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February 5, 2003

Maine Homeschoolers Fight Against Repressive Regulations

Maine Legislative Document 160 would create a new homeschool option free of the needless restrictions the Department of Education has imposed through its rules. The bill would allow home schoolers to breathe freely after 20 years of stifling micromanagement.

This new legislation would be an amazing improvement for Maine's homeschooling families. Under these new requirements, parents would only be required to provide a notice to the Commissioner of Education 14 days before the beginning of the home instruction program. The notice must contain the parent's name, signature address, the child's name and age, the date home instruction will begin, assurance that 175 days of instruction will be provided in the required subjects (same as currently required). Parents must send a letter to the Commissioner before September 1 every year thereafter, stating whether they intend to continue home education for the child.

LD 160 creates this new option, but does not remove any option currently available. The first crucial test of LD 160 will occur Tuesday, February 11, when the Education and Cultural Affairs committee will hold a hearing.

HSLDA supports LD 160 because:

  • At a time when homeschooling was still an unknown factor, the legislature delegated the responsibility to regulate homeschooling to the Department of Education. Many burdensome, needless regulations were adopted because homeschooling was not well understood.

  • LD 160 creates a homeschool option that is directly subject to requirements the legislature imposes, bypassing the hopelessly complicated and outdated red tape in Department of Education regulations.

  • The Department of Education has often been insensitive to homeschoolers, placing unlawful demands on them, mishandling important documents, attempting to adopt a regulation in an area where there is clearly no authorization, and adopting a regulation opposed by the overwhelming majority of citizens.

  • Legislators, our elected representatives, should determine the requirements for home education, not appointed officials. The right of citizens to the free exercise of fundamental constitutional rights is at stake. Regulation impacting fundamental rights should not be left to unresponsive bureaucrats.

  • LD 160 creates an option that does not require the costly "approval" process, a failed process rooted in old prejudice against innovative methods of education. The "approval" process is now used in only 3 other states (MA, UT, RI).

  • The "approval" process is tremendously expensive for the state to administer because it requires administrative action multiple times per year for every single home schooler.

  • Under Maine's "approval" process, homeschoolers may languish months before they know if they can homeschool legally. If the Department does not respond, they will never know! While waiting for the Department to act, homeschoolers may face significant legal problems.

  • LD 160 would put Maine in the mainstream along with such states as AL, AR, AZ, CA, KS, KY, MD, MS, MT, NE, NE, NM, NV, WI, WY which offer a home school option under which parents file a simple written notice in order to home school. In 11 other states (AK, DE, ID, IL, IN, MI, MO, NJ, OK, SC, and TX), parents can home school without providing any written notice at all.

Public schools have huge full-time staffs, institutional enforcement abilities, and thousands of rules, but these controls still do not produce success. Studies have shown, however, that homeschoolers in states with little or no regulation score 20 to 30 percentile points above average on standardized achievement tests, the same level as homeschoolers in states with heavy regulation.

LD 160 stands instead on the philosophy that once parents declare their responsibility for the educating their own children, responsibility leaves the government and resides with the parents.

The current system is a substantially failed attempt to assert state control over activities that occur within the walls of a citizen's private residence that simply should not be controlled. LD 160, on the other hand, is a fully successful establishment of educational responsibility where it belongs, with the parent.