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On April 3, 2009, Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter signed into law Senate Bill 1017, abolishing the ambiguous requirement that homeschooled children be instructed “comparably” to public school children. The new law takes effect July 1, 2009. Senate Bill 1017 passed both the House and the Senate unanimously.
This is a significant victory for homeschool freedom in Idaho. These changes to Idaho’s compulsory school attendance law to protect homeschooling will enable the state to avoid the danger experienced by California last year. In California, the Court of Appeals ruled that homeschooled students could only be taught by parents who were certified teachers—the primary basis for the Court’s decision was that California law did not contain a specific provision allowing parents to individually teach children.
For several months, the right to homeschool hung in the balance. By God’s grace, and a lot of hard work, the Court of Appeals granted a rehearing and accepted our arguments. The judges totally reversed themselves, so that homeschool freedoms now continue in California.
In Idaho, with these new amendments enacted into law, we will avoid the California situation entirely.
Senate Bill 1017:
- Specifically adds private home instruction to the compulsory school attendance law;
- Removes the requirement that this private instruction be “comparable” to the public school curriculum;
- Clarifies that homeschoolers do not have to teach a specified number of hours or days per year; and
- Allows friends or relatives to provide the instruction (i.e., does not restrict instruction responsibilities solely to the parents). This flexibility is important for times of crisis where parents want to continue homeschooling but need to have the support of someone outside the home to provide the instruction for a time.
We are thankful to have contributed to the joint endeavor with ICHE (Idaho Coalition of Home Educators) and CHOIS (Christian Homeschoolers of Idaho State) to make this change a reality. Special thanks goes to S.B. 1017’s two sponsors, Sen. Russell Fulcher and Rep. Bob Nonini, whose hard work helped this bill to pass in both the House and Senate.
God opened the door for this to happen by having the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk add language to a bill. A few months ago, the task force asked Barry Peters of ICHE to review its bill, which was drafted to clarify Idaho’s Child Protection Act as it relates to educational neglect. After ICHE and Chris Klicka of HSLDA reviewed the changes, we concurred that the task force simply wished to modify Idaho’s existing statutes to clarify that educational neglect that will be determined by Idaho’s existing requirement that all children be educated. Essentially, that is what the current law means, but the new language will clarify it. The task force then invited ICHE and CHOIS to offer its changes. Barry Peters and Chris Klicka then drafted the now new law.