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2/9/2006 1:45:25 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Vermont--Homeschool Legislation a Mixed Blessing

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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February 9, 2006

Dear HSLDA members and friends:

The Vermont Department of Education has been working for months on
legislation that would amend the homeschool law. Although this
legislation has not yet been officially filed and does not have a bill
number, we finally have a firm draft of the proposed legislation. We
are notifying you of the implications of this legislation even though
HSLDA is officially neutral on this bill.

HSLDA is not generally neutral regarding a bill that makes major
changes to a state's homeschool law, but this is an appropriate
exception. Vermont homeschoolers and Department of Education officials
have become extremely frustrated with the existing homeschool statute,
which has been on the books for nearly a generation. In an effort to
solve some of its own problems, the Department has proposed making
some changes that would genuinely help homeschoolers, while
"tightening up" other provisions of the law.

HSLDA cannot support a bill that gives as much ground as this one does
in the area of assessments, but cannot oppose a bill that improves the
enrollment process as much as this one does. Therefore HSLDA is
officially neutral.

Action Requested:

(1) Look up your own legislator using HSLDA's Legislative Toolbox at
http://www.hslda.org/toolbox / .

Call him or her and identify yourself as a homeschooler. Say, "The
Department of Education wants to simplify the homeschool law. Do you
support giving more freedom to homeschoolers?"

(2) If your legislator is homeschool friendly, say, "The Department's
bill solves a few problems, but does not address the most important
issues. We would like your support for an additional bill next year."

(3) Please e-mail us at legale@hslda.org if your legislator is willing
to help.


Background:

Retta Dunlap has a draft version of the proposed legislation on her
website at http://www.vhen.net/html/200175_v1.pdf . If you read the
bill, you will see that it allows families that have been legally
homeschooling for two or more years in Vermont to stop sending
detailed outlines of the "minimum course of study" every fall. This
should be a major improvement, since the Department has been notorious
about nitpicking enrollment notices over the last several years.

Unfortunately, the same bill would "tighten up" assessment options. We
view this as a major step backwards, which is utterly unjustified.

The legislation completely fails to address some of the most serious
problems with Vermont homeschool law.

For example, families with sincere religious objections to any
provision of this law can request a waiver from the Commissioner of
Education, but the Commissioner is under no obligation to grant any
waivers at all. This means that many conscientious families in Vermont
are simply "underground" because they are unwilling to ask for an
exemption which is sure to be rejected.

HSLDA also believes that the Department of Education has made this an
"approval" statute in practice even though the Vermont Supreme Court
has expressly ruled that the statute should not be used to "approve"
homeschools. Families that have been successfully homeschooling for
two or more years will have little to worry about in this respect, but
that means the Department will be able to concentrate all its
resources on "approving" new homeschoolers. As long as this underlying
problem has not been addressed, these changes to the statute only put
off the real problems that must be addressed.

Despite these issues, the net effect of this bill is clearly better
for the average Vermont family. Every family that has been
homeschooling for two or more years in Vermont will appreciate the
change in the enrollment notice provision, and only a small number of
families will experience significant difficulty with the new
assessment provisions. As long as all Vermont homeschoolers are
willing to work together to address the deeper problems with this bill
in the future, HSLDA has no objection to this bill passing at this
time.

Sincerely,


Scott Somerville
HSLDA Staff Attorney

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-> You can only do so much...

No one can be everywhere at once. And you can't be at home,
teaching your children, while monitoring your state's legislature.
Through electronic legislative services, HSLDA is monitoring state
legislation for you-watching and listening carefully for any
proposed laws that could erode your right to homeschool.
Join HSLDA today-we'll watch out for your future.

More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1942

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