Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Notes from the Balcony of Representatives Hall

Home schoolers sat in the balcony of Representatives Hall for three session days, waiting for HB 1580 to come forward. There were 50 bills on the House Calendar that week. HB 1580 somehow managed to be the very last bill considered on that list of 50 bills.

Some bills were debated for well over an hour. HB 1580 was debated for 23 minutes.

5:12 pm HB 1580

Rep. Winters: HB 1580 restores presumption of innocence: public and private schools have no evaluations; homeschoolers are required by law to prove their innocence. With HB 1580 education will still be compulsory: home schoolers will not be a burden on society. --whatever the issue, we need presumption of innocence that parents are good people; either we don’t trust parents or we vote for HB 1580.

Rep. Owen: most committee reports are democracy in action protecting businesses and citizens; however many citizens are concerned about HB 1580 and the violation of their rights. HB 1580 establishes that parents have a natural fundamental right; this bill was brought up over concerns over regulations. Over the last 20 years … he has some concerns for his business so that he can understand our situation; parents should be considered innocent until proven guilty. HB 368 in January was killed 324 – 34 protecting homeschoolers rights; support this bill for parental rights.

House Speaker indicated that a Roll Call was requested and that Rep. Casey would be the final speaker.

Rep. Casey: indicated that she received an email from a parent indicating that homeschooling is working; that the regulation in the home education law is enough and working well; mentioned NH Parents First flyer from HB 1580 folks indicating that historically parents have always had the authority to instruct their children.

Parents already have the right to instruct their children at home: parents have public, private, or homeschooling. But this homeschooling option is limited by the “statement of purpose” from RSA 193-A in 1990, “the general court recognizes…. that it is the primary right and obligation of the parent to choose the appropriate educational alternative. …. as provided by law.”

Home schoolers are regulated well enough. Not too much … not too little . We’ve reached a balance between autonomy and the right to homeschool their children at home.

Rights and obligations are two-faced; parents are obligated to teach their children; HB 1580 asks us to remove every opportunity for the state to intervene in a positive way with these children. HB 1580 will negate any opportunity to resolve truancy.

I admire parents who homeschool; they are champions for what they do.

NH is in the middle of all the states that regulate homeschooling. HSLDA indicates that NH is not one of the most restrictive states for homeschooling: our law is only moderately restrictive. There is a balance with what homeschoolers need to do and what the state needs to do to cherish education.

Rep. Baldasaro (Londonderry) is the system broken? Why can’t this legislature give parents the right to homeschool away from public school system?

Rep. Casey: Homeschoolers may provide a portfolio, they may go to the district and take an evaluation. They can interface in a positive way to make sure these things are happening. There is no reason to assume guilt. Parents have taken on their obligation; the state has an obligation; public and private schools have accountability.

Rep. Badesarro: Is the system is broken?

Rep. Casey: The system is in perfect balance.

After this Rep. Casey refused to take more questions. Rep. Carol McGuire asked for a roll call vote. The motion was to ITL HB 1580.

Rep. Skindler: 1580 still requires homeschoolers to instruct their children; only 6 states have worse regulation than NH; we need the presumption of innocence restored.

Rep. Rous: the right of parents already clearly established in 193-A; parents already exempt from compulsory attendance law; HB 1580 creates a new 4th path in addition to the others; it allows parents to opt out of all regulations except the lists of subject; no notification; no evaluation; no truancy.

5:35 pm --- ITL upheld: 175 to 144