Current Critical Issues
Each year, there are a number of legislative issues that require our attention. Always be prepared to take action on an issue of importance to homeschoolers! Read our Legislative Information page to become acquainted with the legislative process in our state.
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Be ready to contact Current Education and Cultural Affairs Committee members on legislative issues of importance to homeschoolers.
Current Critical Legislative Issues and Updates
1. Lowering Compulsory Attendance Age from 7 to 5, LD 1530
On Thursday, January 23rd the Education Committee held its second work session on LD 1530, An Act To Establish a Process for the Implementation of Universal Voluntary Prekindergarten Education. Once again, the phone calls and presence of ranks of homeschoolers has protected freedom for all parents in Maine. At the work session, the committee sentiment turned firmly toward removing provisions lowering the starting age for compulsory school attendance from 7 (as it is now) to 5. Thank you for standing up for freedom!
Background on LD 1530
If passed as written, LD 1530 would expand state control over children and families in Maine. Current law requires school attendance beginning at age 7. LD 1530 would lower this to age 5. If passed, homeschooling parents will have to comply with the compulsory school attendance law a full two years earlier than they do now.
On the surface, the bill appears to have an exemption for homeschoolers. The problem with the current wording of the bill is that the only way to qualify for the exemption would be to participate in a home instruction program by the age of 5. In essence, the bill says, "you must attend public school at age 5 unless you are complying with the homeschool law." That's no exemption at all. Families could still be taken to court if not following the Maine homeschool law by age 5.
Also, at a November work session on November 25, invited representatives from a number of national groups and organizations spoke of the need for standardized early education from prenatal to age 5. This bill (if passed) would open the door to that end.
Read more background on the bill here: http://www.hslda.org/elert/archive/elertarchive.aspx?6861
Members of the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs:
Senator Rebecca J. Millett (D-Cumberland), Chair
Senator Christopher K. Johnson (D-Lincoln)
Senator Brian D. Langley (R-Hancock)
Representative W. Bruce MacDonald (D-Boothbay), Chair
Representative Mary Pennell Nelson (D-Falmouth)
Representative Helen Rankin (D-Hiram)
Representative Matthea Elisabeth Larsen Daughtry (D-Brunswick)
Representative Brian L. Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor)
Representative Victoria P. Kornfield (D-Bangor)
Representative Peter B. Johnson (R-Greenville)
Representative Joyce A. Maker (R-Calais)
Representative Michael D. McClellan (R-Raymond)
Representative Matthew G. Pouliot (R-Augusta)
Representative Madonna M. Soctomah (Passamaquoddy Tribe)
2. LD 1428 is an excellent bill that would provide vital protection for religious freedom in Maine. The Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature truly “missed the boat” during the January 23rd work session in voting 8 to 4 against LD 1428.
LD 61, An Act To Amend Standards for Participation in Certain Public School Services by Students Who Are Homeschooled - New College Class Access Law Takes Effect!
Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Maine. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>
LD 92, Act Relating to Private School Student Participation in Public School Cocurricular, Interscholastic and Extracurricular Activities - Better Access to Public School Activities Passes!
Many Maine homeschool families operate within the structure of a small “recognized” private school, that is, a school that follows the Commissioner of Education’s guidelines for being recognized as providing equivalent instruction. (Larger private schools usually seek “approval” rather than “recognition”.)
In 2011, the Maine legislature enacted a law giving students in recognized private schools access to public school co-curricular, extracurricular, and interscholastic activities. But the law gave public school principals the power to reject a student’s access request for virtually any reason. Representative Joyce A. Maker (Calais) wanted to change that.
She filed a bill, LD 92, to prevent public school principals from arbitrarily turning down access requests from students enrolled in recognized private schools. HSLDA and Homeschoolers of Maine worked with Rep. Maker to fine tune the language.
On July 9 the bill passed both houses of the Maine legislature, and on July 22 the governor signed it. Homeschool students in recognized schools will now be entitled to participate in the public school activities listed above. The new law gives the principal authority to deny access only if the public school does not have the capacity for the student to participate.
We appreciate Rep. Maker’s successful work in putting a stop to arbitrary rejection of student requests to participate in public school activities.
Scott A. Woodruff, Esq., Senior Counsel, Home School Legal Defense Association
Switch from “NAPS” to “RAPPS”
It’s time for a switch in “lingo.” For decades, when referring to Option 2 in our Law Summary, we have used the phrase “non-approved private school” (NAPS). However, the Department of Education recently tweaked the “guidelines,” and now calls them “recognized for attendance purposes” private schools. This is not inconsistent with applicable law. We will start using the new lingo, and will refer to these schools as “RAPPS,” Recognized for Attendance Purposes Private Schools.
New Subjects for RAPPS
In “tweaking” the guidelines for recognized private schools, the Department also added two new subjects to the list of required subjects for RAPPS: health education and fine arts. This is not inconsistent with current law. If you are the administrator of a RAPPS, your next annual letter should confirm that your school will provide instruction in those subjects, as well as the others. Read more about RAPPS Guidelines here: http://www.hslda.org/hs/state/me/201308150.asp
Special Education Services
Those filing letters of intent to homeschool (Opion 1 in our Law Summary) have little to no chance of receiveing special education services through the public school. But there is a readily available alternate route for access to special education services.
A family who has been using Option 1 can switch to Option 2 (recocnized private school). Private school students have access to special education services. Many such schools are set up so that the private school instruction is delivered by the parents in their respective homes. All the best things about homeschooling continue.
If you are a homeschooler who needs access to special education services, consider enrolling in a recognized private school that is friendly toward parent-delivered instruction. Families using Option 2 are still eligible for membership in HSLDA. In fact, HSLDA membership is highly recommended!
Government Funded Public School at Home Programs
Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are typically governed by a group or organization under a contract or charter with the state. Homeschools are by definition legally and fundamentally different from charter schools.
Understanding the distinction between virtual charter schools and homeschooling is vital. Charter schools provide parents with another school choice. However, charter schools (virtual or otherwise) are still public schools in every sense of the word.
Take time to become informed! Read more at HOME's Maine Educational Choice Comparison page.
Parental Rights in Danger
This is an issue of great importance to homeschoolers everywhere. Eighty years ago the Supreme Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925).
Thirty years ago the Court continued this line of reasoning with the pronouncement that the “primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.” Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972).
Support for a high-view of parental rights has been seriously undermined by the current Judicial and Legislative branches of our government. As a consequence, numerous lower federal courts refuse to treat parental rights as deserving of protection as a fundamental right. This creates an unfriendly environment for homeschoolers and homeschooling.
To learn more about the threat to homeschooling, please read The Third Wave of Homeschool Persecution by HSLDA Chairman, Dr. Michael Farris, The Impact of the UNCRC on Homeschooling and visit www.parentalrights.org.
The following printable resources explain the need for the Parental Rights Amendment and the threats posed by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. These and other resources are available at the parentalrights.org website. Print and distribute them widely!
Why We Need a Parental Rights Amendment
Twenty Things You Need to Know About the U. N. Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Domestic Threat to Parental Rights
The Parental Rights Amendment: Frequently Asked Questions
Be sure to Sign the Petition: Numbers count! Please sign the petition to say, "Yes, I believe that parental rights should be constitutionally protected through the proposed Parental Rights Amendment." Our first goal is to reach 3,000 signatures from Maine to show support for the amendment to our Maine Legislators and Maine U. S. Senators!
For all the latest news and information on parental rights issues for Maine, please visit parentalrightsformaine.org