Federal homeschool legislation???

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A bill is currently before Congress, H.R. 2732 in the House and S.B. 1562 in the Senate, entitled, the Home Schoolers Non Discrimination Act, also known as the "HONDA" bill. This bill purports to "solve" certain perceived "problems" encountered by homeschoolers by amending existing federal laws to include provisions pertaining to homeschoolers. While the intent of the bill may be honorable, the effect of the bill is potentially disastrous for homeschooling parents who want to remain free from government regulation. This is because the federal government has no constitutional authority to directly regulate the education of homeschooled students, whether that regulation is for the benefit of the students or not. Once the federal government assumes the authority to regulate, even though purportedly beneficially, the federal government may continue to regulate in ways that may not be beneficial. If the federal government does so, such federal law may be interpreted to supercede state law thus rendering the state law ineffective. In other words, current state law that allows parents to homeschool their children with relative freedom due to little or no government intervention could be superceded by federal law imposing federal standards and regulation upon homeschoolers.

Any federal law that purports to "regulate" the activities of parents who educate their children at home is patently unconstitutional and should never be implemented. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has no power to grant to itself any authority to "regulate" the activities of homeschoolers, whether that regulation is beneficial to homeschoolers or not. Any authority to do so is left to the states, not to the federal government.

To understand the important Constitutional issue at stake here, some background is necessary.

Contrary to popular belief, the Constitution does not specifically allow the federal government directly to regulate education of any kind. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution plainly states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In other words, if it is not clearly enumerated in the Constitution that the United States government has the power to do something, as long as the Constitution does not prohibit the states from utilizing that power, then that power is left up to the States and to the people alone. The Constitution does not specify that the federal government has any power to regulate education of any kind. Consequently, the power to regulate education is left to the States and to the people.

Nonetheless, the courts have interpreted the Constitution to allow Congress to circumvent state sovereignty and to "regulate" indirectly by "spending" for the general welfare. This is how Congress "regulates" in the area of education when "regulation" of education is not an enumerated power of the federal government. This has occurred through federal judicial "interpretation" of the Constitution's "Spending Clause" and its "Commerce Clause". Under these two clauses, Congress adopts federal laws to "regulate" virtually any activity that involves federal money. If Congress cannot achieve objective "X" by direct regulation because it does not have that enumerated power in the Constitution, Congress may simply use its spending power to achieve objective "X" indirectly by depriving the states of money if the states do not achieve objective "X". Essentially, this is how the federal government has imposed "regulation" in all areas of public education and in some areas of private education (i.e., provision of special education). In other words, the federal government says to the states, "If you adopt a law that provides for all of the things listed in this federal law, then, the federal government will give you the money." The states, in turn, wanting the federal money, adopt laws that mirror the federal law. Through the years, this has become so commonplace that often the distinction between the authority of the federal government to regulate and the authority of the state government to regulate is blurred, sometimes to extinction.

Yes, there has been an erosion in the force and effect of the Tenth Amendment in recent years. The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court as to the effectiveness of the Tenth Amendment in limiting the power of the federal government in intruding upon state sovereignty has vacillated in recent decades, sometimes favoring state sovereignty, sometimes not. In one of its latest decisions, the Court seemed to say that when a state argues that its sovereignty has been impaired, the Court's answer would be "The fact that Congress (whose members are elected from individual states, pursuant to state-controlled qualifications) passed the bill (federal law), combined with the fact that the bill was not vetoed by the President (in whose election the states play a key role via the electoral college), necessarily means that state sovereignty has not been impaired. This interpretation by the court can, and has, led to some bizarre results. Of course, there are dissenting opinions on the Supreme Court. One dissenter was troubled by the fact that under this interpretation, "federal political officials, invoking the Commerce Clause, are the sole judges of the limits of their own power." One could argue that this type of interpretation played a key role in a recent federal court's decision to override state law in preventing the Ten Commandments from being displayed in a state court building.

One aspect of state sovereignty yet remains - a state's ability to make and apply law. Despite the recent interpretations by the Supreme Court, there are still some limits to the ability of Congress to interfere with these state lawmaking processes, and Congress will violate the Tenth Amendment if it exceeds those limits. Congress may not simply commandeer the legislative processes of the states by directly compelling them to enact and enforce some federal regulatory program. Congress may not force a state to adopt a certain regulatory scheme, or for a state to regulate in a certain area, if the state does not want to do so. This is extremely important for parents who educate their children at home to remember. The limitations on the power of the federal government, as expressed in the Tenth Amendment, are still viable and could be more viable and strengthened by the power of more people advocating for it.

There is one other aspect of the Constitution that needs to be explained, however. This is the "Supremacy Clause " of Article VI. It provides that in the case of a direct, obvious conflict between a federal statute and a state statute, the state statute is simply invalid. State law must yield to federal law. Federal law is said to have "preempted" state law. Even if the federal and state regulations do not conflict upon their face, it may be that the objectives behind the two regulations are inconsistent. In that case, too, the state regulation must fall, according to current judicial interpretation. Another way in which implementation of federal law may render state law invalid is for Congress to "occupy the field" for the federal government. In other words, if Congress has decided to "occupy the field" or "preempt" the entire subject area, state law in that area must fail no matter how well it agrees with the federal law. For example, where Congress has set up a federal agency and given it broad regulatory powers in a particular subject area, courts are likely to interpret this as indication of Congressional intent to preempt the field.

To summarize, Congress cannot directly "regulate" any aspect of education. In order to regulate, the federal government must do so by using its Spending and Commerce Clause authority indirectly to regulate the activities of those who accept federal dollars. The federal government also may regulate by "preempting the field" or by "preempting" a particular law if a state law conflicts with a federal law. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution places a limitation on the authority of the federal government and leaves up to the States and to the people all those powers not specifically delegated to the federal government. With these Constitutional principles in mind, it can be and it should be argued that: (1) because regulation of homeschooling is not an enumerated power granted to the federal government in the Constitution, that power belongs to the States and to the people; (2) because parents who homeschool do not accept federal money, Congress has no authority under the Spending and Commerce Clauses to regulate homeschooling; (3) so far at least, the federal government has not "preempted the field" of regulating homeschooling; and (4) because there are few, if any, federal laws regarding homeschooling, state laws regarding homeschooling cannot conflict with them such that they are superceded by the federal law.

The HONDA bill would insert regulations affecting homeschooling into several laws that would allow the federal government to impose regulation despite the fact that it has no authority to do so. While homeschoolers do encounter problems from time to time, the resolution to those problems is not necessarily found in newly amended federal law. Those problems quite often are resolved through other means such as education of the uninformed and negotiation. Even if the proposed legislation purports to be helpful to resolve a particular problem encountered by homeschoolers, the ability of the federal government to declare a solution to that problem merely enables the federal government to more easily use its imagined power to further regulate or preempt the field, thus jeopardizing any existing state laws that may be much more beneficial to parents. Furthermore, if the federal government does "regulate" in any area of homeschooling, the power of the people to influence the adoption or rejection of regulation is greatly reduced. It is much harder to have a political impact on Congressional legislators from all across the country than it is for the people to have a political impact on the local legislators in their own state. Even worse, if a dispute about the law could not be resolved, the issue would be resolved by federal judges determining the power of the federal government. This is particularly worrisome in a time when federal judges increasingly have been quick to overlook the provisions cited in the Constitution in favor of increased federal government regulation.

There is much about the HONDA bill that is objectionable. Most, if not all of the objections, are directly related to one central fact: each time homeschoolers are included in any federal law, the federal government has usurped its authority under the Constitution and is effectively declaring that it can regulate homeschooling.

Connecticut is one state in which homeschoolers remain free from government regulation. Many Connecticut parents would like this state to remain free. In fact, many Connecticut parents would like Connecticut to remain a shining example of how freedom from any government regulation leads to great successes for homeschooled students. That is why these Connecticut parents are opposed to any government intervention, even "beneficial" intervention, and especially federal intervention. In order to accomplish the goal of remaining free, the following organizations are seeking the support of similar organizations nationwide in a grassroots effort to defeat the proposed HONDA legislation: Connecticut's Citizens to Uphold the Right to Educate, (CT'S C.U.R.E); Home Education Legal Defense of Connecticut, (H.E.L.D. of CT); Connecticut Homeschool Network, (C.H.N.); and Unschoolers Unlimited.

We are asking parents nationwide to contact the Congressmen and Senators representing their states to defeat this legislation. Please ask parents in your organization to write, email, or telephone the representatives from their state as soon as possible. Everyone should become familiar with the bill itself and be able to express their own cogent reasons for opposing it. However, to make it as easy as possible for all, we are providing the following information:

a.. A link to the bill.

b.. An analysis of the effect of the different sections of the bill as written by Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, founder of CT's C.U.R.E. and Executive Director of H.E.L.D. of CT.

c.. An abbreviated list of reasons why the proposed legislation may prove detrimental to homeschoolers.

d.. A link to the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate for a listing of addresses, email, and telephone numbers.

These items are detailed below.

THE LINK TO THE BILL: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.R.2732: also


THE LINK TO AN ANALYSIS OF THE BILL: http://www.CTHomeschoolNetwork.org/HONDA.htm

See the HSLDA response at: http://www.cthomeschoolnetwork.org/HONDA2.htm

CHN has also received Attorney Stevenson's comments on HSLDA's response. See Attorney Stevenson's comments at: http://www.cthomeschoolnetwork.org/HONDA3.htm



The legislation is currently before the Education and the Workforce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee in the House, and before the Committee on Finance in the Senate. It is important to contact the members of these committees to express your views on this bill, either by phone or in writing or by both means. It is important to contact the Congressmen and Senators from your home state, even if they do not sit on these committees, so that they may influence other legislators on your behalf.

The following is a brief summary of arguments in opposition to the proposed legislation that readers may want to incorporate in any letters to Congressmen or Senators. However, it is very important that the legislators hear your personal reasons for opposing this bill. Each letter or phone call does count.

1.. The bill inserts a potential definition of homeschooling into several federal laws where there was no definition previously. It is possible that such a federal definition could be interpreted to override the definition of homeschooling that exists independently in each state under state law. 2.. Problems encountered by homeschoolers in accessing any of the "benefits" listed in this bill can and should more easily be resolved through education of the uninformed and negotiation rather than through implementation of federal legislation. 3.. Certain states, such as Connecticut, have little or no state government regulation of homeschooling. This bill will impose regulation over homeschoolers where there was no regulation before. 4.. Implementation of this legislation may have unintended detrimental consequences for homeschoolers. 5.. Implementation of any federal law inevitably leads to enforcement of that federal law. Enforcement of that federal law may lead to judicial interpretation of that law. Judicial interpretation of any law may change the rights of those affected by the law. 6.. Acceptance of federal funding by public and private schools provides the primary basis in law in which the federal government is able to "regulate" the activities within public and private schools. Homeschoolers who do not accept federal funding are not subject to federal "regulation". However, this bill now empowers the federal government to implement "regulation" of homeschoolers even though they do not receive federal funding, by defining homeschoolers and the criteria under which they may receive perceived federal "benefits". Homeschoolers who do accept federal funding by means of any federal "benefit" arguably could become even more easily "regulated" by the federal government. 7.. Implementation of federal regulation over homeschoolers usurps the authority of states to either regulate or remain free from regulation if the states and the people so desire. 8.. Any empowerment of the federal government to "regulate" homeschooling, even if such "regulation" seeks to assist homeschoolers, is improper and impermissible under the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution, under the tenth amendment, clearly states that any powers not specifically delegated to the federal government within the Constitution are reserved to the States and to the people. The Constitution does not specifically delegate the power to regulate education in any aspect to the federal government. Any power to regulate education is reserved to the States and to the people.


Link to the House of Representatives: http://clerk.house.gov/members/mcapdir.php

Chief Proponent in the House: Rep. Marilyn Musgrave - (CO-4) 202-225-4676

Rep. Musgrave's website http://wwwa.house.gov/musgrave/

Link to the Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Link to Senate phones: http://www.senate.gov/general/resources/pdf/senators_phone_list.pdf

Chief Proponent in the Senate: Senator Larry Craig - (R-ID) (202) 224-2752

Senator Craig's web form:


While we hope as many parents as possible will join us in our effort to defeat this legislation, we recognize that others have differing opinions. Our political effort is in no way meant to be an attack on any organization that holds a different viewpoint. However, if we want to remain free, the time to act is now.

Posted By Little bit Farm

-- Little Bit Farm (littlebit@brightok.net), September 29, 2003


Ms. Fager, I have read both of the communications you have sent, both here and to my e-mail box. Unfortunately when you e-mailed me, I was in the process of changing my phone and e-mail service and was not able to send a lengthy reply. There are far more people in the public school system who could make complaints much worse than yours. I don't know your Mom, nor your situation. However, I can say that unless you had absolutely no ability to go to the library, or books provided to you, you should have been able to get an adequate education. It is obvious that you are capable of reading, and writing, although either your spelling or typing could use some work. However, education, even in public school, is far more in the hands of the person being educated than the hands of the teacher. Education does not stop with the end of high school or college. Education is a lifelong endeavor, which each and every one of us must pursue. Education is certainly not about obtaining "street smarts". "Street smarts" is something I would prefer my children not obtain. I want them to obtain the ability to think independently, and have common sense. I want them to have real smarts.

In addition, education has absolutely nothing to do with character. I know a man here in town who has very little formal education. He is illiterate, and cannot read at all. This man raised and supported a family, loves his wife and children, and is a very kind person. He is responsible and hard-working. This man is a success. He has character. Character, is far more important than reading and writing. It seems to me that you are wasting a lot of time blaming your mother. While your mother, was wrong in what she did, there was no doubt many people who would have helped you if you had sought them out. Not to mention, that there are enough books at the library, and probably in your own home that you could have pursued education on your own. However, I know it is hard on a child to know what to do in that situation. Today, however you are not a child. Today you are an adult, who holds their education in their hands. You can either choose to learn or not to learn. The only place blame can be placed now, is squarely in your own lap. A teacher only provides the tools for learning. Learning happens when someone wants to use the tools. I believe in home education. I believe it turns out stronger, more independent, caring people. I believe it also protects a child from "street smart" mentality that leads to drug addiction, sullen "I don't care" attitudes, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, teen pregnancy, and depression. I also believe it places character above intelligence, and helps a child maintain a proper attitude toward home and family. It is also a fine way to get educated as, colleges, spelling contests etc. are showing. Many of the great men of the past were home educated. Many of the great men of the future will be too. Currently my son is finishing his homeschool education. For fun, he reads, Shakespeare, Plato, Socrates, His Bible(every night). He is currently studying higher math,World history, and a variety of other subjects. The people he works for, have nothing but praise for him. He is a fine upstanding young man who loves the Lord. Praise the Lord for home education, the only education God commanded in his Word. My son is a tremendous contrast to the vast majority of public schooled students I meet. Students who won't look you in the eye when you speak to them. Students who blatantly don't care. Students who waste their utterly precious life on drugs and alcohol. If I never taught my children another thing, but I managed to give them character, and a loving attitude, I would consider myself a success as a parent. Here is something humorous my son wrote. In another post I will post something more serious from Ken.

An Ode To Gravy An Ode of Humor

What is the word that causes my stomach to growl? ‘Tis Gravy. What is that blessed food which the Lord hath sent from above? ‘Tis Gravy. What does the biscuit cry for? What does the ham yearn for? None other than Gravy. O bliss! O rapture! How I wish I could but sail the seas in a Gravy boat! What is life without that blessed sauce? Even the mighty Leviathan falls upon his knees, at the smell of that goodly condiment. So this is my solemn prayer, that the whole of mankind may, someday, enjoy biscuits innumerable and showers of Gravy to go with them. May God speed that day.

-- Little Bit Farm (littlebit@brightok.net), October 24, 2003.

To whom it may concearn: This legislation needs to be passed. I was a home schooled child and it mess up my life. I have no street smarts like the ones that I would have gained if I had stayed in public schools, but like so many kids out there I had no choice in the matter. And as a result my mother did not home-school me and I loss out on six years of knowledge and try being nineteen and gaining a GED because of something that happen that was out of my hands. What my mother did was wrong and agianst the law. If you defeat this legislation what are you going to do as a organization to protect the children of today and tommorw from parents that will not give their children the knowledge that they need to know to get by in life. Please don't reuoin the childern of the United States lifes.

Sincerely, Christina R. Fager

-- Christina R. Fager (browneyedwonder84@yahoo.com), October 23, 2003.

Christina, there's no guarantee you would have learned "street smarts" going to public schools either, and sad to say, there are lots of kids who get out of public schools today whose lives are "messed up". There are also lots of kids who get out of public schools who can't even read or do simple math, either.

Now, I don't know what a happy medium would be in regards to regulation, if any, of homeschooling, bad things can happen in both environments. From your post I gather that your Mother might not have been interested in how you did if you had been public-schooled instead.

I don't think all public schools are bad, but when people say, "Well, you should get involved and volunteer in class, etc., etc.", my question is "Well, are you professionals or not? If you are, then do the job you are paid (quite well in fact and get great benefits like near impossibility of getting fired for incompetence) to do." Parents shouldn't have to be volunteering for anything.

If, on the other hand, parents feel that things are so bad that they have to practically reside at their child's school, then something is very wrong, and instead of volunteering they should invest the time in homeschooling.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), October 23, 2003.

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