In the labyrinth of legislative maneuvering, when a committee chairman who represents the majority says a bill is going to be passed, it’s usually unwise to bet against that result.
But when a bill in the Hawaii legislature that would have required parents to undergo a “child abuse and neglect history inquiry” as well as a “background check” to be allowed to teach their own children was put before the committee, hundreds of homeschoolers and their parents showed up to protest.
The bill had majority support and was expected to become law didn’t even get a vote.
But after the hearing, the sponsor asked that it be withdrawn, and ultimately the Hawaii committees on Education and Human Services “deferred” on the plan.
Peter Kamakawisoole of the Home School Legal Defense Association, who returned to his “ancestral home” for the hearing, acknowledged “we faced an uphill battle.”
“There is not a single Republican in the Hawaii State Senate. Of the 10 committee members, seven had already signed on as sponsors of S.B. 2323 – including both of the committee chairs and vice-chairs,” he wrote in a report for HSLDA.
“And to make matters even worse, the chair opened the meeting by telling us that the bill would be passed that day with amendments that would leave both the approval and background checks intact.”
But the parents stood their ground.
They offered “more than 700 pages of testimony, and filled first the hearing room, then one overflow room, and a second, and a third.”
“By day’s end, there were at least four more televisions in the outside hall. All of them were being watched at all times. At one point the fire marshal had to halt the proceedings because of the volume of people outside,” Kamakawisoole wrote.
The hearing was held jointly by the Hawaii Senate’s Education and Human Services committees.
“If passed, it would mark a sea change in homeschool history: every single homeschooling family in Hawaii would have to submit to mandatory criminal background checks before they could gain ‘approval’ to educate their own keiki (children) at home,” Kamakawisoole said.
The hearing started poorly for the homeschoolers when Sen. Michelle Kidani, the chairwoman, confirmed the votes already were there to pass the bill with the amendments to “require approval and background checks.”
“We were hoping to make a statement. What we actually got was a miracle,” Kamakawisoole said.
It came when Sen. Gil Kahele “asked the chair to withdraw the bill, in favor of returning to the issues … next session.”
“While the immediate danger appears to have passed, there’s still work to be done in advance of the 2019 and 2020 sessions. And there will be time in the future to discuss where we go from here,” he said.
“Every marathon has a critical moment. This was yours,” he told the parents. “And you crushed it.”