Know the Law

Since the passing of Pennsylvania’s first homeschool law in 1988 (Act 169), there have been two serious efforts to change the homeschooling law so that it would be less restrictive.

Until 2002, most homeschoolers asked, “How do we comply?” In that year, House Bill (HB) 2560 was introduced by Representative Sam Rohrer, with parents raising a question that was on the table in 1988, but did not hold sway for many reasons. “Aren’t parents responsible for their children’s education, and shouldn’t the homeschool law be less restrictive since this is so?”

CHAP is, in reality, a board currently composed of volunteer couples who share a burden to be of help to all homeschoolers, especially Christian homeschoolers. The total homeschool experience of our current board is over 70 years. All of us have lived under act 169, and have found it “doable” though we have often chaffed under some of its stipulations. The board unanimously decided to work with others in the state to try to pass a freedom homeschool bill, which was HB 2560.

The decision to attempt this was made easier due to a number of changes.

In the time since our current homeschool law was passed, several important developments have occurred. First, in two large research studies, it has been shown that homeschoolers are very effective educators. It appears that the desire to have one’s children succeed far outweighs the desire to cut corners in their education. This research shows that the provisions in the state homeschool law which are aimed at compliance issues are superfluous.

In states where the law requires only notification that the parents have decided to homeschool, students excel both academically and socially. In fact, there is no difference to be found in states with strict reporting requirements and states with almost no reporting requirements (two independent studies: Ray, 1997; Rudner, 1999).

A second change is the increasing acceptance of homeschoolers in the marketplace and in colleges. As a result of this second change, there is less need for a “certified diploma” than originally expected.

Because God has given the responsibility of education to parents in general and due to the above-mentioned evidence, we believe the requirements in the current Pennsylvania law for reporting of tests, evaluations, making portfolios and filing comprehensive affidavits and teaching plans constitute usurpation of parental rights and authority.

We proposed that the new law be simple, recognizing the fact that no one is more interested in their children’s education than the parents. The law should read something like this: “Any parent or legal guardian may homeschool by giving the local school superintendent written notice.”

HB2560 was a homeschooler’s dream law and reflected the above description of what we think a homeschooling law should look like. It gave homeschoolers freedom, and simply required us to let the state know that we were homeschooling, which seems like a reasonable gesture so the state can account for its citizens.

HB256 was historic in terms of support. A hearing for a bill is usually held in a small room in the capitol and 10 or so people may show up.

The hearing was moved to the Forum in downtown Harrisburg in anticipation of the almost 1000 homeschoolers who came to the capital to support HB 2560. About 100 came to protest it, and most of these were individuals associated with Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, a for-profit homeschooling organization that gives support and grants diplomas, something only two other states in the USA do. The pros dressed in red and the cons in blue. It was an amazing sight.

The following individuals testified. PRO: Chris Klicka, HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association); Dr. Brian Ray, NHERI (National Home Education Research Institute); Ms. Maryalice Newborn, Pennsylvania Home Education Association; Ms. Ellen Kramer, Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania; Ms. Edi Thomas, Erie County Homeschoolers (a diploma program); Mary Hudzinski, MDHA (Mason Dixon Homeschoolers Association); Dr. Bruce Eagleson, CHAP (Christian Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania),

CON: Dr. Carol Saylor, Superintendent, Manheim Central School District; Idetta B. Groff, School Board Member, Conestoga Valley School District; Ms. Carol Lugg, North Central Pennsylvania Homeschoolers; Dr. Howard Richman, PA Homeschoolers and PA Homeschoolers Diploma Program.

HB2560 was left to sit through the summer, and in the fall, at a much smaller meeting, a poison amendment was added to it, and it killed the bill.

With many other tasks before them, Pennsylvania homeschoolers returned to their primary job of teaching their children, and discussion from time to time on possible small changes to the law occurred, but no substantial change ever came about.

In 2014, Mark and Corie Moore, CHAP legislative coordinators, led the action for HB 1013, sponsored by Representative Mark Gillam. This bill called for the significant changes reflected in the Q&A’s related to the New Homeschooling Law posted on the CHAP website (School superintendents removed from the evaluation process, and no need to turn in portfolios to the school district any longer). After months of hard work on Rep. Gillam and Mark and Corie’s part, many homeschoolers rallying through phone calls, emails, Facebook postings, capitol visits and the like, miraculously, HB1013 was passed, signed into Law in October 2014, and is now referred to as Act 196.

As we look to the future and hope for more changes that reflect parental rights and freedom, we at CHAP will continue to:

  1. Seek to maintain open communication with other homeschooling leaders throughout the state.
  2. Maintain communication with key legislators who have expressed interest in this matter, and look to them to provide guidance regarding the methods of changing the homeschool law.
  3. Continue to develop a quick response network via e-mail, websites, and Facebook to disseminate and gather information quickly as may be needed.
  4. Prepare articles that address some of the issues that are being debated for the purpose of educating the homeschooling community as to what the issues are, and what the ramifications of them may be if they were placed into law.
  5. And in all things, seek to walk humbly and prayerfully in dependence upon the Lord for His leadership.

Christian Homeschool Association of PA
1/11/2015