May 3, 2001

House Committee Rejects Choice
HSLDA Amendments Pending

WASHINGTON D.C.—The House Education and the Workforce Committee voted Wednesday night to remove the key private school choice provision from H.R. 1, President Bush's school reform bill. The 27-20 vote generally followed party lines, but five Republicans joined all 22 Democrats and voted to strip vouchers and other choice components from the bill.

While HSLDA does not support vouchers, this is a clear indication that Congress is likely to produce an education bill that offers little more than federally mandated public school testing, and massive new spending.

Republicans who voted to kill choice included Roukema (NJ), Upton (MI), Biggert (IL), Platts (PA), and Osborn (NE). Castle (DE) voted "present" and Fletcher (KY) did not vote.

Committee chairman John Boehner (R-OH) said he was disappointed by the vote and vowed to fight to reinstate choice when the bill comes before the full House. "Throughout my time on this committee and in Congress, I have fought to provide private school choice to the parents of children in failing schools, and I intend to continue that effort," he said. "Throughout this process I have emphasized that a safety valve must be included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for children in chronically failing schools that do not teach and will not change."

In other action on H.R. 1, Republicans defeated efforts to create a federal school construction program, and a class-size reduction proposal designed to implement former President Clinton's 100,000 teachers program.

Congressman Pete Hoeskstra (R-MI) will be offering two amendments that will directly impact home schoolers.

One amendment will completely end all federal control over home schoolers by ANY law administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Last year, HSLDA successfully submitted similar home school protections to the education bill that subsequently passed the Education and Workforce Committee. However, the bill did not go further because of the stalemate with former President Clinton.

HSLDA resubmitted the same language this year:

"Nothing in this Act or any other Act administered by the Department shall be construed to permit, allow, encourage, or authorize any Federal control over any aspect of any private, religious, or home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a private school or home school under state law."

Unfortunately, at this time, this year's education bill---H.R. 1---does not include all of our language. It does not contain the phrase "or any other Act administered by the Department." This limits the broad and complete protection of home schoolers from all education acts of Congress. Representative Hoekstra's first amendment will reinsert "or any other Act administered by the Department."

The second Hoekstra amendment (suggested by HSLDA) will prohibit any state from requiring home school students to take the federally mandated state assessment. The specific language of this amendment is as follows:

"Nothing in this act shall be construed to affect home schools, whether or not a home school is treated as a home school or a private school under state law, nor shall any home school student be required to participate in any state assessment if the state or local educational agency receives funds under this Act."

Just within the last four months, several states attempted to pass laws forcing home schoolers to take the states' content-based assessments, but a vociferous outcry from the home schooling community defeated these measures. This Hoekstra amendment would prevent these kinds of bills from even being introduced.

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