By now, many of you may have seen the latest update from NHELD on the status of Senate Bill 162. Unfortunately, the news is challenging. However, if we rally together, pray for favor, rely on God, and remain vigilant, we can prevail. If we do all these things and are still handed increased regulation, we know that the Lord can (and will) use it for our benefit and for the benefit of the homeschooling movement at large. Remember:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. --- Romans 8:28
That said, in this particular message, I would like to review what has occurred thus far using a timeline from the Connecticut General Assembly Bill Tracking webpage:
2/14/2008 Referred to Joint Committee on Children
2/15/2008 Public Hearing Scheduled 2/19/2008
2/19/2008 Public Hearing on SB162
2/28/2008 Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference Education
2/29/2008 Filed with Legislative Commissioners’ Office
3/3/2008 Reported Out of Legislative Commissioners’ Office
3/4/2008 Favorable change of Reference, Senate to Committee on Education
3/4/2008 Favorable change of Reference, House to Committee on Education
3/18/2008 Joint Favorable Substitute
3/19/2008 Filed with Legislative Commissioners’ Office
If you recall, the desired original bill (the O’NEILL VERSION) was supposed to alter only a portion of Statute 10-220 (Duties of Boards of Education) and was supposed to read like this:
Purpose: to allow parents to home school their children and to require the board of education to respect their decision.But, somehow, when the legislation reached the Joint Committee on Children, the bill had been rewritten to alter Statute 10-184 (Duties of Parents) by adding an entirely new section to that law. This version read thus:
…when a parent or guardian of a child provides by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the principal of the school that the child attends, to the superintendent of schools for the school district in which such school is located or the local or regional board of education for such school district, written notice originated by and signed by the parent or guardian of the child stating that the parent or guardian is withdrawing the child from enrollment in a public school and will provide instruction for the child as required pursuant to section 10-184, the principal of the school that the child attends, the superintendent and the local or regional board of education shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn form enrollment in the public school immediately upon receipt of such notice…
Purpose: to create a procedure in which a parent or guardian is to follow when withdrawing a child from enrollment in public school.Thankfully, the Joint Committee on Children passed an amendment changing the bill back to the original intended wording (the O’NEILL VERSION) and causing the legislation to, once again, alter only Statute 10-220.
…If the parent or other person having control of a child elects to provide the instruction required pursuant to this section to such child, such parent or other person may withdraw such child from school upon providing the notice described in this subsection to the principal of the school the child is attending or the superintendent of schools for the local or regional school district in which such school is located. Such notice shall (1) state that the parent or other person is withdrawing the child from school and that such required instruction will be provided by the parent or such other person, (2) be in writing, (3) be signed by such parent or other person, and (4) be delivered by certified mail, return receipt requested. Such principal and superintendent of schools and the local or regional board of education for such school district shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn from school immediately upon receipt of such notice.
This favorable version of the bill then proceeded to the Joint Committee on Education. A hearing was held on February 19, 2008. Encouragingly, no one spoke in opposition to the legislation and no representative from the Department of Education bothered to show up, leading the homeschool community to believe that the bill would be voted out of committee with the original desired wording (the O’NEILL VERSION).
Well, homeschooling advocates should never become too complacent when life is humming along, seemingly in their favor, for some unexpected event is sure to ambush them. And, boy, were we ambushed. On March 6, 2008, National Home Education Legal Defense reported on their website that the Commissioner of Education contacted the sponsor of Senate Bill 162, Representative Arthur O’Neill, and proposed his own changes, the clear text of which I do not have. It is also my understanding that many of the Commissioner’s ideas were incorporated into yet a third permutation of the bill, a permutation that was eventually offered up at the last meeting of the Education Committee. I refer to it as the GAFFEY VERSION because Senator Gaffey is a Co-Chairman of the aforementioned hearing body. This version reads thus and is the version that was approved by the Education Committee and that will be voted on in the Senate (unless another amendment is offered changing it back to the original desired form). I have highlighted the new portions in orange:
(b) The parent or person having control of a child sixteen or seventeen years of age who does not intend to provide equivalent instruction to such child pursuant to subsection (a) of this section may consent, as provided in this subsection, to such child’s withdrawal from school. Such parent or person shall personally appear at the school district office and sign a withdrawal from. The school district shall provide such parent of person with information on the educational options available in the school system and in the community.
(c) The parent or person having control of a child five years of age shall have the option of not sending the child to school until the child is six years of age and the parent or person having control of a child six years of age shall have the option of not sending the child to school until the child is seven years of age. Unless the parent or person having control of such child elects to provide equivalent instruction pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, the parent or person shall exercise such option by personally appearing at the school district office and signing an option form. The school district shall provide the parent or person with information on the educational opportunities available in the school system.
(d) (1) If the parent or person having control of a child elects to provide the equivalent instruction pursuant to subsection (a) of this section to such child, other than through enrollment in a nonpublic school, such parent or other person shall provide written notice pursuant to this subsection to (A) (i) the principal of the school the child is attending, or (ii) if such child is not enrolled in school, to the principal of the school such child would otherwise attend due to the child's residency, or (B) the superintendent of schools for the local or regional school district in which such school is located. The parent or other person having control of such child shall provide notice in accordance with the provisions of this subsection each time such child resides in a school district other than the district for which such notice was initially provided.
(2) Notice provided pursuant to this subsection shall (A) state that the parent or other person having control of such child intends to provide the child with equivalent instruction pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, (B) be signed by the parent or other person having control of such child, and (c) be delivered by certified mail, return receipt requested. The principal or superintendent and the local or regional board of education employing the principal or superintendent shall immediately accept such notice as evidence that the child is receiving such equivalent instruction.
It is this latter section, section (d),that appears to carry the most danger. At least that is how I see it. I will explain further in my next posting.