Federal Camel Kicked Out of Tent
August 15, 2016
William Estrada, Esq.
Director of Federal Relations
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An old Bedouin proverb states: “If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”
This cautionary adage illustrates HSLDA’s philosophy when dealing with the federal government. Allowing Washington a foothold in homeschooling would only lead to more and more federal control over homeschool families.
Two-and-a-half years ago, the federal Department of Education attempted to gain such a foothold through proposed rules aimed at tracking migratory students. While the Department of Education has long assisted local public schools with providing support to migratory students, the proposed regulation also required the collection of data on migratory students who are homeschooled.
This would have permitted prying into the lives of a diverse set of families. Though migrants are often associated with seasonal farm workers, the truth is that families travel for a variety of reasons—military deployments, construction and other contract jobs, and even specialty occupatons such as acting and athletics. Homeschooling allows these families to stay together while their children pursue an education.
In HSLDA’s action alert published on February 18, 2014, we urged concerned parents to contact the U.S. Department of Education and oppose this power grab. HSLDA also submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education urging officials to drop this attempt to collect data on homeschooled migratory students.
Your public comments won the day. On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education released its final regulations regarding data collection for this demographic—and homeschoolers were exempted.
We encourage you to read the final regulations available at 81 Fed. Reg. 28944 (May 10, 2016), codified at 34 C.F.R. § 200 (2016), and available online. You can search for “home school” to read how the final regulations were changed.
While the final regulations do allow local public schools to request data on migratory families from private schools and homeschools, they also acknowledge that homeschool families are sovereign over their children’s information:
Many commenters objected to the proposal to include in MSIX [the migratory student records database] the records of migratory children who attend home schools or private schools. . . . [W]e recognize that SEAs [State Education Associations] do not exercise the same kind of authority over private and home schools that they exercise over local educational agencies (LEAs) and public schools in their States. . . . We did not intend to suggest that an SEA could or should require a private school or home school to provide these records for uploading into MSIX. . . . If a parent does not want his or her child to participate in the MEP [Migrant Education Program] for any reason, neither the school nor the parent (or emancipated youth) must provide the child’s information to the SEA, and the SEA has no further responsibility to seek the child's records.
Ultimately, this victory was possible because of an amendment that HSLDA first lobbied to have put into federal law in 1994, which was then strengthened in 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act. We battled to ensure it was again included when Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act last year. This amendment, codified at 20 U.S. Code § 7886, fully exempts from federal regulation or control any homeschools or private schools that do not receive federal funds.
HSLDA thanks all of the homeschool families who responded to our action alert and filed public comments. The homeschool movement is strong because homeschool families stand together. This latest victory is a testimony to the passion for freedom that all homeschoolers share.