A well-meaning Maryland legislator introduced a bill in February aimed at providing homeschoolers with more opportunities to communicate with state education officials. But the bill had a significant flaw: it proposed a mechanism that would have limited the voices of parents and other grassroots homeschool advocates.

Homeschooling families instead quickly used their voices to communicate loud and clear that they do not want a designated panel of political appointees speaking for them.

House Bill 832 proposed creating a homeschool advisory council within the state Department of Education to gather information on homeschooling families and report to various government agencies on homeschool-related matters. Given its design, it is easy to envision the council becoming the designated voice for all homeschoolers, thus undermining the effectiveness of homeschoolers’ grassroots advocacy that has historically preserved liberty.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means, where it had a public hearing in early March. There were hundreds of written comments submitted in opposition.

Broad Coalition in Opposition

After the sponsor’s opening statement, those in favor of the council attempted to paint the opposition as a loud minority that didn’t accurately represent the views of the homeschool community. They suggested that the council was needed to accurately represent the current views of homeschoolers, but the actual testimony that followed washed away any hint that this was true.

Only three individuals testified in full support of the bill.

Nearly three dozen individuals (myself included) testified in opposition to the bill, pointing out that the council is unnecessary and incapable of accurately representing the voices of homeschoolers.

Those opposing the bill were from a variety of backgrounds, but they were unified in their belief that an accurate representation of ideas for homeschool policy is best achieved by letting homeschool parents and advocates speak for themselves. One after another, homeschooling parents respectfully shared thoughtful points, explaining why the bill would not benefit homeschool families.

While the intent behind the bill was to give all homeschoolers a voice within the department of education, the proposed solution limits the number of voices to council members initially appointed by politicians and then self-selecting thereafter.

Sponsor Responds

In the wake of the hearing, Delegate Sheila Ruth (the bill’s sponsor) told us in a statement that she was not going to push the bill or ask for a vote because of opposition from the homeschool community:

I started this with the hope of helping the homeschool community, and I have no interest in pushing this or any bill past the objections of a large number of people in the community. I am no longer working to pass H.B. 832 and have informed the committee that I’m not trying to pass it anymore.

Because the bill did not pass the full House of Delegates by March 21, 2022, it is officially dead for this year. But homeschool advocacy is alive and well.

Homeschooling has been and continues to be a grassroots community made up of parents who love their children enough to provide a tailored educational program designed to meet each child’s unique needs.

In our experience, the best way for homeschoolers to preserve liberty is to remain alert and participate in the lawmaking process whenever necessary to defend liberty.

HSLDA will continue to work with Maryland homeschooling families and organizations to preserve the liberty to homeschool free from unnecessary government restrictions.