Wisconsin Parents Association Newsletter #86 pp. 3-4 December 2005

Section of Military Appropriations Bill Would Undermine Homeschooling Freedoms

Your help is needed to prevent legislation that would authorize the federal government to define homeschooling and force homeschools to become like public schools. The more people who call or email legislators in the next few days, the better chance we have. Call or email as many of the legislators listed below as you can and ask that they work to remove Sec. 522 from H.R. 1815, a huge bill to fund the military.

Background: For at least six years, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a national homeschooling organization that represents only a small minority of homeschoolers, has been working with the Department of Defense to make it easier for homeschoolers to enlist in the military. Right now, HSLDA is trying to get legislation passed as part of two separate bills. They have included a section on the military in the Home School Non-Discrimination Act of 2005 (HoNDA) (H.R. 3753 and S. 1691), a bill very similar to one introduced by HSLDA in 2003. A similar section has just recently been added to the Senate version of H.R. 1815, where it is a very small piece of a $400 billion military appropriations bill.

HoNDA is not being acted on at present, but the military appropriations bill is on the fast track and has passed both the House and the Senate. The Conference Committee will meet soon to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Then it will be given final approval by Congress and signed by the President. If Sec. 522 is in the final version of the bill, it will become law when the rest of the bill does. Fortunately, Sec. 522 has not been included in the House version of the bill, so we have a chance of convincing the Conference Committee not to include it in the final version.

The basic problem with both bills is that they would authorize the Secretary of Defense to define what it takes to be a homeschool graduate, using conventional school standards. This is a wrong-headed attempt to make it easier for a few homeschoolers to enter the military while undermining the homeschooling freedoms of all of us. HSLDA is proposing that the federal government determine what people need to do to become homeschooling graduates. This would limit the ability of homeschoolers to decide how to homeschool, what to include in our curriculums, how to decide when our children have completed high school, and what values and beliefs to follow. This definition could then spread through other departments of the federal government, including the Department of Education, and be applied to homeschoolers throughout the country.

Specifically, HoNDA requires that “(4) The home-school curriculum used by the graduate involved parental instruction and supervision and closely patterned the normal credit hours per subject as used in a traditional secondary school. (5) The graduate has provided the Secretary concerned with a third-party verification letter of the graduate's home-school status by the Home School Legal Defense Association or a State or county home-school association or organization.”

Section 522 of the military appropriations bill includes this language: (c) Home School Graduates- In prescribing the policy, the Secretary of Defense shall prescribe a single set of criteria to be utilized by the Armed Forces in determining whether an individual is a graduate of home schooling. The Secretary concerned shall ensure compliance with education credential coding requirements.

For the full text of these sections, see thomas.loc.gov and enter the bill number (either H. R. 1815 or H. R. 3753 in the search box, click on the "Bill Number" option,) and do the search.

In addition, this legislation is unnecessary. At present, homeschoolers can and do enlist in the military by convincing a recruiter to accept their homeschooling transcript and diploma or by earning 15 college credits or in other ways.

An additional problem is that citizens would have very little say in what decisions the Secretary of Defense made. Public hearings would not be held; only written comments would be allowed and the Secretary would only have to "consider" them.

What We Can Do

We can contact the members of the Conference Committee as soon as possible (they will be meeting very soon) and ask them to remove Sec. 522. We can call their offices or send an email. Calls are more effective but emails are easier to send. It is much better to send emails than to do nothing. It is particularly important to contact Senator John Warner of VA since he introduced Sec. 522 into the military appropriations bill and is the senior Senate conferee.

If you want background information on a representative before you call, go to http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ and do a "Power Search" for them. (This site also has legislators' web-based email addresses.) Often having background information makes it easier to choose points to make that are most likely to convince a representative.

If you want to call, consider making the following points with the aides with whom you speak:

• Sec. 522 should be removed because it would reduce choice in education by forcing homeschools to become like public schools.

• Sec. 522 is unnecessary. Homeschoolers can and do enlist in the military under current law.

• Sec. 522 was initiated by an organization that represents only a small minority of homeschoolers. It is strongly opposed by many, many homeschoolers, including me.

• Sec. 522 flies in the face of a recent 5-year federal pilot program that showed that homeschoolers have significantly higher attrition rates from the military than do graduates of public schools. It does not make sense to pass legislation that makes it easier for homeschoolers to get into the military, that uses federal money to train them, when the study shows they have higher attrition rates. For details, see “Final Analysis of Evaluation of Homeschool and Challenge Program Recruits” http://www.cna.org/documents/D0009351.A2.pdf , especially p. 52, "Although there are good reasons to explore recruiting avenues beyond traditional public high schools, given the attrition rates of homeschoolers compared with other high school diploma graduates, homeschooled recruits seem to be a less desirable recruiting market than was originally thought."

If you would prefer to email, you can simply ask that Sec. 522 be removed from H. R. 1815. However, your email will be more effective if you include one or more talking points such as those listed above. It is much better to use your own words rather than to copy a message someone else has written.

Senators who are members of the Conference Committee: (The House conferees will be named soon.)

Warner, John- (R - VA)

225 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-2023

Web Form: warner.senate.gov/contact/contactme.cfm

McCain, John- (R - AZ)

241 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-2235

Web Form: mccain.senate.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=Contact.Home

Inhofe, James- (R - OK)

453 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-4721

Web Form: inhofe.senate.gov/contactus.htm

Roberts, Pat- (R - KS)

109 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-4774

Web Form: roberts.senate.gov/e-mail_pat.html

Sessions, Jeff- (R - AL)

335 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-4124

Web Form: sessions.senate.gov/email/contact.cfm

Collins, Susan- (R - ME)

461 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-2523

Web Form: collins.senate.gov/low/contactemail.htm

Ensign, John- (R - NV)

356 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-6244

Web Form: ensign.senate.gov/forms/email_form.cfm

Talent, James- (R - MO)

493 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-6154

Web Form: talent.senate.gov/Contact/default.cfm?pagemode=1

Chambliss, Saxby- (R - GA)

416 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-3521

Web Form: chambliss.senate.gov/Contact/default.cfm?pagemode=1

Graham, Lindsey- (R - SC)

290 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-5972

Web Form: lgraham.senate.gov/index.cfm?mode=contact

Dole, Elizabeth- (R - NC)

555 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-6342

Web Form: dole.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactInformation.ContactForm

Cornyn, John- (R - TX)

517 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-2934

Web Form: cornyn.senate.gov/contact/index.html

Thune, John- (R - SD)

383 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-2321

Web Form: thune.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.Home

Levin, Carl- (D - MI)

269 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-6221

Web Form: levin.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm

Kennedy, Edward- (D - MA)

317 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-4543

Web Form: kennedy.senate.gov/contact.html

Byrd, Robert- (D - WV)

311 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-3954

Web Form: byrd.senate.gov/byrd_email.html

Lieberman, Joseph- (D - CT)

706 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-4041

Web Form: lieberman.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm?regarding=issue

Reed, Jack- (D - RI)

728 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-4642

Web Form: reed.senate.gov/form-opinion.htm

Akaka, Daniel- (D - HI)

141 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-6361

E-mail: senator@akaka.senate.gov

Nelson, Bill- (D - FL)

716 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-5274

Web Form: billnelson.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm#email

Nelson, Ben- (D - NE)

720 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-6551

Web Form: bennelson.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm

Dayton, Mark- (D - MN)

123 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-3244

Web Form: dayton.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm

Bayh, Evan- (D - IN)

463 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-5623

Web Form: bayh.senate.gov/WebMail1.htm

Clinton, Hillary- (D - NY)

476 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-4451

Web Form: clinton.senate.gov/contact

Wisconsin Parents Association Newsletter #86 pp. 4-5 December 2005

Federal Homeschooling Legislation Raises Increasing Problems

Summary: A second piece of federal legislation that would cause serious problems if passed is the Home School Non-Discrimination Act of 2005 (HoNDA). This is a worse version of legislation the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) also had introduced in 2003. We need to be aware that it exists, tell others about it, and share our concerns with legislators.

Problems with the 2003 version of HoNDA have not been reintroduced, so materials WPA published then are still relevant. For details about the problems with this bill, see WPA Newsletter #77, pp. 7 and #78, p. 7.

A new section adds to the problems raised by the 2003 version by sacrificing our homeschooling freedoms in a misguided attempt to possibly make it a little easier for homeschoolers to enlist in military with Tier I status. It is very similar to Section 522 of the military appropriations bill discussed above, and the same background information and analysis apply.

In addition, this section contains two points with very serious consequences. Sec. 10 (a) includes “(c) Qualified Home-School Graduates-In identifying a graduate of home schooling for purposes of subsection (b), the Secretary concerned [Secretary of Defense] shall ensure that the graduate meets each of the following requirements: . . . (4) The home-school curriculum used by the graduate involved parental instruction and supervision and closely patterned the normal credit hours per subject as used in a traditional secondary school. (5) The graduate has provided the Secretary [of Defense] concerned with a third-party verification letter of the graduate's home-school status by the Home School Legal Defense Association or a State or county home-school association or organization.”

It is appalling that a homeschooling organization that claims to be supporting and defending homeschooling is attempting to have a federal law passed requiring that homeschoolers follow conventional high school curriculums and that their homeschooling be verified by a homeschooling organization, such as HSLDA. For one thing, such a law would generate business for HSLDA and increase their membership. But such certification will not work. Any organization certifying homeschoolers cannot maintain its credibility if it simply certifies anyone who requests it. But if the organization is not going to certify everyone, it will have to set some criteria for who is a bona fide homeschooler, which means they will be defining homeschooling and deciding who qualifies as a homeschooler. This would be a huge lose of our freedom to homeschool according to our principles and beliefs and a huge mistake for homeschoolers to make.

What We Can Do

• We can review the materials on the 2003 version of HoNDA on the WPA Web site so we understand its problems.

• We can inform other homeschoolers about the problems raised by HoNDA so they also understand the seriousness of the issues involved and of the potential damage HSLDA's approach to legislation could cause.

• We can share our concerns with members of the Senate Education Committee (Majority Staff #: (202) 224-6770_or Minority Staff #: (202) 224-0767 or http://help.senate.gov/committee_members.html) and the House Education Committee (202) 225-4527 or http://edworkforce.house.gov/members/109th/mem-fc.htm.

• We can contact Representative Mark Green of Green Bay, the only Wisconsin congressperson who is a co-sponsor of the bill, and ask him to withdraw his sponsorship (1-800-773-8579 or mark.green@mail.house.gov).

• We can refuse to join or support HSLDA.