Texas…Where People are Free…Today

The well known quote by Edmund Burke, “Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it,” has often been in my thoughts as the perilous state of our nation of late has weighed heavily on my heart. I wonder, after having been a part of the home school movement for almost twenty years, if history will indeed once again repeat itself.

As we teach our children this important subject of history, let us not forget to remind them and others why Texas is one of the freest states in which to educate children at home. All home school families who believe in the truth of Edmund Burke’s statement should know the history behind the modern home school movement and the stories of those Texas families who faced truancy charges and even jail time for schooling their children at home in the 1980s.

The Texas Home School Coalition has over 60,000 home school families on its mailing list, and there are an estimated 120,000 home school children in Texas. (Considering the popularity of home schooling in Texas, this may be a conservative estimate.) Unfortunately, many of these do not know that there was ever a problem regarding our home school freedoms. When speaking to home school parents at book fairs, I am saddened by those who express the view that they do not need to join THSC because Texas is such a free state in which to homeschool. Usually these are the people do not know our history.

Twenty-five years ago the legality of home schooling was questionable in Texas, and many public officials were opposed to the practice. At that time Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox publicly stated that he did not believe parents were qualified to raise their children, much less teach them at home. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) was encouraging school districts to prosecute families, and over a hundred law suits were filed against home schoolers across the state, while harmful legislation was being introduced in Austin. Families homeschooled with strong conviction—but usually in a state of fear and as inconspicuously as possible.

Texans, when moved by deep passions, can be aggressive opponents, and in 1986 several parents with the help of lawyer Shelby Sharp went on the offense and filed suit against the state in the now famous Leeper v. Arlington class action suit, which eventually went to the Texas Supreme Court in 1994. (The moving documentary Taking a Stand in Texas tells the story of this battle.)

The Texas Home School Coalition was established also in 1986 as a political action committee (PAC). The founders recognized the need for a statewide political organization to work for the rights of home schoolers in the state of Texas and, believing government restriction could not be justified academically or socially, formed the THSC PAC to oppose any regulation of home education in Texas. THSC incorporated as an educational non-profit organization in 1995, and in 2000, the Texas Home School Coalition Association incorporated as a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization for Texas home school families.

Thanks to the foundation laid by these early home school parents and the ongoing work of THSC, families have been able to homeschool without official state interference or regulation for more than two decades, but without vigilance, those freedoms could easily be lost. Changes in the current political environment have fueled recent articles such as Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority over Education: The Case of Homeschooling written by Stanford University Political Science Professor Rob Reich, and the column written by Georgetown Law Professor Robin West titled, The Harms of Homeschooling, in which she argues that homeschooling unregulated by the state is harmful to children. This opinion seems to be supported by many who wish to impose regulation on Texas home school families. In fact, Democratic nominee for Texas Governor Bill White has advocated for the tracking of students who withdraw from public schools to homeschool.

With a mission to serve and protect home school families in Texas, THSC continues to take an aggressive position in the defense of home schooling and home school families in Texas. A fairly typical occurrence happened lately when the Association threatened to sue Lockhart ISD when the school filed truancy charges again a member family whose children had never been enrolled in the public school. THSC also continues to work on behalf of all 120,000 home school families to ensure that their freedoms are protected and that home school students are treated on a fair and equal basis. This spring, when the state announced that it had funding for free ACT and SAT testing for all public school juniors, THSC contacted the TEA and helped ensure home school students also had access to this testing. These are just a few examples, as we continue to work with other state agencies to ensure freedom and equality for Texas home school students.

Despite the large numbers of home school families in Texas, the work carried on behind the scenes by the Texas Home School Coalition is supported by only 4,000 member families. Membership is vital to the work we do, and knowing the battles that may lie before us, these small numbers can limit the work we are able to do. If THSC is to continue working on behalf of home school families in Texas, we need your prayers and your support. Please do not wait until we are engaged in a full frontal assault on our home school freedom. Join THSC Association today and encourage your home school friends to do so as well!