Wednesday, February 2, 2011

HB 545: Bill Review on Eliminating Rules by DoE for Home Education

What's to be gained from HB 545? There's certainly no upside for freedom and possibly a big downside.

HSLDA and the HEAC created a lot of fear around this rule-making process last year, knowing that it would come out absolutely fine in the end. That way they're the heroes that saved the day. Was it also to distract from the homeschooling freedom bill, HB 1580?

If Rep. Bates' bill passes and there are no more rules, there may be more confusion at the district level and eventually a court case to resolve this ambiguity. How's that progress? That's what led to the current home education law: 2% of the districts became hostile in their interpretation of the law and litigation followed.

With rule-making, parents need only remain calm and on-point. The DoE cannot exceed statutory authority. Period. Where's the crisis that needs solving?

What is the process by which rules are adopted? The DoE drafts rules for all education statutes enacted by the legislature, not just for home schoolers. These rules explains the details of how a law is to be enforced. Why is this a problem? Details are useful, but when the rules adopted exceed statutory authority and demand more of parents than the law allows, then the rules become very problematic.

The DoE did over reach and ask for rules that exceeded statutory requirements at the request of certain members of the House Education Committee last year. Chairman Rep. Emma Rous and eight other disgruntled members of the House Education Committee wrote to the DoE asking for rules that exceeded statutory authority. HB 368 had just failed (324-34) in the House and Rep. Rous made a desperate attempt to use the rule-making process to impose this failed proposal upon parents in any way possible.

So the question is -- were there enough checks and balances built into the rule-making process to correct such a problem?

----The BoE reviews all proposed rules to make sure they don't exceed statutory authority and the public is allowed to testify to bring any problems to the attention of the BoE.

----Next, the proposed rules go before the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR) where again the public can testify and the committee reviews the proposed rules to make sure they don't exceed statutory authority.

The DoE's proposed rules failed when brought before the BoE as they should have failed; they exceeded statutory authority. Moreover, all the House Education Committee members, who proposed these inappropriate rules, are no longer in the legislature, except Rep. Rick Ladd, who had no opponents in either the primary or election, and Rep. Barbara Shaw.

Clearly this problem, though very upsetting to many, was resolved using the existing checks and balances within the system. The system worked. What's more, there was another check with the JLCAR committee, that was also ready to review these rules had the BoE failed to catch the problem. The system of checks and balances worked with a double-check to spare!

So do home schoolers really need special treatment given that the the existing system of checks and balances worked? No, not really, unless they believe that the DoE is a menace to all citizens. If that's the case, then wouldn't it be better for home schoolers to ask for the elimination of the DoE rule-making authority for everyone and not to ask for special treatment? Because asking for special treatment undermines home schoolers' credibility when they later seek a continuation of last year's effort to obtain equal treatment.

Those most deeply affected by this rule-making debacle were the Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) members. The DoE failed to heed their suggestions. This is politics. Not every effort is successful. Should the DoE have taken the HEAC's advice over the HEC's? That's an interesting question, which is also a matter of political debate.

This bill is a solution in search of a problem.

The real danger is that any support for this bill, also supports the current law. Why do we need this bill if we want to repeal the inequitable existing law? Moreover, if this passes, legislators can point to it and say "we fixed your problem" or "we supported home schoolers' rights." Please, don't give them this lame opportunity. Hold out for a bill that actually accomplishes something. This bill is little more than smoke and mirrors.