|HSLDA News||June 18, 2001|
Senate Passes Education Bill-HSLDA Explains Home School Protections
On Flag Day, June 14, the U.S. Senate passed S. 1, the Better Education for Students and Teachers Act of 2001. The House passed H.R. 1, its version of this Elementary Secondary Education Act reauthorization in May, and has been waiting for the Senate bill to pass before a conference committee could convene and reconcile the differences between the two pieces of legislation.
"S. 1 is a much weaker bill than H.R. 1 and provides fewer protections to home schoolers," said Caleb Kershner, Home School Legal Defense Association's manager of federal policy and research. "However, we are very pleased about some key privacy and education protections in the Senate version."
Key protections in S. 1 include:
- Language banning funds for the development of a national test including pilot testing, field testing, test implementation, administration, or distribution, or any other purpose;
- Prohibition on mandatory national testing or certification of teachers; and
- Ban on any development of a national database of personally identifiable information.
National Center for Home Education Executive Director Doug Domenech said, "HSLDA feels positive about the home school protections in S. 1, but we believe that they could certainly use some improvements in conference committee."
Specifically, S. 1 completely eliminates any federal control of home schoolers by the department of education. It also fixes a long-standing flaw in the law by excluding all home schools from the gun-free school zone requirements, whether they are considered a private school or home school under state law.
"Much of the credit for these protections goes to Senator Tim Hutchinson and his education staff," says Caleb Kershner. "They have been beating the home school drum throughout this whole process.
However, S. 1 is far from perfect. Unlike the House version, S. 1 fails to prohibit states from testing home schoolers with their state developed tests. Furthermore, S. 1 also requires that states use only the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) as their academic progress verification test. This could be a forerunner to a national test.
"This legislation should have prohibited states from mandating testing of home schoolers with federally funded state assessments," said HSLDA President Mike Smith. "This year, three states have already attempted to pass laws requiring state testing of home schoolers. State testing is a real and present threat."
The White House is upbeat about S. 1 and has indicated that President Bush will sign any education reform bill that incrementally moves education in the right direction. "The reforms in this bill reflect the core principles of my education agenda: accountability, flexibility, local control, and more choices for parents," Bush said.
The final step in this legislative process will be to work out wrinkles between H.R. 1 and S. 1 in conference committee. Conferees have not yet been chosen. On Thursday, June 14, Caleb Kershner met with House Majority Leader Dick Army's staff to discuss the possible members who could play an important role on the committee and would be sensitive to home schoolers' concerns. HSLDA will be closely monitoring the conference committee and lobbying to keep those provisions that important to home schoolers.
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