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J. Michael Smith, Esq.

Michael P. Farris, Esq.

HSLDA Co-hosts ESEA Briefing

Melanie Palazzo
Congressional Action Program Director

June 10, 2010

Will Estrada
Will Estrada, director of HSLDA’s Federal Relations Department, urges congressional staffers to help ensure the Elementary and Secondary Education Act does not encroach on homeschool freedom.

On May 25, 2010, HSLDA co-hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, along with the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS) and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). More than 70 people attended from congressional offices and outside organizations. The purpose of the briefing was to educate members of Congress, their staffs, and outside organizations about homeschool protections in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed by Congress in 1965 and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. For the first time, the federal government took a significant role in education policy and spending. Under the U.S. Constitution, this was an area that had previously been left to the states and local governments. However, using federal dollars as a carrot, the federal government began putting mandates on the states in the area of education policy.

ESEA is reauthorized by Congress every six years. Since 1965, the bill—and the federal government’s involvement in education—has grown every time ESEA is reauthorized. HSLDA is very concerned by this trend. In 2001, ESEA was reauthorized with the name “No Child Left Behind Act,” or “NCLB” as it is commonly called. HSLDA worked with Congress to include language to specifically protect private schools and homeschools from any federal control, and to prohibit federally funded national curriculum, nationalized testing, nationalized teacher certification, and a national student database.

This was a major victory. These amendments guaranteed that the federal government could not use ESEA to control homeschools and took steps to limit even more federal control over education.

As Congress prepares to reauthorize ESEA, the proposed new bill will largely contain the same language as NCLB. However, HSLDA has been aggressively lobbying for the five sections protecting homeschools and private schools to remain in the reauthorized version. That was the purpose of our congressional briefing.

At the briefing, Will Estrada, HSLDA’s director of federal relations, told congressional staffers, “There are hundreds of thousands of homeschooling parents who have dedicated their lives to educating their children, and we need to honor their work and ensure that their freedoms continue.”

HSLDA, ACSI, and AACS explained how national databases, nationalized teacher certification, and nationalized education standards could hinder homeschool and private school freedom. Maureen Wiebe, legislative director for AACS, explained, “A nationalized curriculum would not take into account the autonomy of private, religious, and homeschools that allow them to use a curriculum consistent with their mission and purpose. This would have a debilitating affect on the ability of these schools to continue providing a quality education that is in accordance with the theological, spiritual, or pedagogical nature that makes them distinctive. Specifically, the religious freedom of faith-based schools and homeschools would also be jeopardized, should they be forced to comply with a nationalized curriculum.”

Along with urging Congress to keep protections in place for homeschool and private schools, HSLDA’s briefing coalition defended parental rights. Keith Wiebe, the president of AACS stated, “Without question, quality parenting is the best predictor of a child’s future success and development emotionally, socially, physically, and intellectually.” HSLDA understands that parental involvement is the source of education excellence and will continue to fight for a parent's right to homeschool free of federal regulations.

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (WA) and Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ) also attended and promised their support for these important protections for homeschools and parental rights.

Will Estrada closed the briefing by urging the congressional staffers and the representatives of outside groups to fight to ensure that Congress keeps these sections in the reauthorized version of ESEA. Although it is unclear whether Congress will reauthorize ESEA this year, HSLDA is on the forefront of educating our elected officials about the importance of protecting homeschool freedom and working to role back the increasing federal role in education.

 Other Resources

The following documents urge Congress to maintain specific protections for homeschools and private schools (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader):

Reauthorize Section 9530 to Prohibit Nationalized Teacher Certification

Reauthorize Section 9506 to Protect Home Schools and Nonrecipient Religious and Private Schools

Reauthorize Section 9531 to Prohibit a National Student Database

Reauthorize Section 9527 to Prohibit Nationalized Curriculum

Reauthorize Section 9529 to Prohibit Nationalized Testing