Last year (2009) the Missouri General Assembly advanced legislation focused on education policy which inadvertently threatened home education. Those unintended consequences were averted in the end and the final results actually came out to the advantage of home schooling families. However, the impending threat was no less a danger nor was it to be ignored just because it was unintended.
While acknowledging the smiles of God to protect home educators, it is also notable that literally thousands of families responded to last yearâ€™s threat. Because of those who responded with calls and letters, emails and visits, legislation was altered to appease the home school community. It is shuttering to think what today may look like had the home school community ignored the seriousness of the situation.
To review the political battle and its favorable outcome, see this PDF file: missourifamilynetwork.net/uploads/2009-homeschool-laws
We are now greeted with the 2010 Missouri General Assembly quickly beginning to focus on further education policy. Early in the annual session of the Legislature the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education has already voted to advance an omnibus education bill. This means the basic focus of the bill is open ended education policy. It is deliberately designed to be broad based with no finite focus, allowing almost anything related to the field of education to be attached to the bill.
Last yearâ€™s bill grew from one page to hundreds, from changing one section of law to 142 areas of law! This yearâ€™s bill, House Bill 1543, started out by rewriting sixteen provisions of law and has already been greatly expanded in its first committee. Additionally, while most bills have barely been introduced and most not even assigned to a committee for initial review, HB 1543 has already been voted â€œdo passâ€ by this 14 member committee.
Thankfully, two of the amendments offered in committee were turned back because of their negative impact on home schoolers. But this was only the first salvo engaged by Representative Sara Lampe (democrat from Springfield). Rep. Lampe made it very clear that she plans to pursue her agenda with amendments to be offered when the bill comes before the full House of Representatives in the very near future.
Rep Lampe seems to hold to the worldview that parents who do not have their children educated according to her preconceived idea are guilty of abuse. Furthermore she laments that not all young children are enrolled in a full time kindergarten prior to first grade. Citing that over 220 children in St. Louis skip going to kindergarten (out of around 35,000 students, or 1 out of every 2,500) she wants to lower compulsory education which starts at 7 years of age down to 5. Then she believes that all schools should be required to maintain full day kindergarten with a minimal compulsory age of 6 statewide.
Pushing her world view upon all of Missouri, Rep Lampe tried to get the House Education Committee to accept her ideology in the form of amendments to HB 1543. Both amendments were turned back after the chairman of the committee (Maynard Wallace, republican from Ozark County) invited home school lobbyist (me) Kerry Messer of Missouri Family Network to address the committee during its executive session.
As Rep. Lampe attempted to engage in an impromptu negotiation over limited hours of instruction for home schooling 5-6 year olds, I explained that her ideas would spark a major political firestorm akin to last yearâ€™s emergency rally which drew 2,500-3,000 people to the capitol. Among other things I challenged the committee to think about how the proposed amendments transform policy related to the Stateâ€™s constitutional requirement to provide a free education to criminalizing parents who chose not to use those free services.
As she prepares to offer amendments to HB 1543, or other bills, on the floor of the House, Rep. Lampe has invited me to work with her to find a compromise. I committed to her and the rest of the Education Committee that I would try to come up with ideas that could satisfy her concerns, but that I could not jeopardize the families which make up Missouriâ€™s home schooling community by restricting their God given right to educate their children according to personal convictions.
After all was said and done and the committee adjourned I found myself confronted with a frustrated lobbyist for the AFL-CIO labor union. This lobbyist explained that the amendments I had opposed were â€˜herâ€™ amendments and that Rep. Lampe was only working to help â€œthe teachersâ€. This brief conversation clearly answered my internal question as to the motivation behind the amendments. Were they proposed out of a deep residing concern for the quality of education or was the concern more related to paychecks?
If only the government and its bureaucrats could leave parents alone to raise their families and educate their children in a truly free civic society, we would not have to face the gauntlet of these crossfires. But until that day dawns, let us defend ourselves and one another with vigor and resolve. Prepare to join us for the home school rally at the Missouri State Capitol on March 2, 2010. Plan now to come to the capitol when HB 1543 is to be debated on the floor of the House. Sit down right now and write your letter/email to your Representative asking them to oppose any amendments lowering compulsory attendance ages.