Rep. Paul Mirski R-Enfield needn’t chase Rep. Michael Brunelle D-Manchester if he wants to eliminate ethical conflicts of interest within the House. He need only look in his own back yard. Rep. Mirski is co-sponsoring a controversial home schooling bill, HB 301, drafted by unregistered lobbyists from the Home School Legal Defense Association in Virginia. He has knowingly protected these lobbyists and undermined the constitutional rights of home schooling parents.
Rep. Mirski is a good friend of HSLDA, as one of their lawyers was his former Enfield neighbor. The prime sponsor of HB 301, Rep. Jim Parison, R-New Ipswich, is another good friend and a member of HSLDA, as well as the former president of HSLDA’s state affiliate group, which incidentally requires a statement of faith in order to join. Rep. Parison also shares Rep. Mirski’s summer home in Florida. It’s one big happy family.
HSLDA’s quasi-legislators boast that they are “the only national organization lobbying on behalf of homeschoolers.” They draft restrictive home schooling legislation across the country and then financially benefit by offering parents legal protection from these same laws. HB 301 proposes to criminalize parents, subordinating them to their districts. HSLDA has earned nearly one million dollars in protection fees from NH families since drafting New Hampshire’s first home education law in 1990.
Ironically, the penalty for HSLDA’s failure to register as a lobbyist is a felony under NH state law. Yet HSLDA has never once registered or worn those little orange lobbyist badges. Rep. Mirski’s own committee just heard a bill, HB 180, which attempted to address the problem of quasi-legislators writing our laws. Rep. Mirski voted to kill the bill, argued against it on the floor, and knowingly protected HSLDA’s unregistered lobbyists. It’s as if Rep. Mirski put a HSLDA lobbyist on the floor of the House, since HSLDA member Rep. Parison carries their water.
HSLDA’s bill, HB 301, proposes to criminalize home schooling parents for “failure to educate” their children based upon the state’s approval or disapproval of the outcome of their programs. HSDLA started lobbying NH legislators last October for support of this measure. This bill places inequitable requirements upon home schoolers which cannot be imposed upon other private teachers in this state. To do so would violate Art. 6, Pt. I of the NH Constitution.
Rep. Mirski ought to give up his crusade against Rep. Brunelle and acknowledge his own ethical conflicts, as well as his inappropriate opposition to the rights of parents.
As a result, the House Education Committee has retained all homeschooling bills in committee this year, including HB 595, which addressed the constitutional problems in the current law, disappointing parents across the state. Rep. Seth Cohn R-Canterbury proposed a stop-gap amendment to HB 542, which would prevent parents from sliding back down a slippery slope each year, arguing against the same increases in state regulation. Support for this amendment to HB 542 would redeem Republicans who promised to uphold the rights of homeschoolers.