Friday, December 16, 2005

So, what's the big deal?

I may not have been actively blogging lately, but I've been yapping elsewhere. Here is a message I posted to a national Yahoo! Group two days ago when someone remarked that Sect 522 didn't look so scary. While I was talking to one of PEAK's moderators about legislative events today, she also asked, "So, what's the big deal?" This post has become my standard answer:

Hi [Forum Member] and everyone,

I'm usually quiet in this forum since all the bases here are adequately covered by [Owner] and the [Forum] members. However, I want to take a moment to explain a few things that often get lost in translation regarding homeschool language in federal legislation.

States will oppose federal interference only to the degree that it does not affect funding. In other words, I don't believe we can count on a state to defend our rights as homeschoolers once a federal definition is put in place and a dollar value is attached to it (which is a natural progression of events. See highway funding and the federal push that raised the drinking age to 21. Reference the effects federal pressure has had on "state-mandated" test scores and attendance in public education). The feds threaten to withhold funding to those who do not comply. Although state do have the right to refuse, in reality, they rarely do.

Regarding Section 522 of HR 1815, the initial concern was that it would give the Department of Defense carte blanche to assign a federal definition to homeschooling for the purposes of recruitment. While that in itself does not sound threatening, the potential long-term consequences are. More on that later. In the meantime, Valerie at HEM NewsComm has uncovered several definitions of homeschooling currently in use by the Navy and Marines in their own manuals and on their official websites. They and the Army sites link to HSLDA as the defining authority in home education (so does the State of Mississippi's Dept of Education website, for that matter). So, essentially, HSLDA is defining "homeschool" for these federal entities. Again, a lot of people are asking "What's the harm there?"

Two things: HSLDA does not represent the vast majority of homeschoolers in this country AND the vast majority of homeschoolers in this country do not wish to be defined on the federal level, period. Simply put, we want no federal regulation and we want no interference from HSLDA.

[Natalie's disclaimer: the following is the opinion of the poster and should not be misconstrued as an anti-HSLDA rant.]

Here are the potential long term consequences: Sect 522 would allow the dept that oversees the armed forces to create ONE definition for ALL homeschoolers that will usurp any state-level definition (or lack thereof). Furthermore, as parents, citizens and homeschoolers, we will not have any say in just what that definition is and no recourse if we don't like it. Additionally, other federal agencies (Social Security, Homeland Security, etc) will latch on to this definition in the future, simply because it's already there.

Based on the fact that the military currently defaults to HSLDA's authority, odds are that a federal definition of who is and who isn't a homeschooler will come from an organization that represents a small fraction of the homeschooling population. That's not ok with me.

If that doesn't raise a sea of red flags, let me ask two questions: Under a federal definition of homeschooling, who stands to lose the most? Easy answer: We do. And who stands to gain the most? Not as easy, so here's a hint: They wrote Section 522.

Thanks for reading,
Natalie

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