Wednesday, February 3, 2010

HB 1580 - Are you confused?

If so, you are not alone.

In talking with others, I realized that at any given time there are people who are just getting on board. I don't have all the answers, but after years of watching these issues play out in the legislature, I certainly have my perspective. I hope this helps the discussion.

House Bill 1580 (HB1580) essentially provides the existing homeschool law to stay in place, allowing parents to decide if they need the guidance this law provides, OR parents may choose the option of acknowledging their parental rights to educate their children without interference from the state. That is it. The bill is not doing away with homeschool law, it is not allowing parents to abuse their children, it is not doing any of the things that legislators at the HEC executive session suggested on Tuesday. This bill is simply "acknowledging parental rights," while keeping the existing law for those who need or wish it. This is a bill that provides choices. In order to truly have a choice, one needs to be able to say yes or no. Legislators who are upset with this bill are being vetted out for their true opinion on parental rights. This is upsetting several legislators because this requires that they take a definitive stand on the issue.

This is where the politics begin. This is where having been in the rooms before is of ultimate value. Rather than start with the discussion about the merits of the bill, those opposed take the approach of first being confused. To those who have not watched these legislators before, or seen their capabilities to not be confused in the past, this confusion may seem real. To see these legislators in action with a bill that they do support is why I did not see Rep. Casey's, and others, confusion over HB1580 as sincere. I do understand that they would prefer not to have to vote on parental rights.

Rep. Casey, as chair of the subcommittee to review HB1580, has great latitude to see that the language of the bill is reduced to drivel, OR heightened to something we would beg to be killed. By changing the language, and then voting up or down, legislators can avoid the real question along with any backlash it could bring. In an election year you can be sure it will cause constituents to pause and think. If HEC members were confident that HB1580 would not be voted in the affirmative when it arrived on the House floor, they would have simply voted ITL on the bill in committee and gone on to new business. This bill is bothersome to them and I don't think it is because it is confusing. They are not sure what the House vote would be. This is why it is important for everyone to be at these meetings. Elected officials are less likely to play the confusion card, and such, in front of a lot of people. Each time we have a low showing, they have some latitude to drag the process out, as is now happening.

We need to be there next Tuesday to let each member of the subcommittee know that we want to clearly understand any confusion they may have, as well as any action they decide to take. The representatives selected to be on the subcommittee are smart individuals, hopefully they will not compromise their position by playing politics with this bill. Some already have with the letter they sent to the Board of Education. They will be taking care not to make any more mistakes – unless we stay home and let them get away with it. This bill is fine, as it was presented, to go for a vote in the House Education Committee. Even if it gets an ITL at HEC, where only 7 representatives are among the 34 who voted for greater regulation with HB368, that doesn't mean the bill will fail on the House floor, where legislators recently voted 324 to 34 in favor of less regulation for homeschoolers. HB1580 represents a profound question that we are asking legislators to make clear, and it is a great time to ask.

As this bill stands, it is a win-win for everyone. The current home education law stays in place for everyone in the legislature who wants it, for homeschoolers who want to continue to use it and for any person, or entity, who feels they have the time to argue endlessly over whether they can find the right regulations, and perfect language, to place into a law to oversee and supervise homeschooling. For those who don't want to live under the current homeschool law, this bill clearly protects your fundamental parental duty to instruct your children, without state interference.

The meetings on HB 1580 are as follows:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 12:30 PM

HB1580 Subcommittee Meeting, Legislative Office Building, Room 207

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM

House Education Committee Executive Session, Legislative Office Building, Room 207

I hope to see folks there. Whether you are for or against this bill, there is much to be learned by listening to this committee discuss this important issue.