August 31, 2011

Curtain Falls on All Efforts to Raise Compulsory School Age

Note: A subsequent bill, SB 362, was passed by the Maryland Legislature and signed into law in 2012. It provides that starting on June 1, 2014, children in Maryland will be subject to compulsory attendance until they turn 17. Read more >>

HSLDA tracked four bills during the past Maryland legislative session that would have placed children under compulsory school attendance for more of their lives. By the grace of God, none became law.

Senate bills 965 and 41 would have added two more year of compulsory attendance to the lives of children. Neither emerged from the Senate before the session closed.

Two other bills would have raised the compulsory attendance age in certain localities. HSLDA opposes compulsory age increases for localities because of the inevitable pressure that would be created to raise the age statewide.

House Bill 1258 would have raised the compulsory age to 18 in Baltimore City. It died when the session ended because it never received the approval of the House.

House Bill 1092 started out as a bill to raise the age of compelled attendance to age 18 in Prince George’s County. But the House amended the bill significantly. As amended, the increase in the age of compulsory attendance was removed. Instead, a provision was added that any child withdrawing from public school at age 16 or 17 would be required to participate in an “exit interview.”

With that amendment, HSLDA no longer opposed the bill. It passed the House by an overwhelming margin of 132 in favor, 5 against. Nonetheless, it failed to pass the Senate, and it died when the session ended.

HSLDA also watched a bill, HB 500, that would have opened up public school classes and extracurricular activities to homeschool families. However, it required participating “in a home instruction program under written agreement with the county superintendent.”

The “under written agreement” mandate applied, strictly speaking, only to families seeking involvement in public school programs. But there was a danger that a court might believe the legislature was intending to modify Maryland homeschool law for all families.

Passage of HB 500 as written followed by a couple of bad judicial decisions might have one day led to all homeschoolers needing to have an “agreement” with their county school system in order to homeschool. While the homeschool regulations require families to consent to the regulations, no “agreement” with the county is necessary under current law.

HB 500 never received the approval of the House. It died when the session ended in April.

We would like to express sincere thanks to the many families who responded to our e-lert asking for phone calls to oppose SB 41. We would also like to thank families who worked in other ways to protect homeschool freedom in Maryland. And a special note of thanks goes to Maryland Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE), which has worked side-by-side with HSLDA for many years to protect your freedom in the legislature.