From the HSLDA E-lert Service:
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1/10/2003 5:19:53 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Texas Legislature Opens for 2003 Session

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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January 10, 2003

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

As you may know, the Texas legislature is meeting from January
through May, 2003. What you may not realize is that these 181 men
and women will be considering an estimated 9,000 pieces of
legislation in less than five months. This breaks down to more than
80 bills per day, leaving an average of 6 minutes to read, amend, and
vote on each bill.

The Home School Legal Defense Association is committed to stopping
any legislation that may harm Texas homeschoolers. We are committed
to promoting any legislation that would expand your freedom to
homeschool. Our electronic legislation tracking service notifies us
of any bills that refer to issues that relate to homeschooling rights
including: homeschools, private schools, parents rights, religious
liberty, compulsory attendance, child welfare code, teacher
certification, university admission standards, curfews, education tax
credits, etc. We carefully analyze these bills and monitor their
progress through the legislature.

As we learn of new legislation that may affect your family, we will
be in contact with our Texas legislative counsel, Tom Sanders. A
Houston area lawyer and veteran homeschool father, Tom has worked
regularly with HSLDA for the past 16 years in defense of homeschool
freedoms. HSLDA has retained him to personally visit the Capitol in
Austin and lobby on your behalf. We will notify you by email of any
action you can take to impact these bills.

Of the legislation introduced thus far in 2003, we know of at least
two pre-filed bills that will affect homeschool freedoms.

S.B. 30--LOWERS THE COMPULSORY ATTENDANCE AGE FROM SIX YEARS TO FIVE

Senator Judith Zaffirini is back. Once again, this representative is
trying to impose mandatory kindergarten on all families in Texas.

Changing the compulsory attendance age would subject Texas home
educators to the requirements of a compulsory attendance law one year
earlier. Many education experts have concluded that beginning a
child's formal education too early may actually result in burn out
and poor scholastic performance later. In addition, lowering the
compulsory attendance age erodes the authority of parents--who are in
the best position to determine when their child's formal education
should begin.

Another significant impact of expanding the compulsory attendance age
would be the inevitable tax increase to pay for more classroom space
and more teachers to accommodate the additional students. This last
point may be most significant this year in light of the fact that
there is a budget deficit and many of the legislators will be
reluctant to increase government programs.

For more information on this bill visit:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=624

For a more detailed analysis of mandatory kindergarten, read our memo
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=625

H.B. 214--PART-TIME ENROLLMENT OF HOMESCHOOL STUDENTS

On the surface, this bill looks harmless, but HSLDA is concerned.
Although some homeschoolers who so choose could enroll their children
part-time in public school programs, this bill, would create a new
category of education under the Texas Code. Up until this time,
homeschoolers have clearly been considered private schools. By
creating a bill allowing for a new category of students--"home-school
students"--the strong possibility of regulation and definition of
homeschoolers exists.

It is in the best interest of homeschoolers in Texas to remain in the
same loosely regulated category as private school students. If both
groups enjoy the same legal status, we will be able to continue to
defend the status quo and maintain the freedom homeschools enjoy as
private schools.

For more information on this bill visit:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=626

CHILD WELFARE REFORM

The most significant development for this legislative season is in
the area of child welfare reform. HSLDA handles social worker
contacts everyday. Often, anonymous tipsters call the Child
Protective Services (CPS) and fabricate stories about homeschool
families. This requires the social worker to come to the home where
they always demand entry and the right to interrogate the children
separately from their parents. Although HSLDA is able to win this
battle for the front door and keep the social workers out and away
from the children, it is with much difficulty. The law in Texas is
unclear and does not have sufficient due process safeguards for
parents.

Two years ago we worked hard to collect over 1,000 signatures to add
to a petition that was organized by Gary Gates, a homeschool father
who had his children removed by the social services when they were in
public school. At that time HSLDA's Texas Legislative Counsel
developed several key contacts with the legislators and was able to
get commitments from them to push for legislation this year to reform
the child welfare system.

HSLDA has participated in several planning sessions in the last six
weeks to draft legislation that would protect innocent families from
unwanted intrusions by social workers. We are excited about the
possibility of the passage of this bill and will be notifying you of
the final details in future weekly updates.

Watch for the next week's "Texas Weekly Update" to read about these
and other important bills which HSLDA will be dealing with in the
state legislature. Thank you for standing with us for family and
freedom in Texas.

Sincerely,

Christopher J. Klicka
HSLDA Senior Counsel
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