March 17, 2003

Texas Bill Would Require Registration of Homeschoolers

The bills impacting homeschool freedom are growing in number. We suspect there are more to come. Tom Sanders, Home School Legal Defense Association's Texas Legislative Counsel is lobbying for Texans in Austin while we, at our national office, provide the support with alerts, research and strategy.

Presently, we are working on 6 important bills in Texas and tracking many more. Of the 6 bills, HSLDA opposes three and supports three.

Senate Bill 586: Homeschool Registration Bill
Good news! Senator Barrientos' office has just informed me that they will amend their bill to remove the requirement that all homeschoolers register with the Commissioner. This change of heart has come about due to the thousands of calls and emails they have received. Thank you for sacrificing your time in order to make a difference. And thank you for your persistence.

The battle is not quite over, however. Senator Barrientos' still wants only children withdrawing from public school in order to homeschool to register. HSLDA has explained that was unacceptable to single out new homeschoolers. Instead we have urged them to withdraw their bill altogether or amend it into a public school uniform paperwork bill that would require all parents who withdraw their children from public school to sign a form indicating they are withdrawing their child and what type of school the child is transferring to. If they adopt this approach, it might remedy the skewed figures they have on dropouts while avoiding registration of homeschoolers.

House Bill 944: Ends College Admission Discrimination
For years, some Texas universities have held homeschool graduates to a different and more difficult standard than others. The most frequently used discriminatory practice is to require homeschool graduates to have significantly higher test scores than other students.

Although we have been successful in changing the college admission policies at the federal level, some states still have policies discriminating against homeschoolers seeking college admission.

House Bill 944, introduced by Representative Phil King, requires colleges and universities to admit graduates of a homeschool program according to the same standards that are applied to graduates from a public high school program.

HSLDA strongly supports H.B. 944 as it codifies the recommendations we have made to the Federal U.S. Department of Education. In passing the Higher Education Act, Congress indicated that the admissions standards for graduates of a homeschool program should be equal to standards for public school graduates and that extra requirements (for example the GED, higher SAT scores, or SAT II tests) are discriminatory.

House Bill 1449: Ends College Financial Aid Discrimination
House Bill 1449, if enacted, will prohibit discrimination in awarding STATE scholarships or other financial aid for higher education to homeschoolers.

H.B. 1449, introduced by Representative Charlie Howard, is consistent with HSLDA's clarifications issued by the U.S. Department of Education. The Department of Education recently updated the 2002- 2003 Federal Student Aid Handbook to correctly reflect Federal law relating to financial aid for homeschoolers. Volume 1, chapter 1 of the Handbook specifically states that a homeschool "student is eligible to receive FSA [Federal Student Aid] funds if the student's secondary school education was in a homeschool that state law treats as a home or private school."

House Bill 374: Ensures Parents' Rights to Discipline Their Child
House Bill 374, introduced by Representative Harold Dutton, Jr., amends the child welfare code by stating that a parent may use corporal punishment as a form of reasonable discipline. HSLDA supports this bill and has been working with the sponsor. We believe this is a positive advancement of parent's rights, affirming the right of parents to perform Biblical discipline. The bill was discussed in a public hearing in the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee and was passed from the committee.

Senate Bill 30: Mandatory Kindergarten
Texas Senate Bill 30, introduced Senator Judith Zaffirini, reduces the compulsory attendance age from 6 to 5 and requires children previously enrolled in pre kindergarten or kindergarten to attend school. No action has been taken on S.B. 30 since it was assigned to the Senate Education Committee. Hundreds of you already responded to our previous alert by calling the Committee. This no doubt has helped to insure that this bill will not go anywhere.

House Bill 214 and Senate Bill 412: Homeschooler Participation in Public School Activities
Texas House Bill 214 (introduced by Rep. Brian McCall) and Senate Bill 412 (introduced by Senator Florence Shapiro) relate to homeschool student participation in public school academic and extracurricular activities: a homeschool student may enroll in public school in the district as a part time student; the bills allow the school to give homeschool students access to laboratory facilities; a school district may permit a homeschooled student entitled under Section 25.001 to attend public school in the district to participate in an online course; a school district may furnish textbooks without cost to a homeschooled student; and a school district may permit a homeschooled student to participate in a district sponsored extracurricular activity.

While HSLDA generally takes a neutral stance on equal access to public school programs, we are concerned with the wording of these two bills. These bills, if enacted, would create a new category of education under the Texas Code. Up until this time, homeschoolers have clearly been considered private schools. This right to be a private school was earned through years of litigation culminating in the Leeper decision by the Texas Supreme Court. By creating a bill allowing for a new category of students, "home school students," the likelihood of regulation is greater. The legislature will be forced to define a homeschool and to create appropriate controls. To amend the language and remove the term "home-school" student and replace it with "private school" student is not feasible because neither the legislature nor the public schools want to open the public schools to all private school students.

HSLDA believes it is in the best interest of homeschoolers in Texas to remain in the same loosely regulated category as private school students. If both groups enjoy the same legal status, we will more easily maintain the freedom homeschools enjoy.

Freedom is much more precious than freebies.

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