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Maine

May 9, 2003

Maine Homeschoolers Pack Hearing Room for LD 160

By a vote of 31-0 in the Senate on May 6, and 121-2 in the House on May 7, the Maine legislature passed sweeping changes to Maine's homeschool law. Legislative Document 160 is now on its way to the Governor's desk to be signed into law.

Passage of this bill means homeschoolers will no longer be subject to the whims of Department of Education bureaucrats.

Here are the most significant changes:

  • Under the new law, parents file a written notice (not "application") 10 days before the child's home instruction begins. The notice includes the name, signature, and address of the parent or guardian, the name and age of the student, the date home instruction will begin, and a statement of assurance that instruction will be provided for at least 175 days and will cover the required subject areas (same as previously required). The notice also includes a statement of assurance that the parents will submit a year-end assessment.

    (The initial notice of intent is filed simultaneously with the local school administrative unit and with the commissioner of education. This notice and any other information that is filed receives enhanced privacy protection.)

  • Each year thereafter the family files a simple letter telling the commissioner and the school administrative unit whether or not the child's home instruction program will continue. They must also include a copy of the previous year's annual assessment. The options for the annual assessment are the same as those available previously.

  • The law abolishes the need to seek the commissioner's approval. Because of this, families will never have to anxiously await a letter from the commissioner to find out if their homeschool program is operating legally. Previously, if the Department lost or mishandled paperwork, it could expose a family to legal jeopardy.

  • And with "approval" gone, so is the vexing four-page form used to apply for approval. It was so complicated that one member of the legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee declared it would take a "Harvard graduate" to figure it out. Gone also are the four pages of burdensome, intrusive regulations that governed approval.

  • The law curtails the ability of the commissioner to write regulations. Previously he could adopt regulations despite the overwhelming opposition of the homeschool community, with no accountability to the legislature. Under the new law, any regulations he attempts to adopt are considered "major substantive rules". Rules that fall in this category can be blocked by the legislature. This creates accountability to the elected representatives and to the people themselves. With "approval" no longer required by law, the commissioner's power of homeschoolers is vastly limited.

Ed and Kathy Green and Kathi Kearney with Homeschoolers of Maine have worked tirelessly to help LD 160 pass, both publicly and behind the scenes. Their efforts have been instrumental. We also thank our members and friends in Maine who whose tireless efforts produced many phone calls and visits to the legislature.

Senator Carol Weston, the principal sponsor of the bill, has worked with tremendous enthusiasm and dedication to obtain passage of this bill. Truly God has brought this blessing of greater liberty to Maine homeschoolers, but we all owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Weston for her contribution.

LD 160 was amended during the legislative process and accomplishes somewhat less than we had initially hoped. Yet it is without question a tremendous step forward for homeschool liberty in Maine.

For more information on this bill visit:
http://www.hslda.org/Legislation/State/me/2003/MELD160/default.asp