The Dawning Age of Homeschooling
by Linda Patchin
Idaho Code 33-202 in the early 1990’s read:
33-202 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE COMPULSORY… Unless the child is otherwise comparably instructed, as may be determined by the board of trustees of the school district in which the child resides, the parent or guardian shall cause the child to attend a public, private or parochial school…
Going through hard times can be difficult. They may cause some people to lose their resolve, or become angry and bitter. Enduring trying circumstances sometimes injects steel into the spine. It is wonderfully comforting once the season is past to look back and see the hand of God at work, even in the midst of the storm.
Idaho homeschoolers got a glimpse of God’s behind-the-scenes work in the early 1990’s. Years earlier Representative Fred Tilman was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives. With seniority, he gained the Chairmanship of the House Education Committee, a very powerful position. This would be a footnote in history for most folks, but for Idaho homeschooler’s this Chairmanship made a profound impact, for you see, Representative Tilman was also a homeschooling dad.
For years, Representative Tilman had been exposed to lobbyists from powerful unions, and he recognized their importance. In 1992 he encouraged a few families to found the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators to be a voice for homeschooling at the Capitol. ICHE formed to organize grassroots lobbying for homeschool freedoms. ICHE’s mission was simple: To secure, and then protect, the right of parents to teach their children at home without governmental interference.
The Idaho Code contained language that was giving homeschoolers in some school districts a lot of trouble. It gave, “the board of trustees of the school district in which the child resides…” the authority to determine if a homeschooled child’s education was genuinely comparable to the education offered by local public schools. Some districts took a hard stand against home education, while others were far more tolerant.
ICHE worked with Representative Tilman to craft a bill that sought to eliminate the school district serving as the arbiter of whether a child was being comparably instructed in satisfaction of the compulsory education statute. As sponsor of the bill, Representative Tilman arranged for testimony before the House Education Committee.
He very wisely chose to go to the Board of Trustees of the New Plymouth School District, the very trustees who prosecuted the three Shippy families, to ask them how they felt, in hindsight, about incarcerating these parents and removing their children to foster care. As you can imagine, these trustees still had a very bad taste in their mouths. Bad enough that they testified in favor of this bill before committee. They provided first-hand testimony convincing legislators that requiring school districts to police home schoolers was beyond the proper role of district trustees. Their testimony was very convincing.
The bill passed.
After July 1, 1992, Idaho Code section 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…
Continued next week!