Idaho Homeschool History
The Golden Age of Homeschooling
In the years following 1992, Idaho Education Code 33-202 read:
33-202 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE COMPULSORY…Unless the child is otherwise comparably instructed, the parent or guardian shall cause the child to attend a public, private or parochial school…
I ended the last installment of our story in 2006, with a victory for homeschooling. We were able to defend ourselves against an assault that would have brought regulation upon us. This followed our 2004 defeat of a really bad bill. These victories felt pretty good. Good enough that we began to wonder whether or not we could play offense.
Our state statute, 33-202, had not been changed since 1992, regarding home education. In February 2008, we began to grow increasingly concerned about its language. The California Court of Appeals had ruled in a juvenile court proceeding and declared that almost all forms of homeschooling in California were in violation of state law. They further ruled that “parents possess no constitutional right to homeschool their children.” They determined these two things largely because the California education statues did not mention homeschooling, or home education specifically.
Although the family involved in the case were not members of Home School Legal Defense Association, HSLDA sprang into immediate action to protect their members in California. Eventually, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District ruled that “California statues permitted homeschooling as a species of private school education.”
It is rare for a court to vacate an earlier decision, and all of the credit goes to a nationwide outpouring of support and prayer. It turns out that homeschoolers had made friends everywhere, and many of these friends were powerful and influential people.
I remember attending an HSLDA Leader’s Summit in Washington DC in March of that year where members of the US Congress were imploring us to allow them to bring federal legislation to fix the problem. We thanked them for their offer, adding that we trusted that we would be able to successfully conclude the issue through the courts.
One of the highlights of that trip was when then-Congressman Mike Pence, led about 20 state leaders on a private Capitol tour, and he impressed us all with his sincerity and strength of character. He really stood out, and we were all thrilled when such a good friend to home education became the Vice President of the United States earlier this year.
Idaho leaders breathed a sigh of relief when the California Appeals Court vacated their ruling, because we reside in the same Circuit Court as California, the Ninth, and their potential ruling could have profoundly impacted Idaho as well.
We knew that we had the same problem that California did. Our Idaho Code did not specifically mention homeschooling as a means of education. We started to think about whether or not we had the support within our legislature to pass a bill that added those words to our statute. Our team of legal consultants met to talk about the language for a potential statute change.
They figured that if they wanted the bill to pass that they could only make minor changes to the language. Through the course of their meeting they had fun crafting what they called their “dream language,” but they had no illusions that they could ever pass a bill with THAT language in it. In the end, they settled on a few words which included homeschooling in the education categories.
The proposed bill language added some protection because it enumerated homeschooling in our statue, which gave us standing that California’s courts had looked for earlier, and not found. But it didn’t deal with some of the language in 33-202 which gave us concern.
For instance, current statute used the term, “otherwise comparably instructed.” What does comparable mean? Comparable to what? Did that mean that we had to teach Idaho History in the 4th grade like the public schools? Did we have to spend an hour a day on Physical Education? Did we have to teach for 180 school days per year? No one had ever asked those questions before, and we hoped they wouldn’t ask them now.
Our legal team enjoyed the exercise of writing “dream language,” but in the end they settled for a cobbled-together 33-202 with homeschooling inserted, and they hoped for the best. They figured that their exercise in writing perfect language was fun, but unlikely to ever see the light of day.