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3/23/2006 4:30:18 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Vermont--Legislative Victory for Homeschoolers

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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March 23, 2006

Vermont--Legislative Victory for Homeschoolers

Dear Vermont HSLDA members and friends:

How can we thank God enough for His amazing grace to homeschoolers? I
just received word that the Vermont Senate has passed House Bill 862,
which is now headed for the Governor's desk. God deserves all the
glory for this breakthrough!

Three years ago, Home School Legal Defense Association and other
determined homeschoolers concluded that Vermont needed major changes
to its homeschool law. The homeschool statute was enacted in 1987,
when there were only 80 children being taught at home in Vermont.
Almost two decades later, a law that was designed for a handful of
extremely experimental educators was no longer right for the job.
Something had to be done.

Many states have large homeschool organizations that routinely visit
the state capitol in order to build good relationships with
legislators. Vermont doesn't. But Vermont has its share of tough
homeschoolers who don't give up their freedom easily. And Vermont has
a secret weapon: Retta Dunlap, who almost single-handedly made this
new law happen.

This very determined woman took time to build relationships with
Commissioner Richard Cate, State Board of Education member Susan
Schill, and various legislators. She helped the Commissioner see the
need for a new law, and then spent months working with him and his
staff to make sure the law was something Vermont homeschoolers could
live with.

The original draft was a compromise between the commissioner and
homeschoolers. It was far from perfect, yet was an improvement over
the existing law. Although HSLDA strongly supported Retta's effort to
improve the law, we could not support the bill as initially drafted.

In December, the Department had prepared a sample "assessment form"
for certified teachers to sign which was simply unacceptable. The
draft form treated certified teachers as mere data-gatherers for the
Department, instead of educational professionals who could be trusted
to make their own judgments. Retta knew this was unacceptable and had
already discussed this issue with the Commissioner. She arranged for
me to meet face-to-face with the Commissioner. By the end of our
meeting, the Commissioner agreed to scrap the draft form and I agreed
not to oppose the legislative effort.

The Commissioner filed an improved version of H.B. 862 which got even
better as it went through the House. But it still had some drawbacks;
at least a few families would be worse off if the bill went through.
One particularly offensive provision kept certified teachers from
evaluating their own children!

After listening to the concerns of many homeschoolers, Retta pressed
for more improvements. After all, how could the Department say it was
"improving" the homeschool law if SOME homeschoolers--including
HSLDA--weren't supporting the bill? The Commissioner demonstrated his
good faith one more time, and agreed to drop the provision restricting
who certified teachers could evaluate.

With that change, HSLDA was finally able to switch our position. We
had been neutral on the bill because, even though it made significant
improvements for many parents, it took a real step back for a few.
HSLDA does not believe in trading the freedoms of some homeschoolers
for benefits for others. With the final change in the Senate
Education Committee, H.B. 862 became a bill that meets our high
standards. It was approved by the House and Senate and is now on to
the Governor's desk with our support.

Many Vermont families will enjoy the benefit of the new law as soon as
the Governor signs it. The biggest benefit is that homeschoolers who
have been enrolled in Vermont for three consecutive years no longer
need to file an "annual detailed outline or narrative describing the
minimum course of study" for any one child. (This will be reduced to
two years in the future.) After being enrolled for three years,
homeschoolers will only have to file one additional outline per child,
when that child turns 12.

This helps the families that have been enrolled for three years, but
it does nothing for the families who could not enroll in the past due
to conscientious objections to the old law. Their struggle for
liberty is not over, and HSLDA is committed to helping these families,
too. We believe the success of H.B. 862 will pave the way for even
more freedom before long.

Sincerely,

Scott W. Somerville
HSLDA Attorney

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-> Can you look at the clouds and tell the direction of the wind?

An interesting phenomenon of wind is that it can blow in multiple
directions at the same time, at different heights from the ground.
But usually there is a prevailing wind. HSLDA watches the gusts
and monitors the prevailing trends of change in the legal climate
of home education. So no matter which way the wind is blowing,
we're there to protect your family.

More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1938

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