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…
In the summer of 2008, leadership from ICHE and CHOIS began to discuss the possibility of bringing forward a bill that would change Idaho Code 33-202 to insert the words “home education.” In our minds, we began counting noses of the legislators we thought might support such a bill, and we actively sought a sponsor in both the House and the Senate.
And then something rather amazing happened!
Remember the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk? The people who commissioned three Boise State University professors to write the Missing Children report? The people who felt concern for the safety of homeschooled children.
The chairman of the task force, Kirt, called the president of the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators, Barry Peters. They shared a few minutes of friendly chatter before getting to the point. The task force was thinking about making some changes to Idaho Code 33-202, and they wanted to make sure that homeschoolers understood that they did not intend to harm us with their changes. In other words, they were hoping we would not oppose their proposed legislation.
“Well that’s funny, because homeschoolers were also thinking about making some changes to that code,” replied Mr. Peters.
“Maybe we should get together on our two bills,” suggested Kirt.
Nervous laughter ensued.
Thankfully, the conversation did not end there. The two men, both attorneys, began to talk about the changes that each wanted to bring. They began to see that neither one of them had any objections to the changes that the other wanted to bring. They began to see that perhaps they could work together for the common good.
And so, a very unlikely partnership began. The task force decided to join their language with ours, and we selected our legislative sponsors together. Things were starting to roll. Our joint bill made it through committee and was headed to the Senate floor for debate.
And then we hit a rather large road block.
Remember that state Senator? The one with the proposed bill that would have made any parent who failed to make sure his or her child was properly educated in every subject guilty of a misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to six months in jail? The Senator who kept the newspaper clipping about this defeat on his desk for years.
That guy. He still didn’t like us. He said he had problems with our bill. So did the Senate Minority Leader. Unless we could get one of them on our side, our bill was going to die.
A meeting was called by the Senate bill sponsor. He invited Kirt, the chairman of the task force, and Barry Peters, the president of ICHE. He also invited the Senate Minority Leader, and our unfriendly Senator.
Kirt was out of town, but he agreed to participate via conference call. Everyone else showed up, with the exception of Senator Unfriendly. We don’t really know why he chose not to attend this meeting, but the meeting proceeded without him.
The Senate Minority Leader was an attorney. Obviously, she understood legal terms, and she was having a lot of problems with our cobbled-together language. She was moving in directions that made us very uncomfortable. What does comparable mean? Isn’t there a better way to say what you mean?
I love how Barry Peters describes what happened next. I’ve heard him tell this story many, many times. Even today, he often gets a little bit chocked up when he tells it. He says that suddenly, like an angel, a voice was heard in the room. It was Kirt, who was patched in via conference call.
“I think I might have the language that could solve your problems.”
Kirt, the chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk, that committee which had previously been looking at ways to harm us, was suggesting a last-minute change to the language in our bill. Could this be the double-cross some of us had been fearing all along?