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June 19, 2008

Legislative Roller Coaster

When the Connecticut General Assembly convened in February of this year, few could have expected the wild turn of events that would follow. Homeschool-friendly Representative Art O’Neill was instrumental in introducing Senate Bill 162 through the Select Committee on Children. As originally proposed, S.B. 162 would have required parents withdrawing their children from public school to notify the local school district of their intent to educate their children in accordance with Connecticut law. The intent of the bill was simply to clarify withdrawal procedures from public school and was limited to students already enrolled in public school.

The night before the bill was scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on Education, Senator Thomas Gaffey, co-chair of the committee, amended the bill to require all homeschooling parents to comply with statutory notification procedures, regardless of whether their children were previously enrolled in the public school. The amendment left silent any mention of the withdrawal provisions for which the bill was originally introduced.

Over strenuous opposition from homeschoolers, the bill was passed as amended by the Joint Committee on Education and returned to the full Senate. Attempting to return the bill to its original language, homeschoolers flooded state senators with calls, emails, and personal visits, asking them to amend the bill on the Senate floor. In response, no fewer than four different amendments were offered by various senators. Unwilling to continue facing the storm of opposition generated by homeschoolers, Senator Gaffey had the bill moved to the foot of the Senate calendar, thus preventing any of the amendments from being voted on. This action also ensured that the bill would not be acted upon by the Senate before the General Assembly adjourned on May 7.