The 2017 Oregon Legislative session was a busy one for OCEANetwork’s Freedom Watch Team. Every year OCEANetwork watches the legislature to safeguard homeschool freedoms and expand those freedoms in Oregon. The team monitors the Oregon state legislature for bills directly impacting home education freedoms and the rights of parents. When a potential threat is identified, a member of the OCEANetwork Freedom Watch Committee works to either kill the bill or fix it so your freedom to direct your children’s education is not impacted.
Advancing homeschool freedom
OCEANetwork introduces legislation to increase homeschool freedoms in Oregon, and to educate the legislature. When one of our bills receives a hearing, the testimony by OCEANetwork and Oregon home educators provides an opportunity to demonstrate the success of homeschooling which lays the groundwork for future action. It is our hope that God will these efforts for His purpose. Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Following is a summary of the three bills submitted by OCEAN during the 2017 Oregon legislative session.
Total Homeschool Freedom (HB2108)
In 2017, as in every full legislative session since 1999, OCEANetwork submitted the Total Freedom Bill. This bill eliminates the requirement for testing and ESD notification. We encourage you to read the article “Why Eliminate Homeschool Testing?” written by Deborah Keller. This article was published for the 2013 legislative session and outlines why “Oregon’s homeschool law which uses testing as a tool to determine who can and cannot homeschool is unbiblical, ineffective, and unfair.” In 2017 this bill received a hearing where OCEANetwork board members, Dr. Brian Ray, and homeschool parents presented testimony. The bill did not move forward following the hearing.
Eliminate Homeschool Testing
OCEANetwork also submitted a bill to eliminate scheduled testing for Oregon home educators, but leave ESD notification in place. The current law gives ESD (education service district) superintendents authorization to request test results at grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. The proposed law eliminates the existing authorization and instead limit the authority of ESD superintendents to require testing only if they have “reasonable suspicion” that a child is not being educated according to the homeschool exemption from compulsory attendance. This creates the legal barrier of reasonable suspicion before a test can be required. The proposed bill did not go forward during the 2017 legislative session.
Homeschool Diploma Equivalency (HB2842)
The third bill submitted by OCEANetwork during the 2017 legislative session is a professional licensing equity bill. This bill corrects the inequality that exists between a homeschool and a public school diploma for the purpose of occupational and professional licensing in Oregon. Although the bill did not receive a hearing in the 2017 legislative session, the way has been paved for potential success in a future session.
Handling ESDs misapplying the homeschool law
With the beginning of the 2017/2018 school year came reports of an ESD rejecting written submissions of “notifications of intent to home educate.” There appeared to be a misunderstanding on behalf of a couple ESDs regarding the proper application of the OARs (Oregon Administrative Rules) regarding homeschool notification. OCEANetwork legislative liaison, Rodger Williams, contacted the ESDs to clarify that they must acknowledge the receipt of notifications regardless of whether they are submitted in writing or via the online notification system. OCEANetwork sent an alert to Oregon home educators explaining that homeschool notifications can continue to be submitted in writing with the expectation that ESDs will acknowledge receipt of such notification within 90 days. We will continue to monitor the ESDs. Please let us know if your ESD asks for more than what the law requires when you notify.
In October, a concerned parent contacted OCEANetwork regarding an annual Home School Status form being sent to home educators in the Lake County Education Service District. Like many online ESD notification forms, the Lake County printed form asked for information not required by law, and OCEAN sent an alert to Oregon homeschool families advising families to “decline to give any information to ESDs not required by law, as it encourages ESDs to ask for more and more information.” OCEANetwork also sent a copy of our alert to the Lake County ESD.
The only information you are required to supply
Two pieces of information not required by law but frequently requested by ESDs are phone number and email address. Dorothy Karman, co-founder of OCEANetwork with her husband, Dick, explains some of the reasons email address and phone number were originally not included in the required information for homeschool notifications.
- It is important that home educators receive all communications from the ESD in writing so parents have a record for their permanent files.
- By using the email as their reference key, ESDs are requiring homeschool families to have email access.
- Email addresses change frequently and are not likely to remain the same for the entire 12 years of a child’s education. If the ESD sends out an important notice to an old email address it will not reach the family.
OCEANetwork strongly recommends that all home educators familiarize themselves with Oregon homeschool laws.
Heather Church, OCEANetwork board member
If you have questions about this alert / update, please contact us here so that we can funnel questions and concerns appropriately to the Freedom Watch team.