July 29, 2013

Record Number of Legislative Bills Tracked

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dee Black assists members with questions and issues regarding Mississippi homeschool law. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

During the 2013 session of the Mississippi Legislature, Home School Legal Defense Association tracked a record 59 bills that either directly or indirectly affected home educators. Following is the breakdown by category of the bills tracked:

  • Homeschool bills: 6
  • Parental rights: 8
  • Early childhood education: 12
  • College admission: 2
  • Compulsory attendance: 18
  • Immunizations: 3
  • Virtual charter schools: 2
  • Income tax deductions: 3
  • Special education: 1
  • Child abuse: 3
  • College scholarships: 1

Most of these bills were unfavorable to homeschooling families. However, during the legislative process, some bills that had begun as a threat to homeschool freedom or parental rights were amended and passed without the language that had been objectionable. The majority of bills died at the committee level before any vote was taken.

Unfortunately, the legislature passed one bill, House Bill 896, which poses a potential threat to homeschoolers. This bill created scholarships for students with speech-language impairments to receive services through a nonpublic school of choice. The school must provide “intensive high-quality speech-language pathology services” by a licensed and certified individual. But here’s the problem. The law says that parents may exercise the option to remove their impaired child from public school to be enrolled in a nonpublic school (e.g., a home instruction program) so long as the school provides these same services. This appears to be true even though a home education program is not eligible to receive scholarship funds. While it is uncertain how a court would interpret this law, there exists the possibility that some home instruction programs in Mississippi may be saddled with state standards for the first time in history. What is clear is that children who have never been enrolled in public school are not subject to these standards.

Effective monitoring of pending legislation and lobbying by the Mississippi Home Educators Association was instrumental to the defeat of many bills that threatened the rights of homeschoolers.

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