|HSLDA News||March 27, 2002|
Home Schoolers Unite to Defeat State Legislation
Home School Legal Defense Association has worked with home schoolers in Connecticut and Oklahoma to defeat two bills that could have seriously hindered home school freedom. However, a bill on the governor's desk in West Virginia shows that such battles are not yet behind us.
- Raised House Bill 5535 in Connecticut: We are happy to report that home schoolers have reached an agreement with Representative Cameron Staples that should end all action on the bill this session. Raised House Bill 5535 would change Connecticut from one of the least restrictive states for home schooling to one of the most restrictive. The Legislation would do away with the favorable guidelines under which home educators have operated since 1990 and impose burdensome statutory requirements on parents.
Last week, key Connecticut legislators and home school leaders, including The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers (TEACH), met to discuss further consideration of H.B. 5535 by the Joint Committee on Education. Committee Co-Chair Staples expressed his desire that more home schooling families follow the voluntary guidelines adopted by the state department of education. Home school leaders agreed to recommend compliance with the guidelines to their support group members. In return, Representative Staples will withdraw his support for H.B. 5535, allowing the bill to die quietly in the committee without a vote.
Connecticut home schooling guidelines stipulate that parents provide notice to the local school district of their intent to conduct home instruction and a portfolio review at the end of the school year. HSLDA was involved in the development of the guidelines by the state department of education in 1990 and has always recommended that our member families follow them. According to Representative Staples, increased voluntary compliance with the guidelines would likely ward off future efforts to pass restrictive legislation. We thank all the home schooling leaders and families in Connecticut who contacted legislators to oppose this bill.
- Senate Bill 1251 in Oklahoma: In response to a general outcry from the home school community, Chairman Larry Roberts of the House Common Education Committee has given his assurances that Senate Bill 1251 will not get a hearing. Without a hearing this bill will die when the session ends in May.
HSLDA and Oklahoma home schoolers feared S.B. 1251 would have clouded parents' right to issue a diploma and invited state regulation of home schools. The legislation would have authorized the Oklahoma State Board of Education to issue a "certificate of high school equivalency" (GED) to students who received "other means of education" (i.e. home schooling), who took the American College Test (ACT), and who received a composite score of average or higher. The student's parent would have been required to sign an affidavit that the student "met the curricular requirements necessary for high school graduation." The bill would have given the state board power to adopt rules to implement the provisions.
- Senate Bill 247 in West Virginia: The West Virginia legislature has passed a bill requiring all counties to offer "early childhood education" (ECE) to children who are age 4 by September 1. The program is voluntary-no one is required to enroll a child in ECE. However, if you voluntarily enroll, you cannot remove the child from the program unless you formally enroll him in a home or private school. If you do not, you may be subject to prosecution for truancy.
Near the end of this year's legislative session, the West Virginia legislature hastily tacked the ECE provision on to Senate Bill 247, legislation originally written to give public school employees raises. Counties have until 2012 to implement ECE.
Currently, only two things bring a child under the compulsory attendance law in West Virginia: turning age 6 by September 1, or enrolling the child in a publicly supported kindergarten. S.B. 247 would create a third: enrolling a 4-year-old in ECE.
The bill will now go to Governor Bob Wise, who has the power to sign it or veto it. HSLDA is requesting that home schoolers in West Virginia call the Governor and ask him to veto it.
For information on these and other bills, please see HSLDA's web site: http://www.hslda.org/legislation/default.asp