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November 24, 2008

Legislative Bill 1141: Testing Requirements for Homeschoolers

Senator DiAnna Schimek

Legislative Bill 1141 imposes approval, testing, and evaluation requirements on all Nebraska home education programs. If this bill passes, you will:

  • Have to submit to discretionary approval by the Commissioner of Education.
    • This gives the Nebraska Department of Education ("NDE") approval authority over whether homeschoolers may file under Rule 12 or 13 and over their curriculum;
  • Have to submit to intrusive and ill-conceived annual assessments.
    • Requires that students take a state-approved standardized test at the parents’ expense, administered by a person of the Commissioner’s choosing and at a time and place determined by the Commissioner. Parents may be allowed to observe as long as they are “under the supervision of the Commissioner or designated staff person”; or
    • o To avoid the NDE’s required annual in person evaluation, a homeschooling parent would have to submit extensive documentation to a certified and approved teacher, including a complete written record of all the educational activities a child has been involved in and a portfolio of the student’s work, and the results of any assessments conducted. And even then, the teacher's positive report would merely create a “presumption” that adequate progress was being made.
    • Requires that assessments be conducted against standards created and approved by the NDE and based on age/grade levels of their peers in public schools;
  • Have to submit detailed attendance records every year.
    • Requires homeschoolers to submit attendance records annually to the NDE;
  • Have to test before you start.
    • Requires first-time homeschooled students to take an NDE-approved test for “baseline educational data” (presumably this test is to be used by the NDE to determine whether or not “progress has been achieved”);
  • Give the Commissioner authority to hold your kids hostage in public schools at his discretion.
    • Require homeschooled children to attend an accredited public or private school if they do not make adequate progress as defined by the NDE.
    • This would prevent the child from being homeschooled until the NDE approves.

1/23/2008Senator Erdman moved to indefinitely postpone
1/25/2008Referred to Education Committee
1/28/2008Notice of hearing February 26
4/17/2008Indefinitely postponed

HSLDA's Position:

Action Requested:
None at this time.

Nebraska’s current law was drafted and passed in the early 1980s, after the state was nationally embarrassed for its harsh treatment of homeschooling parents, which included sending pastors and fathers to prison and forcing mothers and children to flee to other states. Since those days, Nebraska has improved its relationship with homeschoolers, but Senator Schimek is ready to change that. At last year’s NCHEA Legislative Day, she was overheard commenting, “We don't know what these homeschoolers are doing. They really need to be monitored.” And this year, she is following through on that, with L.B. 1141.

This bill is a bad solution in search of a non-existent problem. One has to wonder why L.B. 1141 is sponsored by Senator DiAnn Schimek, who is married to Herb Schimek, head of Government Relations for the Nebraska State Education Association, when Nebraska homeschoolers, like homeschoolers all over America, perform at higher levels than their public school counterparts. Instead of creating more headache and restrictions for homeschoolers, the Nebraska Department of Education and its legislative supporters would be better advised to learn how and why homeschoolers are so successful and to apply some of those lessons to their public schools.

Studies have conclusively demonstrated that there is no positive correlation between increased regulation and performance. Further, homeschoolers continue to score higher on national standardized achievement tests than their public and private school peers. This type of proposed regulation is dangerous, as it imposes a needless burden on homeschoolers and shifts the authority to determine whether a child should be homeschooled from the parents to the State. Parents have a fundamental right under the United States Constitution to direct the upbringing and education of their children, and legislation like Senator Schimek’s undermines this right by going against the presumption that parents act in their children’s best interest.

 Other Resources

L.B. 1141: A Solution Looking for a (Non-existent) Problem

E-lert—January 24, 2008—Nebraska: Worst Bill in Recent History Introduced to Restrict Nebraska Homeschoolers' Freedom

E-lert—January 30, 2008—Nebraska: Your Attendance at Legislative Day Needed to Oppose Threatening Homeschool Legislation

E-lert—January 31, 2008—Nebraska: Hearing On L.B. 1141 Set for February 26

E-lert—February 8, 2008—Nebraska: Governor Dave Heineman Promises to Veto L.B. 1141!

E-lert—February 14, 2008—Nebraska: More Action Needed to Oppose L.B. 1141

E-lert—February 20, 2008—Nebraska: More Action Needed to Oppose L.B. 1141

E-lert—February 25, 2008—Nebraska: Please Attend Tomorrow’s Testing Bill Hearing

E-lert—April 8, 2008—Nebraska: L.B. 1141 Battle Not Over—Senator Schimek Introduces Resolution to Study Nebraska Homeschooling

Bill Text    (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History