February 14, 2003

Senate File 110: Required Academic Assessments for Homeschoolers

Senator Kathryn Sessions (D)

Senate File 110 would force homeschoolers to participate in the new statewide assessment system. Each homeschool program would have to comply with Wyoming's Student Performance Standards. Each homeschooler would be required to take the new statewide assessments and, in addition, file a portfolio for each child at the end of the first semester. If a homeschool child fails to achieve the "proficiency levels" established by the statewide assessment, the parent would be required to file a "remediation plan."

SF 110 was introduced to the Senate on January 22, 2003, and assigned to the Senate Education Committee. Senator Hank Coe, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, refused to bring Senate File 110 up for consideration because it conflicted with federal law. The bill is now effectively dead.

HSLDA's Position:
Strongly oppose. SF 110 directly violates federal law. 20 USC §7886(b) says, "No student schooled at home shall be required to participate in any assessment referenced in the No Child Left Behind Act. Wyoming's statewide assessment program is an assessment program that is referenced in the No Child Left Behind Act. Whether Senator Sessions knows it or not, her bill breaks federal law.

Senate File 110, if passed, would make Wyoming one of the most restrictive states in the country. Homeschoolers should be able to kill this bill if they work hard, fast, and continually. Unfortunately, Wyoming's legislative session is short and unpredictable.

SF 110 will mandate homeschool testing, additional paperwork, and new enforcement provisions, even though it has a fiscal note that states there is "no significant fiscal or personnel impact at the state level." This means the State Department of Education will not have to spend any more money or take any more time. The financial and administrative burden will fall on local school districts and homeschoolers.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires each state to "demonstrate that the State has adopted challenging academic content standards and challenging student academic achievement standards that will be used by the state, its local educational agencies, and its schools." 20 U.S.C. §6311(b)(1)(A). The federal law then says, "The academic standards required by subparagraph (A) shall be the same academic standards that the State applies to all schools and children in the State." This federal law would seem to require private schools and homeschools to meet the same content and performance standards as public schools.

For this reason, HSLDA asked for clear and specific protections for homeschoolers. Congress responded by including in the bill Section 7886, which says, "Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to affect any private school that does not receive funds or services under this chapter, nor shall any student who attends a private school that does not receive funds or services under this chapter be required to participate in any assessment referenced in this chapter." 20 U.S.C. §7886(a). Homeschools are expressly protected under the next subsection, which states, "Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to affect a homeschool, whether or not a homeschool is treated as a homeschool or a private school under state law, nor shall any student schooled at home be required to participate in any assessment referenced in this chapter."

The state content and performance assessments required by 20 U.S.C. §6311(b) are part of chapter 70 of the No Child Left Behind Act. This reference to the state content and performance standards is sufficient to protect homeschoolers under the terms of 20 U.S.C. §7886(b).

But even if federal law did not specifically protect homeschools and private schools from new federally mandated content and performance standards, the United States Constitution would. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children. See Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); and Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000). The No Child Left Behind Act insists that states adopt content and performance standards if they want to keep receiving federal funds. Since the federal government is paying for the education of so many children, it has a right to insist on some proof of success. Federal funding of state schools may justify new standards for state schools, but it cannot take away a parent's freedom to define content and performance standards for their own children. Under current Supreme Court precedent, the only way the state could take away a parent's right to decide a child's educational content would be to prove that the state has a compelling interest in those content standards that can only be achieved by mandating them on a statewide basis. This flies in the face of reason, and HSLDA is committed to opposing any such law to the utmost of our ability.

There is no question that Wyoming is developing new content and performance standards to bring it into compliance with federal law. Senator Sessions' efforts to force homeschoolers to take these new tests violate our constitutional liberties and federal law.

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Bill History

Fiscal Note

1/24/2003 - Wyoming--Three New Bills Threaten Homeschool Freedom

Casper Star Tribune: Sessions defends home schooling bill

1/28/2003 - Wyoming--Truancy Bill Defeated; Testing and Mandatory Kindergarten Bills Still Pending

2/5/2003 - Wyoming--More Calls Needed to Stop the Illegal Testing of Homeschoolers