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3/11/2003 5:02:13 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Texas--Legislative Update: Partial Victory in Homeschool Registration Battle

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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March 11, 2003

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

The bills impacting homeschool freedom are growing in number. We
suspect there are more to come. Tom Sanders, HSLDA's Texas
Legislative Counsel is lobbying for you in Austin while we, at our
national office, provide the support with alerts, research and
strategy.

Presently, we are working on 6 important bills in Texas and tracking
many more. Of the 6 bills, HSLDA opposes three and supports three.
Please be prepared to call your legislators and even attend hearings
in the next several weeks as the legislature debates these bills.

Especially note the developments below in Senate Bill 586, the
homeschool registration bill. Your calls are working!

THREE BILLS HSLDA SUPPORTS

1) House Bill 944: Ends College Admission Discrimination

For years, some Texas universities have held homeschool graduates to
a different and more difficult standard than others. The most
frequently used discriminatory practice is to require homeschool
graduates to have significantly higher test scores than other
students.

Although we have been successful in changing the college admission
policies at the federal level, some states still have policies
discriminating against homeschoolers seeking college admission.

House Bill 944, introduced by Representative Phil King, requires
colleges and universities to admit graduates of a homeschool program
according to the same standards that are applied to graduates from a
public high school program.

HSLDA strongly supports H.B. 944 as it codifies the recommendations
we have made to the Federal U.S. Department of Education. In passing
the Higher Education Act, Congress indicated that the admissions
standards for graduates of a homeschool program should be equal to
standards for public school graduates and that extra requirements
(for example the GED, higher SAT scores, or SAT II tests) are
discriminatory.

2) House Bill 1449: Ends College Financial Aid Discrimination

House Bill 1449, if enacted, will prohibit discrimination in awarding
STATE scholarships or other financial aid for higher education to
homeschoolers.

H.B. 1449, introduced by Representative Charlie Howard, is consistent
with HSLDA's clarifications issued by the U.S. Department of
Education. The Department of Education recently updated the 2002-
2003 Federal Student Aid Handbook to correctly reflect Federal law
relating to financial aid for homeschoolers. Volume 1, chapter 1 of
the Handbook specifically states that a homeschool "student is
eligible to receive FSA [Federal Student Aid] funds if the student's
secondary school education was in a homeschool that state law treats
as a home or private school."

3) House Bill 374: Ensures Parents' Rights to Discipline Their Child

House Bill 374, introduced by Representative Harold Dutton, Jr.,
amends the child welfare code by stating that a parent may use
corporal punishment as a form of reasonable discipline. HSLDA
supports this bill and has been working with the sponsor. We believe
this is a positive advancement of parent's rights, affirming the
right of parents to perform Biblical discipline. The bill was
discussed in a public hearing in the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues
Committee and was passed from the committee. We will update you as
the bill progresses through the house.

THREE BILLS HSLDA OPPOSES

1) Senate Bill 586: Homeschool Registration Bill

Good news! Senator Barrientos' office has just informed me that they
will amend their bill to remove the requirement that all
homeschoolers register with the Commissioner. This change of heart
has come about due to the thousands of calls and emails they have
received. Thank you for sacrificing your time in order to make a
difference. And thank you for your persistence.

The battle is not quite over, however. Senator Barrientos' still
wants only children withdrawing from public school in order to
homeschool to register. I explained that was unacceptable to single
out new homeschoolers. Instead I have urged them to withdraw their
bill altogether or amend it into a public school uniform paperwork
bill that would require all parents who withdraw their children from
public school to sign a form indicating they are withdrawing their
child and what type of school the child is transferring to. If they
adopt this approach, it might remedy the skewed figures they have on
dropouts while avoiding registration of homeschoolers.

2) Senate Bill 30: Mandatory Kindergarten

Texas Senate Bill 30, introduced Senator Judith Zaffirini, reduces
the compulsory attendance age from 6 to 5 and requires children
previously enrolled in pre kindergarten or kindergarten to attend
school. No action has been taken on S.B. 30 since it was assigned to
the Senate Education Committee. Hundreds of you already responded to
our previous alert by calling the Committee. This no doubt has helped
to insure that this bill will not go anywhere.

3) House Bill 214 and Senate Bill 412: Homeschooler Participation in
Public School Activities

Texas House Bill 214 (introduced by Rep. Brian McCall) and Senate
Bill 412 (introduced by Senator Florence Shapiro) relate to
homeschool student participation in public school academic and
extracurricular activities: a homeschool student may enroll in
public school in the district as a part time student; the bills allow
the school to give homeschool students access to laboratory
facilities; a school district may permit a homeschooled student
entitled under Section 25.001 to attend public school in the district
to participate in an online course; a school district may furnish
textbooks without cost to a homeschooled student; and a school
district may permit a homeschooled student to participate in a
district sponsored extracurricular activity.

While HSLDA generally takes a neutral stance on equal access to
public school programs, we are concerned with the wording of these
two bills. These bills, if enacted, would create a new category of
education under the Texas Code. Up until this time, homeschoolers
have clearly been considered private schools. This right to be a
private school was earned through years of litigation culminating in
the Leeper decision by the Texas Supreme Court. By creating a bill
allowing for a new category of students, "home school students," the
likelihood of regulation is greater. The legislature will be forced
to define a homeschool and to create appropriate controls.

To amend the language and remove the term "home-school" student and
replace it with "private school" student is not feasible because
neither the legislature nor the public schools want to open the
public schools to all private school students.

HSLDA believes 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 more
easily maintain the freedom homeschools enjoy.

Freedom is much more precious than freebies.


Thank you for standing with us!

Sincerely,

Chris Klicka
HSLDA Senior Counsel

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