|Timeline of Oregon Homeschool Freedoms
By: Dick & Dorothy Karman
Prior to 1985
Homeschooling has been legal in Oregon for many years. While it is difficult to trace back, we find a homeschool statute in place in the 1950s when the all the Oregon statutes were revised. Homeschool freedoms probably go back even further than that. However, in order to homeschool legally in Oregon, families had to ask permission from their local school district. Some districts granted permission grudgingly, some required families to submit a year's worth of lesson plans, others outright refused. Pastor Dennis Tuuri of the Parents Education Association PAC (PEAPAC) and a few other home educators, acting on the principle that parents should not have to ask permission to exercise their God-given responsibility to raise their children, worked tirelessly on a homeschool bill to remove the arbitrary power of the local school districts. Though the bill went through several compromises in the process, the 1985 statute was a vast improvement over the previous law.
The homeschoolers' labor switched from the Legislature to the Department of Education as administrative rules were written. Pastor Tuuri, OCEANetwork's Dick Karman and others spent many hours in meetings to ensure that the administrative rules did not violate the intent of the statute. God showed homeschoolers mercy as the definitions for the rules were written - especially in the definition of "satisfactory educational progress." Meetings took the better part of six months before the rules were finalized.
The ink had not dried on the administrative rules before lobbyists from the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators introduced House Bill 3342. This, if passed, would have taken away the homeschool freedoms which had been in effect for less than a year. Homeschool families, acting with information from OCEANetwork and PEAPAC, mailed letters and made phone calls to the Legislature. HB 3342 died in committee.
The Department of Education agreed to leave the administrative rules alone for a trial period, but the Educational Service Districts (ESDs) around the state made their own interpretations of the statute. OCEANetwork invested much time educating ESDs on the details and intent of the law. By December the Joint Interim Education Committee agreed to listen to two hours of complaints from the Department and the ESDs which led to legislative action in 1989.
Without input from home educators, the Department of Education introduced House Bill 2551 replacing standardized achievement tests with tests of "essential learning skills and common knowledge." This dovetailed with the move toward outcome-based education. PEAPAC and the OCEANetwork immediately took exception, reminding the Department that home education law required a nationally-normed standardized test. The bill was defeated.
In 1990, a non-legislative year, a group of education reformers circulated an initiative petition legalizing an education voucher system which included a freeze on the administrative rules for private schools and homeschools. Acting out of fear and in haste, the Department of Education assigned a lawyer to produce new, more restrictive administrative rules for home education before the Measure 11 petition could be filed. The proposed rules were not well thought out and would have required many home educated students to return to the classroom (including a large number of those that scored above the 90th percentile). The Department would not listen to reason. Only sheer numbers would make the point. More than 1,000 home educators came to Salem to a rally in the Armory sponsored by OCEANetwork. Busses ferried them to the hearing room. The line to give testimony was more than five blocks long and at least three abreast. The senseless changes in the administrative rules were put aside and by God's grace the home education community made huge public relations strides with the hearing officers, the Legislature, the public and the media.
The Parents Education Association, with cooperation from OCEANetwork, reminded the Legislature of the irresponsible action of the Department of Education (in 1990) and introduced House Bill 2820, placing into statute the definitions which were vulnerable in the administrative rules. HB 2820 suffered some in the compromise process, but eventually passed both the House and the Senate. The governor, at the request of Department of Education, vetoed the bill and successfully preserved her veto during a special session vote. House Bill 2574 passed allowing homeschoolers to participate in public school inter-scholastic activities.
The Home Education Steering Committee began meeting in Salem. A representative from OCEANetwork attended each meeting to ensure that our freedoms would not suffer at the hands of this body, top-heavy with government educators. It took many hours and hundreds of miles of commuting just to insure that we did not get attacked when we were not looking.
The ESDs introduced Senate Bill 496 to change the way notification was done. With cooperation from home education families around the state this bill stalled. House Bill 3083 enhanced the homeschool inter-scholastic participation law passed in 1991. It did not pass, but beneficial elements from HB 3083 were enacted without a law being necessary.
The interpretations of the administrative rules were again under attack at the local level. Home education advocacy groups had to contact legislators (not in session), tell them of the harassment and remind them of the persecution in 1990. The memories were fading and a positive, pro-active approach was being conceived by Pastor Tuuri and the Parents Education Association.
The Parents Education Association authored House Bill 2998 which placed specific, beneficial definitions from administrative rules into statute where they could not easily be changed by the Department of Education. Most importantly, it abolished the testing requirements. It was a step closer to less government control. The bill died in committee, but valuable groundwork was laid for future efforts.
The Home Education Steering Committee began to make unsatisfactory interpretations of the rules and were moving toward changing the definition of standardized tests to those with an interpreted outcome, not tests scored and compared to a national norm. The Board of Education also informed the Steering Committee that it would be changing the definition of satisfactory educational progress after the 1997 legislative session. They no longer tried to hide their intent to destroy homeschool freedoms.
Instead of waiting to be attacked, home educators worked together to bring a bill providing alternatives to the testing requirement to the House Education Committee before the Department and Board of Education could change the definition of "satisfactory educational progress." Homeschool parents and students lobbied several hundred hours at the Capitol. OCEANetwork worked to develop common goals and lines of communication with other homeschool organizations in Oregon. OCEANetwork kept in touch with families by e-mail nearly daily from the Capitol. The bill passed through the Legislature with a great deal of support, but the governor vetoed the bill at the request of the education lobby.
Plans were being made to resubmit the homeschool freedom bill in the 1999 legislative session, but the hottest battles did not take place in Salem. Communities around the state proposed daytime curfew ordinances. Home educators were successful in stopping some of the proposed ordinances, but many passed. Even lawmakers in favor of home education did not see the constitutional danger in these curfews. Also, homeschool families were frequently impacted by ESDs misinterpretations of administrative rules.
Standing on the principle that government should not have a role in the way families choose to educate their children, OCEANetwork submitted a "total freedom" homeschool bill. We were not unwilling to consider compromise, but whenever we gave testimony, we stated the principle that parents ought to be given the freedom to direct their children's education. By God's grace, the lobbyists for the Oregon School Board Association and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (our adversaries in years past) sided with us. Through a united effort by hundreds of home educators from both OCEANetwork and OHEN and the cooperation of COSA and OSBA, the governor signed HB 3013 into law. This new law greatly reduced the burden of testing and gave us additional freedoms for families with children with special needs. It was not the total freedom we sought, but the Legislature knew the principles upon which we stand.
The administrative rules for the new law took nearly a year to be crafted. Until May of 2000, OCEANetwork and OHEN board members made several trips each month to Salem to ensure that the legislative intent was not diminished by zealous bureaucrats. Once the administrative rules were written, the work of educating ESDs and home educators across the state began. Another threat to home school freedoms began to appear. Government schools began using the word "homeschool" to describe alternate education programs funded and controlled by the local schools districts.
During the legislative session several school districts, allegedly out of concern for truant students masquerading as homeschoolers, submitted legislation to take away the freedoms gained in 1999 and to lower the compulsory school attendance age. Board members from OCEANetwork and OHEN spent many hours in committee pointing to the inequity of these bills. The bills died in committee.
The majority of OCEANetwork's lobbying efforts were expended protecting families from the governor's Oregon Children's Bill. This piece of legislation required government assessment of families at the time of a child's birth and government intervention if needs were identified. We are thankful to God that the efforts of lobbyists Dorothy Karman and Rodger Williams and the diligence of Senator Starr and his staff were successful in making "participation" (read that "intrusion") in this program voluntary.
We continued to remain vigilant. ESD's continued to find creative ways to interpret the homeschool laws. OCEANetwork worked on lobbying strategies for the 2003 legislative session.
The OCEANetwork, with the cooperation of the Oregon Home Education Network, asked Senator Bruce Starr to submit a total freedom bill. By God's amazing grace, the bill passed the Senate with strong bi-partisan support. It then went on to pass the House by a strong majority. However. the governor vetoed the bill. We are not discouraged, however. We were able to educate and influence the legislature on the principles of home education freedom. In the process, we strengthened their opinion on home education and prevented attacks on our freedom.
Like the widow in Luke 18, we will keep petitioning civil government. Perhaps, some day, the legislature and governor will realize that "home education freedom works." We all must pray and work together to protect our freedoms. Pray that God will continue to show Oregon home educators mercy and work to do a good job home educating. Your well-behaved, well-educated students who are hard workers are the best lobbying tool for home education freedom. Keep up the good work.
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