Tracking homeschool legislation

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Thursday the 27th of February, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. First up: homeschooling.

EICHER: Parents in all 50 states have the legal right to teach their children at home. But every legislative session brings the potential for new restrictions and regulations. That’s why homeschooling advocates keep close tabs on what lawmakers are doing.

BASHAM: Joining us now to talk about what’s on the legislative horizon this year is Mike Smith. He’s president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. A mouthful so I’ll just say the HSLDA.

So, Mike, to start, let’s talk about federal laws and regulations. What’s happening in Washington that could affect homeschoolers?

SMITH: Megan, the good news about federal law is federal law doesn’t really impact homeschooling or local education issues, as you know. But one of the recent things that has been introduced by way of a resolution in Congress is the reintroduction of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is not only a homeschool problem but basically a problem for parents in making decisions for their own children. And so we’re monitoring that and we’ll possibly do some lobbying on that in the near future. But beyond that, we’re working on some positive things. But, negative things, that’s the only thing we have right now.

BASHAM: OK, I want to ask specifically about the Trump administration’s proposed tax credit scholarship program. Now, I know HSLDA has been leery of these kinds of programs in the past, but when this legislation first came out last year, your organization supported it. Is that still the case?

SMITH: Yes. We do support that and the reason we support it is because it will actually put money in the pockets of families to make decisions—really good decisions—about where their children are going to be educated. And then of course spending money on curriculum, etcetera, for homeschoolers. And the reason we support that and oppose a lot of other efforts on school choice is because there is no direct money actually flowing from the government to the family, hence no ability to regulate it. That’s the difference. So these credits actually put more money in the pocket, but it’s their money. They’re just not sending it to Washington D.C. So we do favor that.

BASHAM: OK, that makes sense. What about state-level legislation? Are there any trouble spots you’re keeping tabs on, or troubling trends you’re just monitoring?

SMITH: Well, the trends that we have been facing have been efforts to basically regulate homeschooling in states where there’s little regulation. And we’ve actually been successful in the past at being able to stop all that. Probably the biggest threat we had was three years ago in California arising out of an unfortunate situation with parents abusing their children. But none of that happened and so we’re actually advancing legislation in Alabama, for instance. We have legislation that would allow parents to be able to participate in extracurricular activities and, in some states, we even have—the law actually allows homeschoolers to participate in courses as well. So that’s a trend that is happening that we’re favorable, we like it.

BASHAM: I know HSLDA has also started advocating for some international homeschooling families in recent years. What trends are you seeing in other countries?

SMITH: A lot more homeschooling. And, fortunately, many of the countries are allowing parents to be able to teach their children at home. But really where that movement is about where we were 30 years ago. So they’re actually having to fight the battle, the legal battle. And, of course, the country of Cuba has actually imprisoned a family, a man is in prison today, a husband, for homeschooling. So there’s some exaggerated situations, but they’re few. Few and far between. So, homeschooling is going to go everywhere, especially internationally.

BASHAM: OK, and then just to ask about a country that I’m personally curious about because I see so many headlines and social media chatter. What’s going on in Germany?

SMITH: Germany has not changed. They are trying to do away with homeschooling. That’s what they’re trying to do. And most of the families, unfortunately, have actually moved out of Germany that homeschool. But what we have seen, actually, is some of the local judges—in other words, they would be equivalent to our family law judges here in the United States—they’re refusing to actually follow the line. So, in a couple of situations, we have families in Germany that are homeschooling and they’re homeschooling because a judge has told officials to basically leave them alone. But that’s rare, OK? That’s on a case-by-case basis. The official line of the government of Germany is homeschooling is illegal.

BASHAM: Gotcha. Well, I hate to end on a down note, so let’s turn back to maybe some positive news. What are the bright spots you’re seeing out there?

SMITH: Well, I would say both trends would be the growth of numbers in homeschooling and there are just more and more people that are considering it and we’re seeing it in every state—almost every state for sure and internationally. And as I mentioned before, we’re seeing the trend of allowing homeschoolers to be able to utilize public services. Thirdly, we’re seeing more and more colleges, the military, employers, on and on, that are actually accepting a homeschool diploma the same as they would a public school diploma. That’s increasing, too. Doesn’t mean all the battles are won. We’re still fighting for that. But certainly we’re improving and doing better on that.

BASHAM: Well, Mike Smith is president of HSLDA. Mike, thanks so much for joining us today!

SMITH: Thank you, Megan!

(Photo/Creative Commons, Flickr)

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