Editor’s Note: Perhaps you have heard the rumblings (primarily over the internet) regarding HR 2732, proposed federal legislation which would effect every homeschooler in every state. One of the best places to research the bill and read state and homeschool leaders’ responses is on the National Home Education Network’s web site in their Legilative Forums section: http://www.nhen.org/forum/ and look under the section Red Hot! - Critical Legislative Issues.
Read Larry and Susan Kaseman’s insightful article entitled: ?Taking Charge - Larry and Susan Kaseman - Say No To The Federal Homeschool Legislation? in the September/October, 2003 issue of Home Education Magazine.
In the concluding statements from their HEM article, the Kaseman’s summed up the ramifications of HR2732:
Homeschooling legislation recently introduced in the U. S. Congress would open the door to federal regulation of homeschooling, perhaps through required standardized testing; generate a backlash against homeschoolers; and encourage homeschoolers to rely on so-called experts. It would not result in the benefits to homeschoolers that HSLDA claims it would. Homeschoolers who oppose this legislation need to contact their federal representatives so they do not assume that HSLDA speaks for homeschoolers or that homeschoolers want this legislation. (c) 2003 Larry and Susan Kaseman
The bill has been reprinted here and at the date of this writing (October 7, 2003) it is accurate. You can check for revisions online at: http://thomas.loc.gov/ and type in HR 2732 in the ?Bill? search window.
Following the bill, is the commentary of Ann Lahrson Fisher reprinted with permission from Ann’s column and email news update, HEM News and Commentary which can be found online at:
http://www.home-ed-magazine.com/whts_nw.html Archives are also available online. The column appears in Home Education Magazine, one of the oldest and most respected homeschooling magazines for homeschoolers. Their address and contact information: PO Box 1083, Tonasket WA, 98855-1083. Phone: 800-236-3278 or 509-486-1351
FAX: 509-486-2753 E-mail :HEM@home-ed-magazine.com
H. R. 2732
To amend selected statutes to clarify existing Federal law as to the treatment of students privately educated at home under State law.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 15, 2003
Mrs. MUSGRAVE (for herself, Mr. BOEHNER, Mr. HOEKSTRA, Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas, Mr. DEMINT, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. EHLERS, Mr. PITTS, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. KENNEDY of Minnesota, Mr. ADERHOLT, Mr. BRADY of Texas, Mr. GUTKNECHT, Mr. KING of Iowa, Mr. CRANE, Mr. MILLER of Florida, Mr. BEAUPREZ, Mr. CHABOT, Mr. DOOLITTLE, Mr. AKIN, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. TOOMEY, Mr. SMITH of Michigan, Mr. RYUN of Kansas, Mr. HOSTETTLER, Mr. PAUL, Mr. SOUDER, Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin, and Mr. WELDON of Florida) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned
To amend selected statutes to clarify existing Federal law as to the treatment of students privately educated at home under State law.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Home School Non-Discrimination Act of 2003'.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
The Congress finds as follows:
(1) The right of parents to direct the education of their children is an established principle and precedent under the United States Constitution.
(2) The Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court, in exercising their legislative, executive, and judicial functions, respectively, have repeatedly affirmed the rights of parents.
(3) Education by parents at home has proven to be an effective means for young people to achieve success on standardized tests and to learn valuable socialization skills.
(4) Young people who have been educated at home are proving themselves to be competent citizens in post-secondary education and the workplace.
(5) The rise of private home education has contributed positively to the education of young people in the United States.
(6) Several laws, written before and during the rise of private home education, are in need of clarification as to their treatment of students who are privately educated at home pursuant to State law.
(7) The United States Constitution does not allow Federal control of homeschooling.
SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS.
It is the sense of the Congress that--
(1) private home education, pursuant to State law, is a positive contribution to the United States; and
(2) parents who choose this alternative education should be encouraged within the framework provided by the Constitution.
SEC. 4. CLARIFICATION OF PROVISIONS ON INSTITUTIONAL AND STUDENT ELIGIBILITY UNDER THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT OF 1965.
(a) CLARIFICATION OF INSTITUTIONAL ELIGIBILITY- Section 101(a)(1) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)(1)) is amended by inserting `meeting the requirements of section 484(d)(3) or' after `only persons' .
(b) CLARIFICATION OF STUDENT ELIGIBILITY- Section 484(d) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 is amended by striking the heading `STUDENTS WHO ARE NOT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES' and inserting `SATISFACTION OF SECONDARY EDUCATION STANDARDS'.
SEC. 5. CLARIFICATION OF THE CHILD FIND PROCESS UNDER THE INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT.
Section 614(a)(1) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1414(a)(1)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(D) EFFECT OF ABSENCE OF CONSENT ON AGENCY OBLIGATIONS- In any case for which there is an absence of consent for an initial evaluation under this paragraph or for special education or related services to a child with a disability under this part--
`(i) the local educational agency shall not be required to convene an IEP meeting or develop an IEP under this section for the child; and
`(ii) the local educational agency shall not be considered to be in violation of any requirement under this part (including the requirement to make available a free appropriate public education to the child) with respect to the lack of an initial evaluation of the child, an IEP meeting with respect to the child, or the development of an IEP under this section for the child.'.
SEC. 6. CLARIFICATION OF THE COVERDELL EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT AS TO ITS APPLICABILITY FOR EXPENSES ASSOCIATED WITH STUDENTS PRIVATELY EDUCATED AT HOME UNDER STATE LAW.
(a) IN GENERAL- Paragraph (4) of section 530(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to qualified elementary and secondary education expenses) is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
`(C) SPECIAL RULE FOR HOME SCHOOLS- For purposes of clauses (i) and (iii) of subparagraph (A), the terms `public, private, or religious school' and `school' shall include any home school which provides elementary or secondary education if such school is treated as a home school or private school under State law.'.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE- The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply to taxable years beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act.
SEC. 7. CLARIFICATION OF SECTION 444 OF THE GENERAL EDUCATION PROVISIONS ACT AS TO PUBLICLY HELD RECORDS OF STUDENTS PRIVATELY EDUCATED AT HOME UNDER STATE LAW.
Section 444 of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. 1232g; also referred to as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) is amended--
(1) in subsection (a)(5), by adding at the end the following:
`(C) For students in non-public education (including any student educated at home or in a private school in accordance with State law), directory information may not be released without the written consent of the parents of such student.';
(2) in subsection (a)(6), by striking `, but does not include a person who has not been in attendance at such agency or institution.' and inserting `, including any non-public school student (including any student educated at home or in a private school as provided under State law). This paragraph shall not be construed as requiring an educational agency or institution to maintain education records or personally identifiable information for any non-public school student.'; and
(3) in subsection (b)(1), by striking subparagraph (F) and inserting the following:
`(G) organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions for the purpose of developing, validating, or administering predictive tests, administering student aid programs, and improving instruction, provided--
`(i) such studies are conducted in such a manner as will not permit the personal identification of students and their parents by persons other than representatives of such organizations and such information will be destroyed when no longer needed for the purpose for which it is conducted; and
`(ii) for students in non-public education, educational records or personally identifiable information may not be released without the written consent of the parents of such student.'.
SEC. 8. CLARIFICATION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR STUDENTS PRIVATELY EDUCATED AT HOME UNDER STATE LAW FOR THE ROBERT C. BYRD HONORS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM.
Section 419F(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070d-36(a)) is amended by inserting `(or a home school, whether treated as a home school or a private school under State law)' after `public or private secondary school'.
SEC. 9. CLARIFICATION OF THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT AS APPLIED TO STUDENTS PRIVATELY EDUCATED AT HOME UNDER STATE LAW.
Subsection (l) of section 3 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 203) is amended by adding at the end the following: `The Secretary shall extend the hours and periods of permissible employment applicable to employees between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years who are privately educated at a home school (whether the home school is treated as a home school or a private school under State law) beyond such hours and periods applicable to employees between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years who are educated in traditional public schools.'.
August 12, 2003 (HEM News & Commentary): This week I want to share my thoughts about Section 6 of the proposed homeschooling omnibus bill, HR 2732, which has been misleadingly dubbed a non-discrimination bill. Several portions of the bill are better described as special interest amendments, including the Coverdell amendment, the focus of this discussion.
What it is: The Coverdell Educational Savings Plan offers tax advantages to families in high tax brackets. The proposed amendment expands the applicability of the Coverdell to "students privately educated at home under state law." Under this plan, funds must be used for "qualified elementary and secondary expenses."
I have two major objections to this amendment. First, this amendment
helps a minority of homeschoolers, further entrenching the public view that homeschoolers are indeed a special interest group. If homeschoolers are seen as a special interest group marching to Congress, the deregulation moves in heavily regulated states are undermined. One sound argument for deregulation, that homeschoolers ask for no special privileges and no tax dollars and thus should be left alone, is lost if this amendment passes.
The risks of perpetuating homeschooling as a special interest group pale, though, when compared to my second major objection, that of inviting the federal camel's nose into our homeschooling tent. This amendment is a generous invitation for federal meddling in issues that are best handled on the state or individual levels. That invitation will not be turned down.
The invitation is straightforward: the definition of "qualified elementary and secondary expenses" will need clarification. The IRS definition (under the Coverdell Plan as it now stands) is consistent with traditional public and private schooling: tuition, fees, books, supplies, equipment, special needs, room and board, even computers and software that is predominately educational in nature. Homeschoolers' expenses, however, vary widely from those of their schooled counterparts. Homeschoolers using the Coverdell will not want to be
restricted to the limitations of these school-type expenses. Therefore,
if this amendment passes, the IRS will seek a definition of qualified expenses for homeschooling. You may wonder how the IRS might go about the task of defining homeschooling expenses. It is a simple matter, really, for one federal agency to ask another agency for information. The Department of Education would probably commission a study of homeschooling. Or possibly, since homeschooling takes place in the home, the Department of Health and Human Services will jump on board with a commissioned study to define the type of home and family life that produces successful homeschooled students.
Who might carry out such a study? A state university, perhaps the U. of Washington or the U. of Michigan, might take on the task. If a study of homeschooling were contracted out to private agencies, an established homeschooling organization - perhaps one in Pennsylvania, Virginia, or Oregon - could win the project. Maybe even a charter school curriculum provider such as K12 would put in a bid.
Stop and think about that. An institutional study of homeschooling, mandated by the IRS and put up for bid by DOE or DHHS, would take the first steps to define legitimate homeschooling practice.
Would information gleaned from such a study be used strictly for its intended original purpose? Don't believe it. Any such study would be available to the public, to be used widely for purposes I can only imagine. Other studies would surely follow, and the definition of homeschooling would become narrower and narrower.
We must also expect mission creep, the idea that many an agency or idea starts out small, with good and helpful intentions, and over time, grows into a bureaucratic nightmare. Hmm, mission creep examples that pop into mind include public schools, standardized testing, income tax, the DOE, the DHHS, and Social Security - there are many more. Mission creep is inevitable when government involves itself in private affairs. Just as the camel's nose is followed by the entire camel, agency expansion follows the poking of the federal nose into private matters. Do we really want to invite the feds into the homeschooling tent? The Coverdell amendment is a gold-embossed invitation.
To sum up: The Coverdell amendment, if passed, offers tax benefits to a minority of homeschoolers, opening the door for federal agencies to take further interest in homeschooling. Once that door is open, our historical understanding of how government agencies expand tells us that the door will swing wider and it will not close. That the Coverdell amendment also casts homeschooling as a special interest group exacerbates the problem.
I urge you to read this bill and think through the possible ramifications for yourself. (see Bill previous page) If you want to discuss HR 2732 online or read what others are thinking, there are a number of online discussions going on, including the Yahoo group AHA-PoliticalAction (To subscribe, send a message to AHA PoliticalActionfirstname.lastname@example.org ) and the NHEN Forum at http://www.nhen.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=454
When you call or E-mail your Representative: If your Representative has co-sponsored HR 2732, ask him/her to withdraw support. If you have already written or called in favor of the bill, tell your Representative that you've changed your mind and why. You might point out the following:
A. Homeschooling is private education and we do not want special consideration nor do we want special interest group status.
B. Helping a few homeschoolers take advantage of the Coverdell Amendment compromises private status and is not in the best interest of all homeschoolers.
C. Other issues in this bill are better handled at the state level, on the individual level, or by working to improve the law for all citizens.
October 3, 2003 (HEM News & Commentary)
A landslide of discussion explaining, opposing, and favoring the proposed legislation, HR 2732/S 1562, the Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act has hit the Internet. Many news groups, forums and e-mail lists are jammed. You can post your questions or just follow the discussions at HEM-Networking
or AHA-PolitcalAction (AHA-PoliticalActionsubscribe@yahoogroups.com).
I've come away from this massive load of reading with a sense of foreboding, a feeling that arises in addition to my usual distaste for ANY federal language about homeschooling. I am now thoroughly convinced that this legislation, if passed, can and probably will negatively impact homeschoolers. Somewhere down the road, there will be negative consequences, consequences that cannot be foreseen from here, consequences that could easily dwarf the problems that this legislation is intended to fix, consequences that can easily be avoided by dropping this Bill.
Because state laws (and lack of laws) and state constitutions are widely diverse, and written in widely diverse language, it seems most unlikely that federal law can be written that does not have an adverse effect on homeschoolers somewhere in the country. Shoot, even knowledgeable veteran homeschooling advocates from different states struggle to understand each other - why would we think that a federal law written by politicians would be a good idea? The discussions I've read, both recently and over the years, say it best: Language that works in West Virginia is dangerous in California; wording that Californians like won't fly in Pennsylvania; and round and round this law would go, north and south, east and west, unintentionally steamrolling homeschoolers in one region in a misguided effort to protect the toes of others.
It is time to stop this legislation in its tracks. We need to fix the problems that this bill tries to address in the way we as homeschoolers know works best - one at a time and at the state level, where education law rightfully resides. The portions of the bill that pertain specifically to federal law (FERPA, Child Labor Laws) should be addressed universally for ALL students and families. Using this bill to establish homeschoolers as a special interest group is NOT in the best interest of homeschoolers.
Let's roll up our sleeves and retire this legislation.
About Ann Lahrson-Fisher: Ann is the author of Fundamentals of Homeschooling: Notes on Successful Family Living . Visit her web site:
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