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
Presuppositions. Everyone makes them. So rare, are the opportunities to dismiss them! When our story last concluded we were just about to find out whether our presumptions could be ignored.
Here’s how the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk saw things:
- They were tasked with finding ways to prevent child abuse.
- Homeschoolers were a great unknown to them, and this lack of knowing gave them tremendous concern.
- They saw a potential for abuse, and they wanted to close the opportunity.
Homeschoolers had their own perspective. We knew that the Task Force had previously sought to regulate homeschooling. Could we trust them now?
The funny thing is, it was really hard not to care about the same things that the folks at the task force cared about. Nobody wants to see children abused or neglected! We especially did not want anyone using home education as a shield from prosecution. Truth be told, the task force folks were having a hard time maintaining the idea that homeschoolers kept their children home only to abuse them. Is it possible that we were forming some mutual admiration?
Certainly our two leaders were. Over the course of our joint bill journey Barry Peters of Idaho Coalition of Home Educators and Kirt of The Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk had many conversations. They found they had some common interests, and that neither one had horns growing out of his head. At some point along the way, Barry shared his legal team’s “dream bill language” in an email to Kirt, and then promptly forgot he had done so.
Imagine Barry’s surprise when the angelic voice over the phone, proposing to have the perfect solution for the Senate Minority Leader’s concerns about 33-202’s muddled message, sallied forth with exactly that. The perfect solution! He read aloud the “dream language” Barry had sent him in that earlier, forgotten email. Word for word.
“I like it,” said the Senate Minority Leader, “can you live with that language Mr. Peters?”
“Umm well, yes, I think I can,” the awe-struck Mr. Peters somehow managed to reply.
And the rest is history. When the bill went to the Senate floor the Minority Leader immediately rose in support, thereby signaling that she had no problem with the bill. And the bill unanimously passed both the House and the Senate and the Governor signed it into law.
Did you catch the word unanimously? Even Senator Unfriendly voted for it.
Unanimously? Well you see, it turns out that we confused a whole lot of legislators. There were those who were suspicious of any bill brought by homeschoolers. And then there were those who were suspicious of any bill brought by the task force. Both groups were getting questions about whether or not the bill could be trusted. Both groups assured their friendly legislators that they were sure. Along the way, or in the midst, all opposition dropped out.
But of course that isn’t the end of the story. ICHE and CHOIS representatives have met with the members of the task force since then, and we have reminisced about our joint effort. It turns out that the hero of our story, Kirt, has absolutely no memory of sharing the “dream language.” He doesn’t even remember reading Barry’s email with the language in it, let alone printing it, filing it, pulling out that file, and using it at the crucial moment. It still gives me goosebumps to think of the way that God used Kirt to bring about His plan for our good, without Kirt even being aware.
And it is good! When our bill became law on July 1, 2009, Idaho gained the greatest homeschool freedom of any state in the country, and thus the world. Our struggle to be free was accomplished, and we are so grateful. But as we all know, freedom isn’t free, and a high price was paid over the 29 years of my story. It is quite possible that an even higher price will be extracted in the future to maintain our freedom.
But that’s a story for another day. Today, let’s enjoy the simple beauty of the ICHE legal team’s perfect language, and our current Idaho Code 33-202.
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…
To God be the glory!