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August 12, 2005

Legislative Wrap-up – A Victorious Year!

With the help of hundreds of Home School Legal Defense Association member families making calls when needed, and the hard work of Christian Home Educators Fellowship of Louisiana, 2005 was a great legislative year for Louisiana homeschool families. This year Louisiana homeschool families obtained three solid victories and we have much to look forward to in the coming years.

Compulsory Attendance Bill Defeated:

House Bill 476 was stopped from even making it out of the Education Committee due in part to your calls. If this bill had passed it would have lowered the compulsory attendance age from 7 to 5. Homeschool parents would have had to report two years earlier than they do now under both homeschool options in Louisiana.

While this bill has been defeated for this year, we must remain vigilant as future bills are likely. The sponsor of the bill, Representative Jackson, testified in committee that he would be proud to send even his two-year-old child to school. We have to be prepared to defeat any future attempts Representative Jackson, or others, will make to require young children to attend school before they are ready.

Reducing TOPS Eligibility Requirements for Homeschool Graduates:

In Louisiana, a homeschool graduate who has been enrolled in a home study program for at least the last two years of high school could be eligible for several awards for college through the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS).

With the passage of House Bill 120 homeschool students are now eligible for these awards as follows:

  • Opportunity Award - Home study student must have an ACT score of 22
  • Performance Award - Home study student must have an ACT score of 25
  • Honors Award - Home study student must have an ACT score of 29

All TOPS awards require that the homeschool student be enrolled as a home study student with the state no later than the end of 10th grade.

Homeschool students are still required to score 2 points higher on the ACT than the public school average in Louisiana. However, they are not required to prove that they have met Louisiana's core curriculum requirements in order to receive a TOPS award.

House Bill 120 passed with unanimous support in both the House and Senate. Several legislators also mentioned in various committee hearings that the difference should be eliminated completely. This will provide an opportunity for us to make even greater progress next year.

Right of Parents to Provide Education for their Children:

One of the most important foundations for greater homeschool freedom in Louisiana passed quietly through both the House and Senate with much of the work occurring behind the scenes. Due to this fact, no phone calls were necessary for passage of House Concurrent Resolution 131.

With this resolution the Louisiana legislature recognized the inalienable right of parents to provide for the education of their children. They also stated that no law or ruling in Louisiana should curtail or restrain the inalienable right of every parent to choose the appropriate educational setting for his or her children.

The next step is to pursue a constitutional amendment to fully protect this right for parents. We will be working with CHEF of Louisiana in the coming years to enact an amendment.

Tax Credit for Educational Expenses:

The only "defeat" this year in the legislature was House Bill 834 which would have given parents a tax credit for educational expenses. Due to concerns about the fiscal impact of the bill it was withdrawn by the sponsor, Representative LaBruzzo. However, he has vowed to reintroduce this bill to help lift the tax burden on parents who are teaching their children at home. With the revised bill Representative LaBruzzo hopes to find majority support among the House Ways & Means Committee members.

This bill will remain on our "to do" list for next year.

Without the presence of CHEF of Louisiana in the capitol and all their hard work on these bills, many of them may not have passed. With everyone working together homeschool families in Louisiana have greater liberty, and freedom has been protected.