June 27, 2007

Legislative Wrap-up

With the closing of the legislature, it’s time to assess both the good and the bad.

Despite overwhelming evidence that putting 4-year-olds in classrooms brings no lasting benefits—and may cause harm—Iowa became one of the only states in the nation to force taxpayers to foot the bill for statewide government-financed classroom time for 4-year-olds. Teachers unions around the nation are pushing hard to get more and more children into their system, and in Iowa they found a receptive audience, with the legislature having taken a strongly statist lurch in the last election.

The legislature also passed mandatory lead testing for all children, including homeschoolers. It is not entirely clear when the law will be enforced. But homeschoolers in the future will be required to test their children for lead in their blood unless they have a religious exemption, or are exempted under rules to be adopted by the Department of Health in the future, or the law can be modified.

We can rejoice, however, at the defeat of many proposals that would have eroded liberty. Although there was a tremendous push to expand the age of compulsory school attendance, and passage of at least one of them looked all but certain, every bill that would have raised the upper limit or lowered the bottom limit of compulsory attendance failed to become law.

The legislature rejected the opportunity to establish a definition of marriage through the democratic process. This puts Iowa citizens at risk of unpredictable judges imposing their own idiosyncratic definition. Many states have wisely taken this decision away from appointed judges and given it to the citizens.

A bill that would have put government busybodies literally in the crib with babies, Senate File 481, failed to become law. The bill would have created a program for government agents to visit the home of every newborn babe—except for families knowledgeable enough to know they could reject such officious conduct. These seemingly innocuous “visits” would, in reality, have been government investigations of each unsuspecting family, and would have swept many guiltless families into frightening contact with the child welfare establishment. Shockingly, this invasive program passed the Senate Committee on Human Resources unanimously. The $2 million price tag for this “big brother” program may have contributed to it running out of steam and failing to reach a vote on the Senate floor.

House Joint Resolution 4 would have created “Home Rule,” allowing counties much more power over citizens. This easily could have resulted in counties trying to impose their own homeschool requirements. Fortunately, it failed to become law.

A bill that would have helpfully established September 15 as the uniform date for filing the annual Competent Private Instruction form (as opposed to the variable first day of school in each district) failed to become law. However, the Department of Education has sensibly adopted this date as policy. The new CPI handbook and form state that September 15 is the filing date.

Home School Legal Defense Association members were active on many of these issues, making phone calls and visits to legislators. The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) once again played a central role in helping protect liberty. Our thanks go to NICHE and the many HSLDA member families who worked to defeat bills that would have eroded liberty for all.