In a statement that reflects widespread trust by lawmakers in homeschoolers, the New Hampshire House of Representatives today resoundingly rejected a proposal that would have imposed draconian new regulations on the students and their parents.
Members of the state House voted 324-34 to maintain the state’s present homeschool law, rejecting a proposal from Democratic leaders that would have subjected every homeschooled student to new tests, a requirement for an annual portfolio as well as new regulations that the state Department of Education could write.
“Winning by such a significant margin is welcome relief for New Hampshire homeschool families,” said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Rank-and-file Democrats today joined Republicans in support of homeschoolers after Democratic leaders did not stop Education Committee chair Emma Rouse and state Rep. Judith Day, both Democrats, from using House procedures to bring the plan to a vote.
A bipartisan legislative study committee already had rejected the proposed new homeschool regulations by a vote of 14–6.
The rejected proposal would have required that every homeschooled student be tested every year and a portfolio review be conducted for every student. Test scores would have been sent annually to the New Hampshire Department of Education who would also have been granted sweeping rule-making authority.
“It was a real surprise when Democratic leaders collaborated to bring these major changes to the floor for a vote, especially since the very same proposal had already been soundly rejected by their own committee,” said Donnelly. They used a procedure essentially integrating an entire proposal into another bill as an amendment.
The victory was made possible by thousands of homeschool families from all over New Hampshire working alongside HSLDA and Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire to educate their representatives about the threat to homeschool freedom, the HSLDA said.
“Thankfully, New Hampshire homeschoolers responded to the threat. It was an incredible effort by an amazing group of people,” said Donnelly.
Democratic Rep. Barbara Shaw, a retired teacher with 45 years experience, wrote the committee’s majority report, suggesting the plan is “inexpedient to legislate,” or should be rejected.
“After studying this issue for several years, I’ve gotten to know homeschoolers, the law, and how the system works, and I’m convinced that it is working fine – there are no changes needed,” she said.
“Some people have accused me of doing a 180 on homeschooling – and I would have to admit that’s true. But that’s because I’ve seen that homeschooling is working for children in our state and the current law is adequate,” she said.
HSLDA’s analysis said the proposal would have allowed, among other things, state officials to “terminate” a homeschooling program and report a child to the “appropriate resident district superintendent, who shall, if necessary, take appropriate action to ensure that compulsory attendance requirements are met.”
Republican Minority Leader Sherman Packard said his party supported no further changes in the state’s homeschooling law.
“We’ve always supported homeschoolers. … Until the end of last week we weren’t aware that there was a problem with this legislation since the majority report was [to reject],” he said.