February 24, 2004
Anti-Homeschool Bill Defeated in Idaho

Idaho homeschoolers came out in full force and soundly defeated a bill that would have threatened homeschool freedom.

S.B. 1233 would have made any home educating parent who fails "to place the child in school . . . or to have the child comparably instructed . . ." automatically guilty of a misdemeanor crime.

Currently, the law states that if a parent is suspected of failing to provide comparable instruction, proceedings would be brought against the parent under the same Act under which the juvenile charges were brought against the child. This system has worked effectively for decades by giving the juvenile judge a great deal of latitude in working with the individual family to resolve the problem. Since the term "comparably instructed" is somewhat vague, the family has a better opportunity to prove they are providing an education and disprove the allegations.

Under S.B. 1233, this flexibility would have been taken away. Parents whose home education was found to be inadequate would automatically be charged with a misdemeanor crime even if the educational shortcoming was relatively minor.

We believe that this bill targeted homeschooling families. The use of all other forms of education - public schools, private schools, and parochial schools - are expressly exempt from the statute. Only homeschoolers can be convicted of failing to provide comparable instruction under the statute this bill modifies.

Idaho Coalition of Home Educators approached the bill's sponsor, Senator Joe Stegner to work out a compromise bill, but Sen. Stegner refused. Accordingly, ICHE and HSLDA sent out email alerts asking homeschoolers to call their senators in opposition to the bill.

Some senate offices received over 600 emails in the space of two weeks from homeschoolers opposing the bill. After prolonged opposition, Senator Joe Stegner has withdrawn Senate Bill 1233. The entire senate concurred in his motion. Withdrawing the bill was the "simple recognition that this bill is divisive," said Sen. Stegner. "It has generated more animosity than I ever anticipated."

Credit goes to Idaho Coalition of Home Educators for spearheading the opposition and to HSLDA members who took time out of their busy schedules to contact their senators about the bill.