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 Maine Legislature and the legislative process in our state.
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Be ready to contact current Maine Education and Cultural Affairs Committee Members, your area's Senators and Representatives, or other legislative committee members, as needed, on Maine legislative issues of importance to homeschoolers.
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This bill provides that unless a person 5 years of age or older and under 7 years of age who is enrolled in a public day school withdraws from the school, the person is required to attend the school during the time it is in session. It provides that students who are at least 5 years of age and have not completed grade 6 and are enrolled in a public day school are subject to the same provisions regarding truancy as students who are at least 7 years of age and have not completed grade 6 who are required to attend a public day school. It provides that a person 5 years of age or older and under 7 years of age is not required to meet the alternatives to attendance requirements set forth in the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 20-A, section 5001-A, subsection 3.
Status: Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs report is a Unanimous Ought to Pass.
Position: HOME is neither for nor against the bill as written, but will be monitoring for any amended language that would impact homeschoolers.
ACTION NEEDED: None at this time.
Current Maine law requires compulsory school attendance for children beginning at age 7, though younger children have the option to attend school. LD 151 would lower this to age 6.
Background: Requiring children to attend school at age 6 is unwise for the following reasons:
1. Dramatically increases inattention and hyperactivity.
According to Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis Working Paper No. 15-08, children who start school at age 6, rather than age 7, are significantly more likely to have inattention-hyperactivity problems that persist at least through age 11. Inattention-hyperactivity problems would adversely impact student performance, bringing young Maine students' average test scores down. The Stanford paper, titled The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health states:
"... delays in school starting age imply substantial improvements in mental health ... . The evidence for these effects is robust and, critically, persists ... when the children were aged 11. However, we also find that these mental-health gains are narrowly confined to one particular construct: the inattention/hyperactivity score .... Interestingly, this finding is consistent with one prominent theory of why delayed school starts are beneficial. Specifically, a literature in developmental psychology emphasizes the importance of pretend play in the development of children's emotional and intellectual self-regulation. Children who delay their school starting age may have an extended (and appropriately timed) exposure to such playful environments." - pages 36-7 https://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/WP15-08.pdf
2. Extensive playtime, not school, is critical to neurological development for young children.
The New Scientist published an article by David Whitebread and Sue Bingham titled Too much, too young: Should schooling start at age 7? The article references numerous studies and researchers who recognize the dangers of requiring children younger than 7 to attend school.
"This evidence comes from anthropological, psychological, neuroscientific and educational studies. For example, research on children's play in extant hunter-gatherer societies, and evolutionary psychology studies of other mammalian young, have identified play as an adaptation that enabled early humans to become powerful learners and problem-solvers.
Neuroscientific studies have supported this view of play as a central mechanism in learning. The 2009 book The Playful Brain: Venturing to the limits of neuroscience, for example, reviewed many studies showing that playful activity leads to the growth of more connections between neurons, particularly in the frontal lobe – the part of the brain responsible for uniquely human higher mental functions." - https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029435-000-too-much-too-young-should-schooling-start-at-age-7/
3. It is not cost effective to force schooling on young children.
Dr. Sebastian Suggate of the University of Otago published a research paper titled School entry age and reading achievement in the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment. Dr. Suggate cited research showing that it likely not cost effective to require schooling for young children.
"Specifically, the development of reading requires a variety of background skills and processes that develop with age, and are necessary in reading and school learning. Examples include: Neural maturation, language, attention, social skills, memory, and general knowledge. Moreover, important literacy-related skills may develop before (and later with) reading proficiency, such as: phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and semantic aspects of language. Therefore, because of the age-related development of these skills, older children could be expected to find learning to read easier than younger children would, and hence reading instruction and intervention targeted at older students may be more cost effective." International Journal of Educational Research, available for purchase at www.ScienceDirect.com
The conclusion is obvious: Let parents decide whether their child is able to benefit from school attendance before age 7. Afterall, parents know their children better than anyone. With so much involved, it is in the State of Maine's best interests financially and socially to leave the compulsory attendance age at 7.
Status: Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs report is a Divided Majority Ought to Pass as Amended, Minority Ought Not to Pass.
Position: HOME is opposed to lowering the compulsory school age.
ACTION NEEDED: Stay alert for further updates when this bill reaches the House and Senate!
MORE BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Read more from HSLDA.
Current law allows exemptions from immunization requirements based on religious or philosophical beliefs for students in elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary schools and employees of nursery schools and health care facilities. This bill removes those exemptions. The bill also directs the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to remove any immunization exemptions based on religious or philosophical beliefs from their rules and requires the Department of Education to adopt rules allowing a student who is covered by an individualized education plan and has elected a philosophical or religious exemption from immunization requirements to continue to attend school under the existing exemption as long as an appropriate medical professional provides a statement that the medical professional has provided information on the risks and benefits associated with the choice to immunize.
Status: Referred to Committee on Education and Cultural
Affairs. No public hearing date has been set.
Position: HOME is opposed to any attempt to weaken the exemption provisions currently in Maine law. Parents, not government, should make these decisions for their children.
ACTION NEEDED: Contact members of the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, and ask them to oppose this bill. LD 798 abolishes both the religious and the philosophical exemption from immunizations.
For more information on current federal issues of concern, please visit HSLDA.