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November 23, 2009
Important Vote Signals Victory for Homeschoolers
Homeschoolers have reason to hope that a years-long effort by some state legislators to impose unnecessary, intrusive regulations has at last been thwarted. This hint of victory comes at the end of a tumultuous 2009, during which homeschool advocates broke records for the largest crowds ever to assemble at the state Capitol in Concord.
On November 19, the New Hampshire House Education Committee met to review the work of its five study committees. There were several attempts to amend the retained bill to impose onerous new regulations on homeschoolers. These amendments failed to pass by tie votes. Finally the committee voted 14–6 to recommend killing the last of two bills intended to increase homeschool regulation. During the debate, Rep. Joseph Fleck of Carroll County said, “I think that the homeschooling community represents accountability better than any other entity in education.”
However, based on the votes and comments of others in the committee, including Chair Emma Rouse, it remains to be seen whether the homeschooling community will actually be left alone. The bill is scheduled to be taken up by the full House on January 6, 2010. While the full House normally accepts the recommendations of committees, a floor debate and further attempts to amend the bill are possible.
In January of 2009, state Rep. Judith Day, a Democrat, introduced two bills that would have significantly changed state law, imposing dramatic and sweeping regulations over home educators in the Granite Sate. One of the two bills, if passed, would have made New Hampshire homeschool law one of the most restrictive in the country. Thousands of homeschoolers rallied at the Capitol and testified for nearly eight hours against the proposed changes.
The more onerous bill was killed, however, after the committee voted to retain the remaining bill as a vehicle for studying home education in New Hampshire. This decision came despite the fact that state legislators had already changed homeschool law in 2007, and that a study committee appointed in that year recommended no further alterations. Throughout the summer and fall of 2009, the New Hampshire Legislature spent an inordinate amount of time studying the state’s homeschool law. One of the committees even conducted a “survey of superintendents” in order to learn about the “problems” created by the current law.
HSLDA maintains the position that New Hampshire homeschool law, as moderately burdensome as it is, functions well enough that it needs no change. If, however, change is necessary, it ought to be in the direction of reducing regulation on homeschoolers.
“New Hampshire’s law already requires an annual notice of intent and annual assessments—more than most other states,” said HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly. “Studies have shown that there is no correlation between regulation and performance. Homeschoolers outperform their public and private school peers on standardized measures of academic performance time and again. We hope that the New Hampshire legislature will leave these dedicated parents alone for good.”
Donnelly, who is responsible for member affairs in New Hampshire, was pleased by the unexpectedly positive news.
“Homeschoolers in New Hampshire should be very pleased and proud,” he said. “Their grassroots activism and hard work are directly responsible for this win. We fully expected some form of bad legislation would come out of this committee. But it looks like the legislators figured out what we already knew—the current law doesn’t need any changes.”
HSLDA commends the many homeschoolers and organizations, such as Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire (CheNH) and the New Hampshire Homeschooling Coalition, who have attended meetings, captured information, contacted their legislators, and commented at committee meetings. We know that many have made sacrifices—taking time out of their busy schedules—to advocate on behalf of homeschool freedom. We are sincerely grateful for this effort! It has been extremely important in the unexpected favorable outcome.