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New Hampshire

October 1, 2009

Survey Subcommittee Meeting “Staged” to Support More Regulation

The New Hampshire House Education Subcommittee on surveying superintendents met September 30. Most people, including legislators who attended, presumed that the committee was going to discuss a survey that would be sent to superintendents. It appears that the “survey” consisted of testimony from a carefully selected group of four superintendents who have previously testified in support of increased homeschool regulation. These superintendents from Grantham, Interlakes, Rochester and Dover were invited to address the committee and to share their “anecdotal” experience with “problem homeschools”.

Representative David Bates (Windham), who attended the meeting, expressed incredulity that the committee would approach a survey this way.

“My district of approximately 47,000 people is among the largest in the state,” said Bates. “The two superintendents in this district informed me that no homeschool programs have ever had to be terminated for failure to achieve educational progress. In fact, to their knowledge, there has never even been a need to put a homeschooler on probation. I testified to this and gave letters from the superintendants to the Education Committee earlier this year. It appears to me that the invited superintendents were handpicked in order to support the subcommittee’s conclusion that more regulation is needed.”

Representative Bates indicated that homeschoolers should insist real data be used to support proposed regulation.

“I found that the testimony of these superintendents was anecdotal,” Bates added “All seemed to coalesce around a notion that there were problems with 5 percent of the homeschools in New Hampshire. The problem is that there is no actual evidence to support this idea. Proponents of more regulation continue to insist that there is a need for data. Available data, however, does not support the desired outcome of a number of members on the committee—apparently an increase in state regulation and oversight.”

Mike Faiella, a proponent of homeschooling who has previously served on the Home Education Advisory Council, was surprised by a pronouncement from the Department of Education’s representative, Mary Mayo, at the meeting regarding regulations.

“I am concerned that Ms. Mayo’s comments may possibly indicate that the DOE is doing more than writing rules to deal with the legislative changes that have occurred over the past few years,” said Faiella. “The HEAC is required to advise the Department when asked, but it may be that the Department has gone ahead and created more rules without consulting the advisory board. If so, this would be of grave concern to New Hampshire homeschoolers. It is important for at least a few homeschoolers to try to attend the State Board of Education meeting on October 14 to indicate that we are vigilant in protecting our rights. We also need to follow this whole rulemaking process very carefully, as there will be opportunities for comment and revision.”

HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly noted that New Hampshire homeschoolers are prepared to continue to defend their freedom.

“Many groups would perhaps become tired after three years of constant battle to defend their freedom from intrusive state government,” said Donnelly “I’m so pleased to say that New Hampshire homeschoolers appear as ready as ever to guard their freedom. HSLDA is ready to stand with them and provide support and encouragement wherever we can. This attempt at increasing regulation is at odds with available data that show that New Hampshire homeschoolers are doing an outstanding job of educating their children. Furthermore there are many states with laws that provide far less regulation. Why should New Hampshire be seeking more regulation? It just doesn’t make sense.”

New Hampshire homeschoolers should be prepared to rally at the statehouse in January to oppose any increased regulation.

Another meeting of the “survey” subcommittee is scheduled for October 20. The complete House Education Committee is due to report its recommendations on H.B. 368 by December 2. The whole committee will have to meet to discuss this matter, presumably sometime in November. The bill as reported out of the House Education Committee will likely come up for a vote in the full House in early January.