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November 12, 2002

Puerto Rico Legislature Holds Hearings on Homeschool Bill

A legislative hearing on H.P. 3048 [requires Adobe Acrobat Reader] was conducted on November 6, 2002, at the capitol in San Juan. It was estimated that over 300 homeschooling parents attended. Several homeschool children peacefully carried placards in front of the capitol building protesting the bill. The hearing room was packed to overflowing, as many of the homeschoolers could not get in to hear the testimony of witnesses.

Report On November 6 Hearing
The Chairman of the Education & Culture Committee, José Javier García Cabán, is also the author of the bill. Mr. García Cabán chaired the meeting and it appears he is the primary mover behind this attempt to regulate homeschooling in Puerto Rico. In his interaction with the homeschoolers he informed them that whether they liked it or not, they were going to have legislation. In an emotional speech he declared that Puerto Rico needed to know who the homeschoolers were and needed to be assured that homeschool children's educational needs were met. He indicated that the bill that he had authored was simply a beginning step toward regulation and he invited the homeschoolers to participate with him by telling him what they wanted and didn't want in the legislation. He hinted that he was willing to compromise and back off some of the more stringent provisions for regulation in H.P. 3048.

However, Secretary of Education Cesar Rey testified that he opposed the bill for several reasons. By definition he asserted that homeschooling in Puerto Rico is a non-government entity and as such is recognized as an alternative to public education, and not under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education. Homeschooling, Mr. Rey contended, is the responsibility of the General Education Council, which has jurisdiction over private schools in Puerto Rico.

Pablo Rivera, Assistant Secretary in Charge of Academic Affairs for the Department of Education, testified on behalf of the department that the bill does not establish clear processes in terms of student evaluation and grades. The Department was also concerned that there would be an additional workload without the necessary resources to carryout the responsibilities. This would involve creating new offices and hiring more employees without the appropriate funding to do so. The bottom line was that Secretary Rey does not believe H.P. 3048 is viable and more study must be done.

This testimony was followed by several homeschoolers pointing out that there was no need to regulate homeschooling in Puerto Rico and that the proposed bill was too stringent. Responding to this testimony, Mr. García Cabán again delivered a long speech explaining the need for homeschoolers to be regulated and proclaiming that he would see to it that it was done. He added that homeschoolers could either cooperate with him in trying to get a better bill, or he would go it alone.

At this juncture, Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association, in his testimony said that whoever had drafted the bill has seemingly put it together from the worst aspects of homeschool laws across the United States. This makes H.P. 3048 the worst homeschool bill that HSLDA has ever seen, not to mention unconstitutional. Mr. Smith urged Mr. García Cabán to leave things as they were since homeschoolers have earned the right to be left alone. He further indicated that on behalf of HSLDA member families in Puerto Rico, they would not be offering any language to help enact homeschool legislation.

To read the text of Mike Smith's testimony visit:
http://www.hslda.org/Legislation/State/pr/2002/HP3048/PRHP3048Testimony.pdf

Several other homeschool parents were able to testify and bring out the benefits of homeschooling and the hearing finally wrapped up at about 7:00 p.m. (The hearing lasted for approximately six hours.) Sadly, Mr. García Cabán was the only member of the twelve-member committee that was present during most of that time.

Rally And November 9 Hearing
After the hearing, there was a rally of homeschoolers at a local church in San Juan and over 100 parents attended. Mr. Smith addressed the crowd, urging the homeschoolers to remain vigilant in their defense of the right to homeschool in Puerto Rico without regulation. At the conclusion of the meeting, a coalition of homeschooling leaders met and affirmed their position to oppose H.P. 3048. They also agreed not to help Mr. García Cabán pass a bill that would regulate home education in Puerto Rico in any way.

During a second hearing on Saturday, a witness from the General Education Council testified that the Council did not consider homeschools to be private schools. Apparently, there appears to be a conflict between the Department of Education and the General Education Council's office regarding the status of home educators in Puerto Rico.

Mr. García Cabán has set a third hearing date for December 3, 2002. He has indicated that he will be requesting various organizations and witnesses to testify. Once again he indicated that he would like to meet with individual homeschool leaders to try to work out the differences between the two.

Requested Action
If you have not already done so, please contact your representative and inform them of your opposition to H.P. 3048. Emphasize that there is no reason to change the current status of homeschooling in Puerto Rico. Where possible, make personal contact with your representative with your whole family. Many elected officials in Puerto Rico have never personally met a homeschool family and know very little about home education beyond the negative propaganda.

We will continue to update you on the events in Puerto Rico concerning HP 3048. Please continue to pray that God will preserve the freedom to homeschool as we know it now.

For more information about H.P. 3048 and why HSLDA opposes this legislation visit:
http://www.hslda.org/Legislation/State/pr/2002/HP3048/default.asp

 Other Resources

Puerto Rico Homeschooling Rally Scheduled for Thursday 11/4/02

Puerto Rico Legislation Attacks Homeschool Freedom 10/24/02