In a recent article Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a national organization based in Virginia, claimed that two bills filed in the Texas House (HB 917) and Senate (SB 301), which are companion bills, change the definition of home schools in Texas.
The article goes on to state, “Texas homeschoolers have been protected for years by their identification as private schools, and HSLDA opposes unnecessarily distinguishing the two educational options.”
Although I appreciate the work that HSLDA does at the national level, it is mistaken in the above statements about Texas. Texas home schoolers have been protected not by a definition of “home school” in the law, but by the education of and participation in the election of officials who support the fundamental right of parents to raise and educate their own kids. Indeed, last legislative session one agency official told us that home schoolers had more support in the legislature than traditional private schools. Although it is case law that established home schooling as legal, it is state policy that dictates the requirements by which Texas home schoolers must abide.
In 1997, HSLDA filed a federal lawsuit in San Antonio to force the federal government to acknowledge that a home school should be distinguished from a traditional private school in regard to the Federal “Gun-Free School Zone Act.” THSC agreed with that action as did the Federal Government . . . eventually.
In 2003, HSLDA supported a bill developed and promoted by THSC to change the law to require that state colleges and universities should treat home school graduates the same as public high school graduates for college admission. [Texas Education Code (TEC) Section 51.9241(2)] That language included the term “home school” to explicitly and unambiguously clarify that higher education entities could not discriminate against home school grads.
In 2007, HSLDA also supported our efforts to amend the Texas Education Code to require public schools to allow home school students to take the PSAT in the school districts in which they live because that is the only place that many home school students could take the test.
In order to pass that legislation we included a definition of a home school that was approved by Attorney Shelby Sharpe who was the lead attorney in the Leeper v. Arlington case (which established home schooling as legal in Texas) and one of THSC’s attorneys. The definition of home school closely tracked the language of the Leeper decision and has been in the Texas Education Code for almost a decade while home school freedoms have expanded in Texas. [TEC Section 29.916]
Adding the term “home school” has not been detrimental to home school freedoms in Texas. In fact, it has been useful in dealing with threats to that freedom. Last year, THSC worked with the Texas Attorney General’s office in its successful prosecution of several diploma mills masquerading as “home schools.” We were able to point to the definition of a home school in the Texas Education Code as evidence that these scammers were not legitimate home schools, ultimately protecting the integrity of home school diplomas.
Parental rights–including home school freedoms in Texas–are safeguarded by eternal vigilance and by the participation of large numbers of home schoolers in the political process. We should not be afraid to continue to explicitly push for freedom for home schoolers in legislation by using the term “home school.” It neither reduces our freedom nor changes the necessity for continued involvement to keep it.