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New York

July 11, 2006

Legislative Session Closes with Flurry of Activity

The New York legislative session has ended but not without a flurry of activity. Thank you for all of your calls over these past months on bills that could have directly affected homeschool freedom or parental rights.

While we were unable to pass any positive legislation this session, several negative bills were defeated. Below is information on many of the bills that Home School Legal Defense Association worked on this year.

Homeschool Freedom Bill

HSLDA and LEAH have been working hard over the past several years to reduce the current homeschool regulations. Senate Bill 3641, the Homeschool Freedom Bill, would have eliminated the Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) form, the quarterly reports, permit the alternative written narrative evaluation every year, and lowered the overall percentile required on a standardized achievement test to be above the 23rd percentile.

While the Homeschool Freedom Bill did not pass, the State Education Department has had several meetings with LEAH about reducing the homeschool regulations and eliminating conflicts.

Religious Freedom Reformation Act

Late in this legislative session Assembly Bill 10870 was introduced to provide greater protection for religious freedom and expression in New York. HSLDA immediately contacted key legislative staff to coordinate support for this bill.

HSLDA is very interested in getting a Religious Freedom Reformation Act (RFRA) passed in New York so that it might be able to be used as a “religious exemption” for homeschool families. We are already using RFRA’s in Florida and Pennsylvania that we helped pass. This legislation has enabled families to claim a religious exemption from their state homeschool law.

While this bill did not pass this year we will continue to work on greater religious freedom in New York.

Tax Credit For Educational Expenses

Assembly Bill 8203 and Senate Bill 1939 were introduced this legislative cycle and would have provided a tax credit for educational expenses. Under these bills homeschool families would have been able to claim educational expenses up to $3,500 per child depending on their income.

While several hundred individuals and families attended a rally and Governor Pataki strongly supported this legislation, it failed to pass out of committee. HSLDA will continue to support similar tax credit legislation in the future.

Lowering Compulsory Attendance

Two bills were introduced this session in an attempt to lower the compulsory attendance age from 6 to 5. Both bills would have gone into effect for the 2009-2010 school year.

Assembly Bill 10297 would have enabled every school district in New York to require 5-year-olds to attend kindergarten. Homeschool parents would have had to file all of the required paperwork a year earlier than they do now.

Assembly Bill 11915 would have made all-day kindergarten mandatory and lowered the compulsory attendance age to 5 by December 31. While parents could have elected not to send their 5-year-olds to school they would have had to submit a notice of this exemption before April 1 of the year before their child was compulsory attendance age. This would have required some parents to submit this notice for exemption when their child was only 4 1/2!

Both of these bills failed to pass after HSLDA sent out e-lerts and you called.

Driver’s Licensing Restrictions

Senate Bill 63 would have required all minors seeking to get a driver’s license in New York to prove that they were in good academic standing. Homeschool families would have had to demonstrate to their local DMV office that their child was enrolled in a valid school and in good standing before their child could have gotten a driver’s license.

HSLDA monitored this bill closely but did ask for calls when it was clear that this bill would not move.

Statewide Immunization Registry

HSLDA alerted our members of our concerns about Senate Bill 8227 shortly after it was introduced late in the legislative session. This bill creates a statewide immunization registry to store and track all of the immunizations given to children from 19 and under. While hundreds of members called, this bill was railroaded through both the Senate and Assembly on June 23, the last day of the session.

Effective December 1, all health care providers will be required to notify the immunization registry of every immunization given to any children 19 and under along with certain additional information. The bill was amended in an attempt to provide greater protection of the information contained in the registry. However, information on families claiming medical or religious exemptions to immunization will also be kept in the registry.

Thank you for your part in answering the call for action on several of these bills over the past few months. Without your vigilance many of these negative bills would likely have passed.