our concerns and he agreed to offer the language in amendment form.

In preparation for the committee mark-up, HSLDA President J. Michael Smith and General Counsel Mike Farris decided that we should activate our member networks in support of the amendments.

Samuel Redfern, Manager of HSLDA's Congressional Action Program, was tasked with issuing the alert. "We decided to only activate a limited number of our members in the districts of Republican members on the Education and Workforce Committee," explained Redfern. "If we could swing the Republican votes, then we could win."

The calls clearly made a difference. One congressional office reported to HSLDA that they were receiving 10 calls per minute from home schoolers asking for support on these amendments.

In the end, the committee passed the amendments unanimously.

Next Step

Of course, H.R. 1 is far from being law. After the committee markup, the full bill must pass the committee and move to the floor of the House for debate and a vote. The Senate is also working on its own version of the bill, which is far less favorable to home schoolers. Once the Senate passes its version, the two bills must be combined in a final version in the Conference Committee, passed again by the House and Senate, and then sent to the White House for the president's signature.

HSLDA will continue to fight for these important protections and other provisions of concern to home schoolers in the education bill right up through the final version.

 Other Resources

More information on H.R. 1.