Federal Relations

August 5, 2004

Bill Which Prohibits Mandatory Early Education Still In Limbo in U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate may complete Head Start legislation this session, which was passed by the House on July 25, 2003, by a 217 to 216 vote. HSLDA was able to work with the House majority and successfully include important language in H.R. 2210 that would help combat a trend in the states which links federal funds with lower compulsory attendance ages. The language that was included in the House bill states.

"Nothing in this act shall be construed to require a state to establish a program of early education for children in this state, to require any child to participate in a program of early education, to attend school, or to participate in any initial screening prior to participation in such program."

Many states use the excuse that they need to mandate early education in order to receive federal funding. This language removes this excuse. The amendment makes it crystal clear that the federal government is not mandating states to require children to enter head start programs or any preschool or early education programs of any kind. Furthermore, a child is not even required to attend any school if the compulsory attendance age is lowered to the age of the application of the early education bill HR 2210, which includes children 4-years old and younger.

We have found in the past that this type of language often deters legislators from making something mandatory and causes enough confusion among the forces that would like to expand controls that the bill usually dies in the state legislature, thereby protecting homeschoolers from the slow gradual expansion of jurisdiction through compulsory attendance laws.

Time is getting short. The Senate must act to pass this legislation before the end of the 108th Congress in 2004 or HSLDA will have to work to include the language again in 2005.