Drawing the Line




After a committee has considered a bill, it may direct one of its members to report the bill to the Floor, either as committed (which means without change), as amended (with change), or, in rare instances, with a negative recommendation. The committee may also decide not to report the bill at all.




Countries sometimes have to draw a line and say, if this line is crossed we will fight. In our vocabulary today the word "Munich" refers to the years immediately preceding World War II, when the British and the French kept redrawing the line again and again when dealing with Germany, only to have the Germans cross the line again and again without the British or French taking action. Similarly, with legislation, there is a line that must be drawn, and the supporters of a bill must be willing to say, if this line is crossed we will oppose our own bill.

In his autobiography, Robert M. LaFollette, populist leader from the beginning of this century, tells about this thin line:

I believe that half a loaf is fatal whenever it is accepted at the sacrifice of the basic principle sought to be attained. Half a loaf, as a rule, dulls the appetite and destroys the keenness of interest in attaining the full loaf. A halfway measure never fairly tests the principle and may utterly discredit it. It is certain to weaken, disappoint, and dissipate public interest. Concession and compromise are almost always necessary in legislation, but they call for the most thorough and complete mastery of the principles involved, in order to fix the limit beyond which not one hair's breadth can be yielded.1

Our principle was that we wanted to let all sincere parents educate their children at home. In order to preserve it, we had to draw the line several times over the next several months.

After the hearings, Rep. Cowell, Chair of the House Education Committee, began to put together a new homeschooling bill. A lobbyist for the coal association had told us that our old bill, House Bill 1364, would not be able to pass. It had been introduced by a Republican, and the Democrats who controlled the House never let a Republican bill pass. Also, it could be easily buried in another committee, such as the Appropriations Committee, if it were not in the same bill with other legislation. As part of an "omnibus" bill, all of the proponents of all of the different parts of the legislation would work together to get the bill up for a vote.

That winter, Rep. Cowell invited Tom Eldredge and me to come to his office in Harrisburg to discuss changes that he was considering in House Bill 1364. We had a cordial session during which we accepted several minor changes in wording. It was useful for us to go over with him our reason behind each aspect of our bill. House Bill 1364 had given people three alternative ways to document their home education programs (portfolio, written evaluation by professional, or achievement test). Rep. Cowell changed it to two (portfolio and either written evaluation by a professional or achievement test). He also made some other minor changes and told us that he had some problems with documentation only being seen if there was a complaint by a named informant. Then he said that he would go over the bill with other members of his committee and try to reach a consensus. He was hoping to put together an omnibus education bill with a home education section and introduce it by March so that it would have time to pass the House Education Committee, the House, the Senate Education Committee, and the Senate before the session ended at the end of November.

Meanwhile, we continued to get much better organized. Homeschooling support groups were springing up all over Pennsylvania, and the leaders of the groups were all willing to take a hand in the legislative activity. Sue Means was a regular dynamo in the Pittsburgh area -- visiting representatives, getting other people to visit them, and getting the newspapers and TV to cover homeschooling stories and helping homeschoolers get on local TV talk shows. Homeschoolers across the state were being visited and interviewed by newspaper reporters and there was an avalanche of good publicity.

In February, homeschooler Bill Girten organized a meeting with Rep. Davies, the strongest opponent of homeschooling on the House Education Committee. After the meeting, Rep. Davies was still not supportive of home education, but was much less strongly opposed than he had been. In addition, the meeting generated excellent press coverage of homeschooling in the Reading and Allentown areas, which continued for the rest of the year.

The meeting with Davies came about on almost a moment's notice. Bill and Shari Girten had been trying to arrange a meeting with Davies for months. They kept calling Davies' office again and again, only to get the run around. Finally, Bill said to the secretary, "My wife and I are counting on Davies to represent us, his constituents. Why won't he even meet with us?" One Friday, Davies got back to Shari saying, "I'll only be able to meet with you next Friday." Bill only had four days to get the meeting organized.

Bill quickly called Betty McElroy, the leader of the Berks County homeschooling support group. It turned out that the group already had two field trips scheduled for that week. On Monday they were visiting a glass factory and on Thursday a hospital. Betty didn't think that many homeschoolers would be able to make it to three events in the same week. Bill was desperate and called me on the phone. I suggested that he might consider organizing the meeting like a mini-legislative breakfast and ask the news media to attend. I thought that homeschoolers would certainly show up if they knew that the media would be there.

Bill and Shari called the newspapers and TV stations explaining to them what a good news story this would be. "It's a controversial issue, and Davies is not in favor of homeschooling. There will probably be an interesting confrontation," Bill said.

The Reading newspaper balked. "We won't have a reporter available."

"Oh, that doesn't matter," Bill replied. "There will be several other members of the press there anyway."

"Well, we might get a reporter there! We got another call about this from some woman in Womelsdorf." Bill did not mention that that woman was his wife, Shari!

About 20 families, 45 people in all, attended the two-hour meeting. The Reading Homeschoolers were the nucleus of the group with Gary McElroy as the group's spokesman. The format was basically show-and-tell. The McElroy family produced a musical skit in which they integrated an array of subjects learned by the children. (This was the first of many times that the McElroys performed this musical during the legislative effort). During the last half hour of the meeting they held a question-and-answer session. When the homeschoolers asked Rep. Davies questions about his position, he carefully rode the fence.

An article by reporter Susan Youngwood in the Allentown Morning Call reported very favorably upon the meeting:

First-grader Jason Wilson proudly showed off the construction paper American flag he made in school.

State Rep. John S. Davies, R-129th District, was impressed as Jason explained that the blue stands for loyalty, the white for purity and the red for courage. He quizzed Jason, asking him what the 13 stripes stand for and what the 50 stars stand for. Then Davies pointed to another of Jason's projects, a Styrofoam and pipe-cleaner spider, and asked if spiders are insects.

"No," Jason answered.

"Very good," approved Davies. "You get 100 percent."

In Jason's case, the teacher who usually grades him is his mother Edris Wilson from Reading. Jason is a homeschool student; he and his mother were two of more than 50 parents and children who gathered in Reading yesterday to convince the Berks legislator of the values of homeschooling.

Pennsylvania is one of the 18 states that give local school district superintendents the power to decide whether parents can teach their children at home. A bill that has been before the House Education Committee since spring would establish state guidelines for homeschooling.

Davies, a member of the committee and a strong supporter of public education, has expressed skepticism about the bill. These parents and children gathered yesterday to erase those doubts, bringing their books and science projects and book reports as evidence that being taught at home can be just as rigorous as going to a public school.

"The best argument that can be marshaled in favor of home education is the results," explained Gary McElroy, who with his wife, Betty, teaches his three children at home.

So, Jason showed off his flag; Andrea Bean exhibited her weather station with its barometer and thermometer and rain gauge, and Brian Rieksts demonstrated how he tapped syrup from a maple tree.

The families, most from around Kutztown and Reading, gathered in a basement meeting room of the Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Reading. Davies leafed through their book reports, their math and history textbooks and the daily logbooks compiled by the parents.

Davilyn Wentzel from Reading explained how she holds classes for her son, Nathaniel, from 8 to 2:30 every day, for 180 days a year.

"In the evenings we spend time learning other things that are not in the curriculum," she said. "Usually we end up doing more because he wants to."

Before the meeting, Davies explained why he wanted to meet with the parents.

He is in the process of drafting an amendment to the bill, he said. "I don't want to sit down and draft a bill [without first] seeing what the instruction is like. I want to talk to parents about the type of testing they do."

Davies added, "I'm not opposed to homeschooling as long as we know the youngster is getting the education he should be getting."

He asked the parents how structured their lessons are and what they felt about regular testing. Most parents said they had no problem with periodic testing of their children.

But when McElroy directly asked Davies if he would support the bill, Davies did not give an unqualified yes.

"I came here with mixed emotions," he told the group, explaining that he is "a product of a public school education." He said he was impressed with the children he saw, but "my concerns are the people who are not going to give the effort you people put into homeschooling."

McElroy, a key organizer of the meeting, was disappointed with the response.

"I don't really think we changed his mind," said McElroy, from Shoemakersville. "The ultimate test is how he is going to vote."

While Rep. Davies was not won over, the local newspapers were. For the rest of the year, they continued to give the issue very favorable publicity. Another good effect of the meeting was that it inspired other homeschooling support groups to have meetings with their legislators. Again and again, homeschooling children would prove to be our most effective spokesmen.

March passed, and April, and we waited for the omnibus bill to be introduced. At Joe Pitts' urging, we scheduled our fourth annual legislative breakfast for Wednesday, May 18.

Two days before the legislative breakfast, Rep. Cowell finished the omnibus bill and was about to introduce it. We had offered to get him as many sponsors as we could, and had even planned to make an appeal for more sponsors right at the breakfast. The timing was just right, and we hoped things were finally on the fast track.

They weren't. We were shocked to find there were some serious problems with Cowell's new version of our bill, especially a provision which prevented homeschools from teaching children who had been classified as handicapped. There were several other problems that also needed to be ironed out. That evening, Tom and I talked on the phone and agreed that we would have to oppose a bill with such a special education restriction. I asked Tom to try to set up an afternoon meeting with Rep. Cowell for the next day to see if we could negotiate some needed changes. Trusting that he would be successful, I left home before dawn for Harrisburg.

That morning, Harrisburg was rocked by news of the brutal late night murder of Rep. Telek. All legislative sessions were canceled.

That afternoon, Rep. Cowell was able to meet with us, just as we had hoped. Jan Bissett, a Democratic staff member on the House Education Committee, also attended the meeting. She said that she had heard that some fundamentalist Christians might keep their handicapped children locked up in the house because they might think that those handicaps were punishments from God. Tom tried to explain that the opposite was true, that Christian parents are commanded to value every life that is entrusted to them. I pointed out that Maggie Smeltzer, who had spoken at the hearings, had almost been considered learning disabled, but had received an excellent education at home. Rep. Cowell explained that he had not been thinking about learning disabled children when he had written that restriction -- he had been thinking of blind and deaf children. Also, he was not sure what the law already required. He wondered if, legally, parents would be able to take their children out of public school special education programs. I argued that special education restrictions were not part of any of the homeschooling laws that were already on the books. Here Jan Bissett corrected me -- such a restriction was indeed in place in the Arkansas law.

Rep. Cowell was undecided. I had a feeling that someone who knew the handicapped law had told him that such a provision would be required. "Who would know about the handicapped law?" I mused aloud.

"Secretary Gilhool," replied Jan Bissett. The Secretary of Education was an expert on the handicapped law. Before he had been appointed Secretary, he had been an attorney who represented handicapped children and their families.

Tom and I tried to suggest a compromise wherein parents of handicapped children would get a special education teacher to vouch for their program. Rep. Cowell was interested, but not yet ready to adopt an alternate wording. He had already sent the bill to the Legislative Reference Bureau and was anxious to get it introduced without further delay.

We told him that we could not ask other representatives to sponsor the bill until this problem was resolved, because we could not support a bill that prevented some sincere parents from teaching their own children. We let him know this was a firm line.

After we left Rep. Cowell, we visited with Greg White, the Republican staff person on the committee who had helped us so much in the past. He told us that the pressure for the special education prohibition was, indeed, coming from the Department of Education. Secretary of Education Gilhool considered himself an advocate of the handicapped child and thought that keeping such children home would deprive them of the important school experience. We asked Greg to try to come up with a wording for a compromise amendment which would give extra supervision to special education children, but not prohibit parents from teaching them.

At the legislative breakfast the next morning, the ballroom was packed to capacity with about 300 parents and children from homeschooling families, eleven of the fifty senators and about 30 representatives. The crowd was impressive. The turnout of senators was excellent. A slightly lower than expected turnout of representatives was due to cancellation of legislative sessions in the House following the murder of Rep. Telek.

It was a rainy morning, and there was a traffic jam outside, so people were still coming in when Justin Burns, age 7, stood at the podium and delivered the invocation, remembering the family and friends of Rep. Telek in his prayer. Justin's mother, Jamie Burns, did a marvelous job of arranging seating so that people would be sitting with their own legislators. Rep. Cowell came in a little late and sat at a table with his constituents, the Wilkies.

Again homeschooled children won the day. No one could see them and not be impressed. The McElroy family performed the Trapp-family style musical review of a homeschool lesson that they had performed several weeks before for Rep. Davies. Nine-year-old Jennifer Lerew described how she had gradually taken on the responsibility for a pre-school story hour at her local library. Twelve-year-old Christian Murphy's first line, "My parents don't know everything," got a good laugh. His father, Tom, as moderator, was sitting right next to him. Christian went on to describe how he had taught himself about photography. Ten-year-old Leah Bulow, when describing her research into the space program, caught the legislators' attention when she mentioned the elaborate packet that she had received from former astronaut, Sen. John Glenn. Brandon Geist's essay about his experience of becoming a writer was a great example of top-notch writing. Stephanie Bromfield, a homeschooled teenager, effectively addressed the all-pervasive socialization question. And to top it all off, teenager Amy Breneman ended the program with a powerful piano solo. Then it was my turn for some concluding remarks:

Thank you very much, representatives and senators, for coming here today. I'd like to draw your attention to two pieces of literature outside the room which I hope you picked up. They make the point again that we have been trying to make all day in our presentations -- home education is excellence under fire in Pennsylvania. You've seen many examples today of the excellence that is coming out of the home. Jon Wartes' study from the state of Washington, which I picked up at the Educational Research Association conference in New Orleans, makes that point very scientifically. And here's an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that points out again how we are under fire across this state.

On Monday, Rep. Cowell, Chairman of the House Education Committee, will introduce an omnibus bill that would bring Pennsylvania in line with the eighteen other states that have amended their school codes to specifically permit home education. This bill will have a very good chance of passage.

When he held hearings on December 3, Rep. Cowell came with an open mind and listened to our concerns. He has taken the time to understand home education. The home education provision in the omnibus bill that he is introducing is a good solid approach to solving a serious problem in Pennsylvania.

Would you please stand up, Rep. Cowell, so that we can thank you? [Rep. Cowell stands up briefly, then quickly sits down -- strong applause from the entire room.] Thank you again, Rep. Cowell. Are there any other members of the House Education Committee here? Would you stand, too, Rep. Davies? [Rep. Davies stands briefly]. We would like to thank you as well [applause] for holding the December hearings.

Rep. Cowell is still working with us to resolve wording in one small part of the bill. I am sure we can work it out before the bill leaves the committee.

Thank you, representatives and senators, and good-bye from us.

For the next forty-five minutes, as the representatives and senators were leaving, there were many discussions between legislators and their constituents. I personally made sure that parents of handicapped children came forward and talked with Rep. Cowell and personally told him their stories about the strides their children had made since leaving school.

During the Parent Educators of Pennsylvania meeting that followed, we told parents about the problem with the special education restriction and asked those who had experience with handicapped children to write to each member of the committee. We also got a consensus from the people present that we would not betray the parents of special education children; in fact, we would oppose the bill if that provision remained in it.

Perhaps the success of the legislative breakfasts and of the December 3 hearings was best demonstrated by some comments that Rep. Cowell made to reporter Don Wolf which appeared in the May 22 edition of The Pittsburgh Press:

Cowell is convinced that most homeschooling parents have "an exceptional interest in their children and are willing to commit extraordinary amounts of time to their children. . . . The kids are obviously exceptional," said Cowell.

In the same article Dr. William Logan, state deputy commissioner for basic education, said that the existing law is "fairly workable," and that he is not disturbed by the differences in homeschooling policies among school districts. Douglas Boelhouwer, chief of the Education Department's division of non-public and private school services said he believes that home education is just another fad "we'll pass through."

A few days later House Bill 2501, the omnibus bill, was introduced by Rep. Cowell. It was co-sponsored by most of the members of the House Education Committee as well as by Rep. Pitts.

Over the next month, I really got to work on getting people calling and visiting members of the Education Committee. Using our Pennsylvania Homeschoolers mailing list, which now spanned the state of Pennsylvania, I found at least one homeschooler to be our contact for almost every member of the Education Committee. I got on the phone and asked each contact to talk to their legislators personally about the special education compromise which would be sponsored in the committee by Rep. Steve Freind, and to ask their representatives to pass House Bill 2501 once the Freind amendment had been added.

The committee had been scheduled to vote on the bill on June 7, and dozens of homeschoolers, describing their own experiences with special education, had written letters to each member of the committee urging them to support the bill after changing the provision that prevented parents from teaching handicapped children. Hewitt Research from the state of Washington sent us a magazine article describing a Supreme Court Case (Burlington vs. Massachusetts, 1985) which clearly stated that parents can take their children out of a public school special education program at any time in order to enroll them in a private program. In addition to all of these splendid letters, homeschoolers in the districts of just about every member of the House Education Committee called their representatives on the phone asking them to support the bill after changing the provision.

As it turned out, we had three amendments to deal with, not just one. Two amendments were good, and one amendment, in its first form, was very bad. The good amendments were sponsored by Rep. Steve Freind and Rep. Ron Cowell, the bad one by Rep. John Davies. Freind's amendment permitted parents to teach special education children. Cowell's amendment, responding to our request, required superintendents to return our precious portfolios after photocopying what they wanted for their records. Davies' amendment, in its first form, required parents to have their children take the TELS test, if their superintendent so requested.

On June 21, Jim Means, Tom Eldredge, and I headed to Harrisburg for what we thought would be the committee vote, but Rep. Cowell became ill, and the meeting was canceled. At first, we didn't know if Rep. Cowell would be back later in the day, and so Jim, Tom and I zipped out to lobby the members of the committee. Tom went off to talk with Rep. Freind, who would champion the special education amendment that had been drawn up by Greg White. Rep. Freind was well known as the successful champion of several pro-life bills and of the Christian School Bill. He and Tom established a good rapport.

Jim and I went to Rep. Pitts office. He said, "Go talk to Rep. Burns. Last week when the Education Committee met, he suggested taking the homeschooling section out of the omnibus bill and leaving it to fly by itself. That would probably kill our bill. Yesterday I was talking to him, and he wanted to know if cult-groups like the Moonies homeschooled. I told him that homeschoolers were an entirely different sort of people. You go talk with him. He'll be expecting you."

So Jim and I went right down to Rep. Burns' office and he invited us in. We had been worried about Rep. Burns for a long time. We had heard that he and Rep. Gallagher, the unfriendly former Chair of the House Education Committee, had been close friends. We also knew that he was an extremely articulate debater. Prominent on his desk, to my surprise, was a cup that he had received as a token of appreciation from the Keystone Christian Education Association, the lobbyists for the Christian School Bill.

"Rep. Pitts told us that you were concerned that cults might homeschool their children," I ventured.

"Yes."

"I don't think that will ever be a problem," I replied. "I have a friend," I explained, "whose sister is a Moonie. Her sister got married in a big ceremony in Madison Square Garden with about 10,000 other Moonies. She got to meet her husband a few weeks before they were married, and got to see him about once every two weeks or so after that. Now that she has a child, she only gets to see the child every two weeks or so. The Moonies don't homeschool. They do their best to keep families split up. They probably have parochial schools set up for their children," I said motioning to the Christian School cup. "You really can't keep them from raising their children in the cult's religion."

Rep. Burns said, "I'm very supportive of the family. I'll support your bill in any way I can."

We then proceeded to explain the issues involved in the amendments that would come up in committee, and he assured us of his support for our position. We left the office promising to let the homeschoolers in Bucks County know about his support for our bill. We continued to lobby other members of the committee all morning with a great deal of success.

That afternoon, all three of us went to the Department of Education to meet with Dr. William Logan, deputy commissioner for basic education.

We'd already had some dealings with Dr. Logan, most of them negative. A few years earlier when our first homeschooling bill had been introduced, my wife Susan, Jim Gustafson, and I had a meeting with Kay Wright, the commissioner for basic education under the previous governor. Logan had attended that meeting and had done most of the talking for the Department of Education.

When the Casey administration first took office, Dr. Logan had been the "Acting Secretary of Education" until Secretary Gilhool was sworn in. The Christian School Bill had just been enacted and I had noticed that it was being completely ignored in Pennsylvania Education, the publication of the Department of Education. They had reviewed Act 178, the law which included the Christian School Bill, but they had not noted the new policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which was stated there:

It is the policy of the Commonwealth to preserve the primary right of the parent or parents, or person or persons in loco parentis to a child, to choose the education and training for such child.

I wrote to Dr. Logan, "I am wondering whether this omission was an oversight or whether the Department of Education has chosen to ignore the policy of the Commonwealth as directed by the legislature."

Then I asked him, "When will you notify the school superintendents (who are and have been prosecuting dozens of parents for choosing to teach their own children) that it is the policy of the Commonwealth that parents have the right to choose the education for their own children?"

I also noted that I would refer any reply that I received from him to Rep. Stephen Freind of the House Education Committee, the author of that policy statement. I concluded, "If I do not receive a reply by May 9, 1987, I will inform him that you have chosen to ignore my letter."

Dr. Logan called me quickly and also wrote back to me. He said that the Department of Education would not inform the superintendents of this statement of policy because this policy related only to the department's relations with non-public schools and did not apply to the superintendent's relations with parents who chose to educate their own children. In his reply he attributed to me the misunderstanding "that the Legislature intended this language to send a message to superintendents that they need not comply with the provisions of the Compulsory Attendance Laws."

In a March 20 letter I replied, "I realize that the present compulsory education law gives superintendents the power, which many of them exercise, to prohibit home education to anyone whom they deem to be insufficiently qualified. (Many superintendents prohibit home education altogether). I was only hoping that the Department of Education would see fit to inform superintendents that their role was to oversee home education, not prohibit it."

The final response to my letters was through my bosses. I work as a public school teacher and I was told independently by a friendly administrator and a friendly school board member that the Department of Education had told them that they had a trouble-maker working for them who was the main spokesman for homeschooling in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, my relations with school board members and administrators were positive enough that I did not receive any personal repercussions as a result of this underhanded blow.

Now, a year and a half later, I had tried to get an appointment with Secretary of Education Gilhool but my phone call had been shuttled over from his appointment secretary to Dr. Logan's office. Dr. Logan had set up an appointment with me, possibly just to keep me from meeting with Secretary Gilhool.

I was glad that Tom Eldredge and Jim Means were joining me for the appointment. There is always strength in numbers. Dr. Logan came into the meeting room alone. We asked him if the department held that the federal government mandated that parents could not teach special education children. Much to my surprise he said, "No." He was completely candid. They didn't like the idea of home education and saw this as an opportunity to keep some parents from educating their own children. "Would you oppose the whole bill if this provision were included?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied. "If this provision is passed, I can envision a little handicapped boy asking his mother, `Mom, why do I have to go to school when Johnny gets to stay home with you. Don't you love me?' Unlike the Department of Education, we don't believe in discrimination against the handicapped!"

We parted on cordial terms with respect for his candidness, though not for his opinions. Tom Eldredge took the train back home to West Chester while Jim Means and I went up the elevator and sat outside Secretary Gilhool's office for a half an hour chatting with his appointment secretary. We were hoping to catch him as he stepped out of his office and personally ask him for an appointment. Finally we left without success.

Then Jim and I headed back to the capitol for one last round of lobbying. We were standing in the rotunda thinking about maybe going to visit Rep. Davies, when we saw him passing us in the hall. We asked him if we could talk with him, and he invited us to follow him to his office.

His amendment had originally stipulated that parents would have to give their children the TELS test if the superintendent required, and would have to send their children to a public school remediation class if the superintendent so directed. It also included a procedure that parents would have to go through in order to transfer their program from one district to another.

Rep. Davies looked haggard and tired. His constituents, led by Bill Girten and Betty McElroy, had been calling him all week, objecting to his amendment. He explained how his nephew had required remedial help when he returned to public school after being homeschooled on a sailboat off the coast of Florida.

I asked him what his nephew was now doing, and he said he was a pilot for a major airline!

We explained that many parents would object to TELS test remediation in a public school on religious grounds, and that it would be a major disruption to send children for a remediation class during the homeschooling day. Jim listened carefully. He noticed that Rep. Davies only envisioned that the superintendents would require TELS in cases where they didn't think the parents were educating their children. Jim suggested that TELS just be required if ordered by the hearing officer in due process hearings after the superintendent had found that the parents were not educating their children. That hearing officer has the right to order the children into school, so the TELS test, then, would be a life preserver which could allow parents to continue homeschooling legally. Furthermore, even in that situation, Davies agreed that the superintendent would just name the subjects to be remediated and the parents would come up with the remediation procedures.

I felt that we had just learned a lesson in political action. Jim and I could not have negotiated so successfully if Bill Girten, Gary and Betty McElroy and the other homeschoolers in Reading had not been so active in contacting Davies from his own district. Nor could we have negotiated successfully if we did not feel we had the trust and support of the homeschoolers across the state.

On July 28 the committee finally did vote. Tom and Jim and I again were in attendance, as were many members of the opposition who had testified against home education at the December 3 hearings. The PSEA passed out a packet describing the union's position to committee members as they entered the room. Rep. Freind and Rep. Livengood teased another member who usually voted for the PSEA positions. Rep. Freind took his unopened PSEA envelope and wrote "monthly paycheck" on it and slid it across the table to the PSEA supporter's seat. Then Rep. Livengood pointed out the PSEA packet and said, "I didn't know you got paid monthly!"

The first Home Education Amendment was a good one, proposed by Rep. Cowell. Two homeschoolers, Madalene Murphy and Pam Peterson, had called me after they had read House Bill 2501 and realized that parents could lose their treasured portfolios of their children's work. I had called Rep. Cowell, and he had explained that he had no intention of parents losing their documentation. His amendment was passed unanimously.

The second amendment was the Davies amendment, as revised. We had decided not to oppose it. It also passed unanimously.

Last came the Freind amendment, and Tom, Jim and I held our breath not knowing what to expect. Rep. Freind said:

Right now the home education bill does not permit home education for special education students. I know that we have received an awful lot of contacts by people who represent home education and from parents. This amendment would say that we could have home education for special education students when the program addresses the specific needs of the student and is approved by a teacher with a valid certificate from the state to teach special education or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist and written notification of such approval is submitted with the notarized affidavit.

Parents feel very strongly that special education children should not be deprived of home education. They realize, however, the need for special education children to have some type of specific approval. This is a good compromise.

Rep. Livengood seconded the amendment and it passed unanimously. Then the whole bill passed the education committee unanimously. Opponents of home education had boasted that the House Education Committee is controlled by the teacher's union and that we would never get a bill through it. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego 2600 years earlier, our home education bill came out of the fiery furnace unscathed.


1A Personal Narrative of Political Experiences by Robert M. LaFollette. Madison: The Robert M. La Follett Co., 1913, p. 388.

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Copyright 1989 by Howard B. Richman, All rights reserved


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