June 19, 2002

Pennsylvania Home Schoolers Rally to Support Freedom.

Home Schoolers at the Harrisburg Forum
On June 13, 2002, HSLDA Senior Counsel Chris Klicka testified before the Pennsylvania House Education Committee in support of House Bill 2560, a bill that would dramatically reduce the requirements placed on home schoolers in Pennsylvania. The hearing was designed to inform the Education Committee of the need to change Pennsylvania's home school law that is one of the most restrictive laws in the United States. A series of panelists testified before the Committee.

The hearing took place at Harrisburg's Forum Amphitheatre where approximately 1,600 home schoolers arrived wearing red to show their support of the bill. Chris Klicka of HSLDA, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, Dr. Bruce Eagleson of the Christian Home School Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP), Ellen Kramer of the Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania, Maryalice Newborn of the Pennsylvania Home Education Association, and Mary Hudzinski of Mason-Dixon Homeschoolers all testified in support of the bill. Several public school officials were among the panelists testifying as well.

"We are here for one reason, and one reason only: freedom." Chris Klicka's opening statement drew applause and cheers from the crowd of mostly home schooler families. Klicka told the Committee, "The Pennsylvania home school law is broken, and you need to fix it." He gave the Committee three reasons for supporting H.B. 2560.

First, the bill would eliminate many burdensome requirements arbitrarily imposed by school districts. "Over the past 14 years our office has represented well over 1,000 home school families who have been arbitrarily abused by school officials through the application of the current law. Our legal contact files in Pennsylvania are virtually the largest of any state. The current restrictive home school law has not kept the local school districts in Pennsylvania from developing policies which add to or contradict the provisions of the statute." HSLDA supplied each member of the Committee with a 5-page memorandum documenting various conflicts we have worked on over the last year.

Secondly, Klicka testified that regulation and accountability to the government does not make better home school students. Parents have a fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children and H.B. 2560 protects this liberty. Klicka offered evidence demonstrating that students who are home schooled on the average score above average at the elementary and the secondary grade levels. Furthermore, the publishers of the ACT and SAT college entrance exams have tracked home schoolers for the last three or four years and have found that home schoolers on the average are scoring above average on the college entrance exams. Lastly, according to internal surveys by a number of colleges, home schoolers on the average have a higher GPA at a college level.

Klicka told the Committee that, "research… demonstrates that there is no positive correlation between state regulation of home schools and performance of home school students... home schooling works without excessive state regulation."

Thirdly, Klicka testified that Pennsylvania is out of step with the nationwide trend to deregulate home schoolers. "The home school law in Pennsylvania comprises one of the most restrictive home school laws in the nation. Only New York has more oversight over home education of all the states, but the state is on the verge of overturning its law with the expected passage of Senate Bill 4767 which would eliminate 75% of the present regulation of home schoolers in the state of New York. Pennsylvania needs House Bill 2560 to enable it to join the trend throughout the states to protect parent's rights and begin to trust the parents."

Klicka also address some of the objections that have been raised regarding House Bill 2560.

Interestingly, one of the school superintendents who testified admitted that even though she thought the bill was a bad idea, it would make her job much easier. Upon questioning from one of the representatives she admitted that 99% of home school parents are conscientious and dedicated to their children's education, while the percentage of dedicated public school parents was "probably not that high." She also admitted that in her six years as superintendent of a local school district, not even one home school family had ever submitted a deficient home school portfolio.

Many Committee members responded positively, praising the academic performance of home schoolers and their high moral quality. They recognized the dedication of the families present at the hearing and many members went on record stating that they wished to reduce the restrictions on home schoolers.

More information on Pennsylvania H.B. 2560: