May 7, 2008

Legislature Closes with Freedom Intact

Despite a flood of attempts to strip parents of the freedom to make their own decisions about education for children under age 6 and over 16, the diligent work of homeschoolers and the gracious gift of God worked to protect freedom as the Iowa legislature closed last week. HSLDA tracked many bills, working closely with Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE). Here’s how everything wound up.

Bills to Lower Starting Age for Compulsory Attendance:
House File 2106 and Senate File 2051 would have lowered the starting age for compulsory school attendance from 6 to 5. Neither bill received committee approval.

Bills to Subject Older Students to Compulsory Attendance:
Senate Study Bill 3005, House File 2039, and House Study Bill 532 would have raised the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18, thus expanding the power of the state over young adults. These bills did not make it out of committee. House Study File 2144, however, would have done the same thing, and it received more attention than the others. After committee work, it was redesignated House File 2623, then House File 2681, and amended to include an exemption for homeschoolers. It failed to emerge from the Ways and Means Committee, where bills that will penalize taxpayers often die. Public education is expensive under the best of conditions. It is far more expensive when money must be spent to maintain order in the classroom when unwilling young adults are forced to stay in school.

Bills to create Mandatory Core Curriculum Standards:
A bill creating a new level of state control over the content and courses needed to receive a high school diploma from a public or accredited private school was enacted by a razor-thin majority vote. Senate Study Bill 3097, later designated Senate File 2216, affects non-public schools, whether or not accredited, but does not impact homeschool families. HSLDA will vigorously oppose any effort of a subsequent legislature try to force homeschoolers to conform to state-dictated course content standards. Median homeschool scores are four years ahead of others on standardized tests, according to Dr. Lawrence Rudner. We don’t need any “help.”

Bills Subjecting the Home of Every Newborn to State Visits:
Senate File 210, subsequently designated Senate File 481,was based on the underlying theory that you can’t take care of a baby without government help. This odious bill would have sent a state agent to the home of every newborn to pry and snoop and see what government “services” the family needed—as if the government knew more about babies than the mom and dad! Shockingly, this bill actually received the unanimous support of the Senate Human Resources Committee. Fortunately, it died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

As we look back on the year, a key component in stopping harmful bills was the tremendous response of homeschoolers when HSLDA asked families to call lawmakers. Your voice on behalf of protecting freedom was heard. Thank you!

The NICHE organization maintained a vigorous and effective legislative presence during the session. The NICHE legislative liaison attorney Justin LaVan did an excellent job working with lawmakers to protect homeschool freedom. NICHE and HSLDA have developed a highly successful working relationship over the years. If you are not currently a member of NICHE, please consider joining to support their outstanding efforts on behalf of Iowa homeschool families.