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February 20, 2003

Victory on Montana Senate Bill 276

On February 12, 2003, the Montana Senate Education Committee voted 9-1 to "postpone indefinitely" Senate Bill 276. This action effectively kills the bill.

SB 276 introduced by Senator Don Ryan (D-SD 22) would have required homeschool students to take state tests adopted by the Montana Board of Public Education. This bill threatened the freedom from testing that Montana home educators have enjoyed since the homeschool law was first enacted in 1983.

HSLDA's Dee Black testified before the Committee at the hearing on February 10, pointing out that there were three reasons why we opposed this bill.

First, it would result in a violation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, placing Montana in jeopardy of losing all federal funding for education. Last year, Home School Legal Defense Association successfully lobbied Congress to add a provision that prohibited states from mandating that state assessments for homeschoolers.

Second, this legislation was unconstitutional because it is fundamentally unfair for the state to test students on course content they have not been taught. S.B. 276 would have effectively eliminated the right of parents in Montana to direct the education of their children by requiring them to teach the public school curriculum.

Third, after 20 years of homeschooling under Montana's current law, there was no reason to begin to impose state testing on homeschool students.

This victory would not have been possible without the support of many Montana homeschooling families, many of whom attended the Committee meeting. The hearing room was packed to overflowing with almost 500 homeschoolers and representatives of nonpublic schools. Only one person, the bill's sponsor, spoke in favor of the bill, whereas over 50 people testified against it. We also thank all of you who called and wrote their senators opposing the bill. Each Committee member received an average of 300 letters in opposition to this bill.

For more information on this legislation visit:
Legislation Threatens Homeschool Freedoms