Homeschools Make an Impact
Although the parents’ right to direct the education and religious upbringing of their children is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, some states have been slow in recognizing the right of parents to teach their children at home. As a result, the Home School Legal Defense Association was started three years ago and dedicated to preserving the right to homeschool. Since that beginning, HSLDA has swelled to 2800 member families who homeschool their children in 48 states. HSLDA attorneys have resolved hundreds of legal contacts, won approximately 25 cases, and influenced recent homeschool legislation in several states. In the last month, HSLDA’s national office has received reports of homeschoolers gaining ground throughout the country.
In Iowa, a governor’s commission was specifically appointed to investigate the conflict between the homeschoolers (and Christian schools) and the state’s teacher certification requirements. On November 25, the commission finally recommended to the legislature that the certification requirement be lifted from homeschoolers and Christian schools for five years. If the children continue to progress, the certification requirement will be lifted permanently. Meanwhile, homeschoolers need to have at least a high school diploma in order to freely educate their children at home. If the Iowa legislature adopts the recommendation, only two states will remain that still require homeschoolers to have certified teachers: Michigan and North Dakota. (The state supreme courts in both Michigan and North Dakota heard oral arguments last month on cases challenging the certification requirement on homeschools and private schools. The decisions will be rendered within the next couple months.)
Meanwhile, attorney Dave Siegrist has been secured by HSLDA to defend the Trucke and Paulsrud families in Mapleton. Both families have had charges brought against them because they do not have a certified teacher teaching all their children's classes. The lower court recently ruled against the Trucke family and HSLDA has appealed. Attorney Siegrist said that after the judge ruled against the Truckes, the judge stated, on the record, that he had doubts about his decision.
Earlier in the year, HSLDA’s executive director flew to Des Moines and testified at a public hearing before the Department of Instruction. He presented documentation showing that Iowa was one of the last three states that still imposed teacher certification requirements on all homeschools and private schools. He also pointed out the fact that such requirements violate the parents’ right to direct the education of their children and their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs.
In Kansas, the state board of education announced their recommendation for a new homeschool law to the Kansas Legislature. The board, which has adopted a favorable policy toward homeschools, proposes that homeschool legislation contain basically three requirements: 1) the homeschool must be maintained the same amount of time as the public schools, 2) the students must take a periodic minimum competency test, and 3) the parent-teacher must take a test approved by the state board of education. According to the state board of education, the parents’ test is geared for anyone who has had at least a high school education. This recommendation is almost identical to the homeschool law that was enacted in Arizona in 1983. Although this recommendation is not ideal, it does show that the state board of education wants to resolve the homeschool conflicts in Kansas by recognizing the right of homeschoolers to educate their children.
In Indiana, the federal district court ruled in favor of a homeschool family in Mazanec v. North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation, 614 F.Supp.1152 (1985). The court recognized the constitutional right of parents to educate their children in a home environment. The court added that it “concurs in the decisional line which honors the good faith efforts of parents to educate their children at home.”Commenting on teacher certification, the court said, “it is now doubtful that the requirements of a formally licensed or certified teacher . . . would pass constitutional muster.” This case provides favorable language which can be used to defend homeschoolers’ rights throughout the country.
In Michigan, homeschoolers have been battling the statutory requirement that all teachers, including parents, must be state-certified in order to teach their children. Twenty families of HSLDA have already had conflict with their local school districts. Presently, HSLDA has secured attorney Dave Kallman to defend the DeJonge and Haines families who are homeschooling without using a certified teacher. In late November, the Michigan state supreme court heard the Sheridan Road Baptist Church case, which involves a church school challenging the constitutionality of the certification requirements. If this case is decided in favor of the church school, homeschoolers will be able to homeschool without using the services of a certified teacher.
In North Dakota, two HSLDA families may have to go to court because they are not certified. However, the Larsen case was just heard before the state supreme court and it involves four homeschool families challenging the teacher certification requirement. If attorney Greg Lange is successful, homeschoolers will be able to freely teach their children in North Dakota. All homeschoolers should hold the Sheridan and Larsen cases in prayer, asking God to grant homeschoolers the victory. Both of these decisions should be handed down in December or January.
The above comprises homeschool battles in only a few states, but positive victories are occurring throughout the U.S. as the number of homeschoolers continues to grow. In fact, 22 states have passed specific homeschool statutes which recognize the right of homeschoolers to operate. Pennsylvania, Iowa, Alabama, Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan, Idaho, and Kansas legislatures will be considering homeschooling bills beginning this coming January. Continue to pray for God’s blessing on the efforts of homeschoolers to restore Christian education in the home.