September 20, 2001

HSLDA's Response to Questions Regarding Our Participation in Education Bills H.R. 1 and S. 1

Updated March 19, 2007

Home School Legal Defense Association's recent participation in lobbying efforts to enumerate protections for home educators in federal bills House Resolution 1 and Senate bill 1 has raised questions regarding why we even bother to lobby on federal education bills. These questions are based on the assumption that Congress should have no authority over home educators in the various states. HSLDA agrees with the assumption, but Congress's practice does not always follow the principle.

For instance, remember 1994 the House Education Committee put forth an amendment that would have required teacher certification for all teachers, in all schools, in every subject taught in order to receive federal aid pursuant to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act? Since the committee refused to insert the term "public" before "school," we believed that states could have easily interpreted this to require home schooling parents to be certified.

Congressman Dick Armey became concerned about the language and offered amendments to specify "public school teachers" only. These were rejected by the House Education Subcommittee and then again by the full Education Committee.

Ultimately, because of more than one million telephone calls from private and home school families, Congress overwhelmingly passed another Armey amendment that strictly exempted home schoolers from federal control and struck down the teacher certification amendment. This was not the first time the term "home school" had been used in federal legislation (e.g., S. 457—National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Act of 1991). There are, in fact, at least seven other occurrences.

HSLDA's philosophy is that home schoolers are better protected when there are specific protections enumerated, as in the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. We agree with the philosophy of those Founding Fathers who opposed the Constitution without a bill of rights to specifically protect individual freedoms. Ultimately, the signers agreed to a compromise, stipulating that a bill of rights would be attached to the Constitution after ratification. The Bill of Rights contains protections for religious freedom, the right to bear arms, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of peaceable assembly, and the right to petition our government for redress of grievances. It also ensures the right to be secure in our homes against unreasonable searches and seizures and the right to speedy, public, and impartial jury trials.

Because of HSLDA's desire to continue to protect home school freedoms and to prevent future regulation of home schoolers by government authorities, we have lobbied on H.R. 1 and S. 1 in several areas. First, we have drafted legislative language and worked diligently to exempt home schoolers from attempts to apply new federal testing provisions to home educators. We have also challenged expansion of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), which we believe will ultimately become a national test driving a national curriculum. Such a curriculum would destroy the freedom and effectiveness of private and home education.

Because what is tested is what gets taught, mandatory testing at any level carries the inherent threat of curriculum control. The testing issue is a real problem for home educators. This year alone, HSLDA has worked with the state organizations and home schoolers in five states to defeat legislative attempts to require testing of home schoolers using state tests mandated for public school students. Should our proposed amendments to H.R. 1 and S. 1 become law, they would prevent any state from requiring home educators to take state-mandated tests if the state receives federal funds for education. Since all states receive federal funds for education, this protection would apply to every state.

HSLDA's mission is to protect and advance the freedom of our member families. We strongly believe that these efforts to prevent government attempts to regulate home schoolers through mandatory testing or other means are positive steps. To fail to do so could result in unnecessary state legislative battles and even court cases, causing needless expenditures of the home school community's money, time, and physical resources.

Based upon 18 years of experience in defending and advancing home school freedoms, HSLDA is convinced that an aggressive, judicious effort to protect home schooling freedoms in Congress is in the best interest of home schooling—both now and in the future.

 Other Resources

More information on the H.R. 1

More information on the S. 1