March 5, 2008

Legislation Affecting Homeschoolers Defeated

As usual, the Mississippi Legislature considered a number of bills during the 2008 session affecting the freedoms of homeschooling families. None of these bills survived scrutiny at the committee level and, therefore, died without further consideration. The most significant bills are as follows:

House Bill 29: This bill would have mandated vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) for all female students by sixth grade. Home instruction programs would have been exempt only if there were ten or fewer children in the family. HSLDA opposed this bill.

House Bill 775: This bill would have permitted homeschool students to participate in extracurricular activities at public school. HSLDA took a neutral position on this bill.

House Bill 1298: This was known as the “Mississippi Put Parents in Charge Act.” This was a tax credit bill which would have required the state to evaluate annually for 12 years the academic performance of students, including homeschool students. Other types of evaluations were also to be conducted “using appropriate analytical and behavioral science methodologies.” HSLDA favors tax credits but could not support this bill with the evaluation provisions included in it.

Senate Bill 2008: This bill would have authorized public schools to dual-enroll homeschool students at the request of the parents. Such students would have been permitted to participate in any academic activities in the school district on a part-time basis and permitted to participate in any extracurricular activities available to students in the homeschool student’s grade. HSLDA took a neutral position on this bill.

Senate Bill 2271: This bill would have authorized the State Board of Education to “establish student testing proficiency standards for promotion to grade levels for students in home instruction programs which are equivalent to requirements applicable to public school students.” If this bill had passed, it would have required homeschooling parents to conform their curriculum to the material taught in public school in order for their children to be able to pass the state tests. The Mississippi Department of Education, not parents, would have determined the grade level at which a student was taught in a home instruction program. HSLDA opposed this bill.

Senate Bill 2355: This bill would have expanded the compulsory attendance age at both ends. Children who became 6 years old by January 1 of the school year would have had to begin attending school at 5 years old. Students who did not turn 17 until after January 1 would have had to stay in school the entire school year. HSLDA opposed this bill because we oppose any expansion of state control over education.

Senate Bill 2401: This bill would have lowered the compulsory school age from 6 to 5. HSLDA opposed this bill.

As in years past, the Mississippi Home Educators Association was very effective in its lobbying efforts to protect the freedoms that homeschoolers in Mississippi enjoy.