March 14, 2007

Homeschoolers Get Legislative Victory

On February 23, 2007, the Montana Senate dealt a final death blow to a legislative proposal which would have required homeschoolers to register with the county superintendent and imposed an unreasonable deadline for doing so. Senate Bill 458, sponsored by Senator Don Ryan, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, had already received an unfavorable vote when the committee considered the bill four days earlier. Senator Ryan attempted to get the full Senate to override the committee’s decision to table the bill, but an overwhelming majority of the senators voted against his proposal.

Parents in Montana were particularly concerned about the implications of registering with the county superintendent instead of simply notifying the superintendent of their children’s enrollment in their homeschool. By registering their students with the county superintendent, they arguably would have become enrolled in the school district as public school students. This would have created inequitable funding to the local school district and more state control over homeschooling. The bill also sought to impose a deadline for registration at least seven days before the beginning of the school district’s fiscal year on July 1. This meant that families would have had to register their children by June 23 of each year. Presumably, county superintendents could have denied any family the right to homeschool if they missed the deadline.

This legislative victory is attributable in great measure to lobbying efforts of homeschooling families who called and emailed their senators about this bill and attended the hearing conducted by the Senate Education Committee. Special recognition goes to the Montana Coalition of Home Educators for organizing the demonstration at the Capitol and testimony before the committee.

 Other Resources

Senate Bill 458: An Act Revising Requirements of County Superintendent of Schools