October 18, 2001

Key Home School Issues Still Pending in Conference Committee

The House-Senate Education Conference Committee on House Resolution 1 and Senate bill 1 continues to ratify a series of agreements relating to reauthorization and reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Though the committee had paused briefly following the tragic events of September 11, it has resumed efforts to complete work on the bill. To date, the committee has reconciled more than 1,000 issues, but some reports suggest that at least 500 major issues still remain unresolved. One of the biggest concerns to home schoolers is a home school exemption to any state test referenced in this act. (See our August 17 alert.) HSLDA has received confirmation that this language will be in the final version of the bill. However, it's not over until the final vote is cast-continued vigilance is critical.

Another important issue that remains undecided is a mandated National Assessment Education Progress test. Neither home schoolers nor states are currently required to participate in NAEP. However, S. 1 would require states to administer this test to public school students. HSLDA is concerned that a mandatory NAEP would result in states teaching to the test by default. Home School Legal Defense Association has encouraged home schooling parents across the nation to contact their representatives and senators on the committee and communicate the importance of allowing states to choose alternative tests to NAEP.

"Although a majority of the Senate, several House members, and the White House are calling for all states to administer the NAEP test without any alternative, committee chairman John Boehner (R-OH) has reassured HSLDA he will fight for the NAEP alternative," said National Center for Home Education's Manager of Federal Policy and Research Caleb Kershner. "If we lose this battle, it won't be because Mr. Boehner has backed down-he has stood firm throughout the conference committee process."

"We aren't just focused on getting the bill done; we're focused on getting it done right. This legislation will make a very real difference to schools, communities, and students, and we have an obligation to do it carefully and correctly," said chairman Boehner in an October 14 Washington Post story.

On Friday, October 12, committee leaders met with President Bush and reaffirmed their pledge to complete the education reform bill before the end of this legislative year.

"The president reiterated his desire that we complete this bill this year, and we reaffirmed our commitment to getting it done," chairman Boehner told the Post. "He said it is important to do this to show the country is still dealing with issues that matter in everyday life."

"Everybody is trying to move this conference forward," Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) said in the Post. "The president wants a bill. Everybody in the room wants a bill. There is a desire to bring this to closure,"

For additional information on H.R.1 and S. 1, see HSLDA's federal legislation page.