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11/8/2002 12:09:44 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
District of Columbia--Mandatory Preschool Legislation Amended

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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November 8, 2002

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

For over 16 months, homeschoolers have been fighting a bill in the
District of Columbia that would have subjected 3 year olds and some 2
year olds to compulsory attendance. Home School Legal Defense
Association has now received word that B14-261 has been revised so
that attendance for these very young children would be optional, not
mandatory. This is a dramatic victory over one of the most outrageous
attacks on parental rights in memory.

Soon after Councilmember Kevin Chavous introduced this unbelievable
bill in June of 2001, there were several town hall meetings. I
testified at the first town hall meeting and challenged Chavous to
amend his bill to make attendance voluntary. Chavous sidestepped the
challenge.

Numerous opponents of the bill were prepared to testify against it at
a subsequent town hall. Chavous cancelled the meeting on short
notice.

When the DC Council Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation
finally announced a public hearing on the bill, HSLDA gathered
together documentation and expert witnesses to show that mandatory
school attendance for such a young age group was unwise and even
potentially harmful. Many homeschooling parents called committee
members to voice their opposition. Chavous, chair of the committee,
cancelled the hearing at the last minute.

HSLDA continued to call Chavous' office at least once a week for
updates. We were repeatedly told that the hearing had not yet been
rescheduled. After the holiday weekend of July 4, HSLDA contacted
Chavous' office and was informed that a "roundtable" (informal
hearing) had been held several days before. No notice was provided to
the public, in violation of the rules of the DC Council.
Unsurprisingly, no one testified against the bill. Chavous' staff
said that since there had already been a roundtable, there would be
no formal hearing.

Under Council rules, written testimony can be submitted with a
certain period after a roundtable. My staff and I put together a
substantial packet of written testimony from many authorities and
delivered it to every committee member. I reminded the committee that
if the bill passed, state control over children in DC would surpass
that of one of the most notoriously statist societies of the ancient
world, Sparta, and one of the most statist societies of modern times,
Communist China, neither of which tried to control children under 6
years of age. I also reminded the committee that HSLDA would
challenge the bill's constitutionality in court if it passed.

The committee subsequently scheduled the bill for a vote on October
22. HSLDA then sent a letter to all members of the committee
protesting the scheduled vote on the ground that the roundtable was
held without public notice. The committee then cancelled the
scheduled vote. During a subsequent phone call, a Council staffer
told us, to our amazement, the bill had been amended so as to make
attendance voluntary rather than mandatory.

It is possible that Chavous could change the bill again to reattach
the mandatory provision. We hope and pray, however, that it is gone
for good.

We are grateful to God for what certainly appears to be a tremendous
victory. We also gratefully acknowledge the efforts of many others in
this battle, including the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute,
Bolling Area Home Educators, and the many homeschoolers who called
and wrote to oppose this bill. We must continue to stand together
whenever overzealous and misguided government officials seek to usurp
parents' freedom.

For more information on the history of this legislation you can
visit:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?ID=576

Very truly yours,

Scott A. Woodruff
HSLDA Staff Attorney


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