Federal Relations

December 20, 2001

Final Education Bill Contains Protections for Home Schoolers

On December 18, 2001, the Senate passed the final version of President George W. Bush's education initiative, H.R. 1, by an 87-10 vote. (The House passed the measure on December 13 by a 381-41 vote.) Passage marked the end of 11 months of intense lobbying by all parties interested in education.

Home School Legal Defense Association, through its National Center for Home Education, worked with the president and Congress on this bill from its earliest stages. While it is the position of HSLDA that the federal government has exceeded its constitutional limits in education policy, we believe that due diligence remains necessary to keep an ever-expanding federal government away from home education. To that end, we were satisfied with certain aspects of the final bill.

The bill specifically states that none of the provisions contained therein should be interpreted as applying to home schooling. It also includes some positive policy steps including prohibitions on the development of a national test, restrictions on use of federal funds to develop any national curriculum, restrictions on federal teacher certification, the repeal of the Goals 2000 program, and prohibitions on a national database.

"We are pleased that the bill clearly states that home school activities are not the business of the federal government," HSLDA President Mike Smith said. "In addition, we are gratified that home schools are expressly exempted from the bill's testing requirements, including any tests merely referenced by the Act. While home schoolers do exceptionally well on standardized testing, the last thing we need is the federal government setting up national tests."

Throughout the course of the year, HSLDA worked extensively with the administration and members of the House and Senate to protect home schooling from regulation in this massive bill. HSLDA crafted language, made suggestions, and encouraged our members encouraged our members to put pressure on key players. In fact, one key congressional committee member called HSLDA and said he had received 100 calls and letters from home schoolers during one day! He promised to work for home schoolers' interests and in exasperation asked us to stop the calls.

Despite these protections for home schoolers, H.R. 1 clearly expands the role of the federal government in education. It authorizes an increase in spending of nearly $8 billion from what was appropriated for 2001. The bill requires testing of all children in grades 3 through 8, and requires that states sample test using the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) in grades 4 and 8. HSLDA has opposed NAEP because we believe that such a centralized federal test runs the risk of becoming, in practice, a de facto national test-and what is tested is what gets taught. Thankfully, some reforms to NAEP were provided in H.R. 1, including parental notice and opt-out provisions.

HSLDA thanks its members and the home school community at large for their calls and prayer during this protracted process. Special thanks is also due HSLDA's National Center staff for their hard work on this legislation, particularly Caleb Kershner, Sam Redfern, and Sarah Durkee.