May 4, 2009

Bad Homeschool Bill Defeated

House Bill 2144, one of the worst legislative proposals against homeschooling in recent history, was put aside during the 2009 legislative session of the Arkansas General Assembly. This bill would have required parents to obtain the permission of a school district committee in order to begin homeschooling a child enrolled in public school. This committee would have had unbridled discretion to determine whether parents were to be permitted to choose home instruction for their children. Provisions of the bill could have affected all homeschoolers, because a parent who missed the deadline for filing the annual notice of intent by even one day would have had to enroll a child in public school and then apply to the committee for permission to withdraw the child for homeschooling.

Sponsored by Representative David Cook, H.B. 2144 would have also required parents to include “a copy of proof of the most recent state-mandated achievement test” with the notice of intent. There would have been no exceptions to this requirement, even if the student were ill, injured, or unavailable to take the test for any reason, such as a death in the immediate family. Parents not able to produce the proof of testing would not have met the prerequisites for homeschooling and would not have been permitted to continue to teach their children at home.

After many emails and telephone calls to key legislators by homeschoolers and skillful lobbying by The Education Alliance, a division of the Arkansas Family Council, Representative Cook agreed to refer the bill to an interim study committee for discussion over the next two years. The committee will make recommendations to the legislature for its next session in 2011. Arkansas’ term limit law prohibits Representative Cook from being re-elected to the House of Representatives for the 2011 session.