Idaho Homeschool History, Part Nine

Idaho Homeschool History

Part Nine
The Dawning 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…

Opposition to home education surprisingly reared its ugly head in the Idaho Senate in 2004.

The Idaho Coalition of Home Educators had demonstrated strength as a grassroots lobbying organization, and had earned the respect of many Legislators. During this time, some Legislators would touch in from time to time inquiring about whether their proposed bill might affect homeschoolers. ICHE’s Chief Legal Counsel, Barry Peters, received one such call in the summer of 2003.

An Idaho Senator planned to bring a bill to address the problem of truancy in the public schools. Under Idaho law, a truancy charge was filed against the student. This Senator maintained that in his district many children were being charged with truancy simply because their parents were failing to get their child to school each day. He mentioned drug addiction and alcoholism as contributing factors. That sounded like a genuine problem in search of a solution.

The problem was that the solution the Senator proposed would have had unintended consequences far beyond the narrow problem he was attempting to address. The language of his proposed bill would have made any parent who failed to make sure his or her child was properly educated guilty of a misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to six months in jail. Regardless of how minor the shortcoming, any parent who failed to provide a proper education could be found guilty, and sentenced to jail. Because he did not stipulate in his bill that this applied only to public school students, any homeschool parent who failed in any small way to provide a “comparable” education could be charged. As parent educators, we know that the success of home education is found in the freedom and flexibility to tailor-fit subjects and classes to our children’s individual needs. A homeschool is not always “comparable” to the elementary school down the street.

Mr. Peters informed the Senator that unless his bill made it clear that it only applied to the parents of public school students, homeschoolers would be forced to oppose it. The warning shot was fired across the bow.

In January of 2004, the Senator introduced his bill, without a limitation for home educators.

Homeschool leaders from CHOIS and ICHE began to strategize a plan for defeating the bill. Committed to fully informing homeschool parents, ICHE provided the full text of the bill, with recommendations for action in an email alert.

When an action alert is sent, there is a moment when the senders hold their breath and wait to see what the outcome will be.  Will folks respond? Will their response be tepid? How much is enough?

Mr. Peters asked one former Senator how many emails he had gotten two years earlier on a highly controversial bill. He was told that every member of the Idaho Legislature received about 50 emails on that bill, and that this was the Gold Standard. If ICHE could get even half of that number of emails, their alert would have been seen as successful, especially since this bill was sponsored by a highly respected Senator.

In the end, ICHE was told that each Senator received over 600 emails in opposition to this bill.

This is a monumentally large amount of email. To say that it caught the attention of the Idaho Legislature would be an understatement. In the end, the bill’s sponsor withdrew his bill without a vote. Five years later, it was reported that this Senator still kept a newspaper clipping about this defeat on his desk.

In case any of Idaho’s legislators were wondering, this battle clearly showed them that Idaho homeschoolers are active and passionate, and that they could mount a well-coordinated campaign. The Chairman of the Senate Education Committee was reported to have said to one newspaper that, “the quickest way to become an ex-Senator is to put forward a bill in opposition to homeschooling.”

It’s unfortunate that the bill’s sponsor did not heed the warning. If he would have amended his language he could have corrected a sad situation which he claimed was rampant in his district. He could have avoided this embarrassment. This Senator will return to our story in a few more years. Will he be whistling a different tune?

 

A Timeline of Idaho’s Education Code:

1980
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…

1992
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…

2009
33-202 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE COMPULSORY … a parent or guardian shall either cause the child to be privately instructed by, or at the direction of, his parent or guardian; or enrolled in a public school or public charter school, including an online or virtual charter school or private or parochial school…

Committed to helping parents fulfill their God-given right and responsibility to educate their own children.