Illinois, Iowa, New York—Disturbing Trends
by Dave Dentel • February 27, 2019
January marks the start of legislation season in many states. And every year, legislators introduce bills that threaten to restrict the ability of parents to choose what is best for their children’s education.
Here are four such bills.
Three proposals—two in Iowa, and one in Illinois—call for investigators to regularly visit all homeschooling families. A bill in New York, though not specifically aimed at homeschooling, would severely restrict the ability of parents to have their children participate in co-ops and other group activities that augment home instruction.
Home School Legal Defense Association opposes these proposals because they threaten principles we feel are essential to helping students thrive. First, they limit the choices of the people who know and love their children best: parents. They also undermine citizens who tackle projects they are close to and have a passion for resolving by shackling them and giving more power to bureaucrats.
Illinois Home Visits
The introduction of the Illinois home visitation legislation, House Bill 3560, caused an outcry from its inception.
It was introduced on Friday, February 15. Before the weekend had ended, Home School Legal Defense Association began receiving queries and comments about it.
As HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff observed, this interest was well-deserved.
H.B. 3560 not only called for CPS investigators to visit homeschoolers “to ensure there is no suspected child abuse in the home,” but also proposed having the state Board of Education “inspect the academic records” of homeschool students.
These provisions, Woodruff pointed out, are not just ill-defined and unconstitutional, but are also unnecessary because there is no empirical evidence to suggest that abuse and neglect occur more often in homeschool families than in others.
HSLDA joined Illinois Christian Home Educators in expressing these concerns. On Tuesday, February 19, the sponsor of H.B. 3560 filed a motion to table the bill. Two days later the bill was officially tabled.
Iowa Officials Free to Compel
Two similar bills in Iowa, House File 272 and House File 100, ratchets up the potential for intrusion into the lives of families by proposing that public school officials conduct “quarterly home visits to check on the health and safety” of homeschooled children.
The bills go on to say that if parents refuse to cooperate, public school officials would be empowered to work with CPS investigators and the courts to attempt to force their way into families’ homes.
The obvious conflict between H.F. 272/H.F. 100 and Fourth Amendment guarantees has not escaped homeschool advocates.
A recent article by CBN News noted opposition to the bill based on constitutional rights, as well as critics who point out the massive amount of time and resources that would be required to implement such a program.
As Woodruff told the news outlet: "In what world do we waste money poking into the homes of thousands of people when there is not the slightest reason to believe an individual has done anything wrong?"
So far there has been no indication that the House Education Committee intends to move the bill forward. However, we are monitoring the measure and will inform homeschool families if a response is needed.
New York Fines and Inspections
Meanwhile, in New York, Assembly Bill 2186 threatens to restrict the ability of parents to supplement instruction in the home with outside educational opportunities.
The bill does this by proposing a registration process for “any person or entity that seeks to offer or provide educational services, such as tutoring, test-preparatory or supplemental learning or instruction, outside of the regular public or private school.” This registration process would apply to anyone instructing “three or more unrelated children of compulsory school age.”
The bill’s sponsor cites as justification for the bill media reports about a single commercial learning center in the New York City area that promised to “increase greatly the learning abilities of young students” but failed to deliver.
Regardless of the sponsor’s intentions, HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt said that it’s still bad legislation.
“We are extremely concerned about the ramifications of this bill and the chilling effect that it will have on educational programs in general and homeschool co-ops in particular,” Schmidt explained.
The measure is especially heavy-handed in empowering local public school superintendents to approve of applicants or to impose exorbitant penalties.
For example, superintendents could demand additional information from applicants and inspect the premises where the instruction will take place. They could also investigate complaints against educators and fine alleged violators up to $75,000.
- 2186 also permits educators to face criminal misdemeanor charges and be sued by disgruntled parents.
“This bill severely limits the right of parents to direct the education of their children,” said Schmidt. “It also attempts to implement a process that allows both criminal and financial penalties against these educators and educational entities without any real substantive due process.”
He also noted the measure would put the monopoly—public education—in charge of regulating the competition. We believe that discerning parents are the best form of oversight and accountability for educational programs, especially homeschool co-ops. Parents who are involved in the daily education of their children know what is working and what is not.
HSLDA is working with the New York state homeschool organization Loving Education at Home to monitor the legislation. And we will definitely alert homeschool advocates if action against the measure is required.