2019 Legislative Session Wrap-up

IAHE began this legislative session in January by monitoring 69 bills of concern. By mid-session, we were actively monitoring twenty-one bills with the potential to impact homeschool families, three of which were very concerning. While the majority of bills were education issues that we typically monitor every year, the emergence of mental health bills unexpectedly became the hot topic of the session.


Compulsory School Age

SB 318 (Gregory Taylor, Democrat – District 33)

  • Final Status – Bill died

Once again, a Senate bill was introduced that would lower the compulsory school age from seven years of age to five years. While it died again this session, we are well aware that this is an annual battle that we expect to revisit in 2020.


Mandatory Kindergarten

HB 1408 (Tonya Pfaff, Democrat – District 43)

  • Final Status – Bill died

This bill would have made kindergarten mandatory for every student five years of age on August 1 of that school year. It is now dead for this session, but we expect to watch this every year. However, the budget bill has positioned funding for increased kindergarten enrollment, so IAHE Action will be vigilant in watching for this in upcoming sessions.


Graduation Pathways

SB 507 (Jeff Raatz, Republican – District 27)

  • Final Status – Bill died in the House

HB 1002 (Holli Sullivan, Republican – District 78)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

SB 507 would have created a graduation pathways tracking and reporting system within the public school system. Public school graduation legislation is always monitored so that we can ensure homeschoolers are not discriminated against in college admissions. While SB 507 died, HB 1002 passed and does include a study regarding career coaching and graduation pathways for public education which we will diligently monitor next session to be sure homeschoolers have an equal opportunity in higher education.


Data Mining

SB 266 (Michael Crider, Republican – District 28)

  • Final Status – Bill died in the House

SB 507 (Jeff Raatz, Republican – District 27)

  • Final Status – Bill died in the Senate

Both the bill that would have mandated mental health screenings (SB 266), as well as the bill crafting graduation pathways (SB 507), would have created a tracking and reporting system on students. SB 507 would have required the Department of Education to provide data on students to the Commission for Higher Education and the State Board. SB 266 and its cohort, HB 1004, must have also, by their very nature, included the collection and recording of students’ inmost thoughts gathered through the mental health screenings. Data mining is a computer science term that simply involves collecting and storing data and finding new information within that data. These bills would have mined data from and about students, and IAHE is always against data mining due to the school system’s lack of accountability. SB 266 died and HB 1004 had the mental health language removed.


Educational Savings Options

HB 1254 (Jim Lucas, Republican – District 69)

  • Final Status – Bill died in House

HB 1675 (Ryan Lauer, Republican – District 59)

  • Final Status – Bill died in House

These two bills addressed educational savings options, such as annual grants or deductions for education-related expenses, typically to be administered by the state. IAHE Action met with legislators, and we were successful in having our concerns heard that this would be the proverbial foot in the door for increased government regulation of homeschooling.


Bias Crimes

SB 12 (Mike Bohacek, Republican – District 8)

  • Final Status – Bill died in House

SB 198 (Mike Bohacek, Republican – District 8)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

This session began with 13 bias and/or hate crime bills. SB 12 was the first to take off and it provided that a court may consider bias in imposing a criminal sentence. While not necessarily a homeschool issue, this bill had many faces. We monitored it to be able to inform co-ops and other homeschool groups with employees as to whether this may have affected them as well as religious restrictions that may be affected. SB 12 died in the House. SB 198 was similar to SB 12 and while it did pass this year and is now law, it does not list specific groups and is a sentencing bill so it does not have a direct effect on homeschool groups with employees.


Mental Health Screenings

SB 266 (Michael Crider, Republican – District 28)

  • Final Status – Bill died in House

HB 1004 (Wendy McNamara, Republican – District 76)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

HB 1001 (Todd Huston – Republican – District 37)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

HB 1629(Robert Behning – Republican – District 91)

  • Final Status – Bill Passed

SB 325(Michael Crider – Republican – District 28)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

SB 266 emerged from revisions in the Senate as a monstrosity that would mandate local schools to become, in essence, mental health providers. This would have been a huge infringement on parental rights by instituting mental health screenings for ALL children from birth through the age of 22. SB 266 passed the Senate but homeschooling parents along with other like-minded groups were able to sound the alarm about this bill and consequently, it did not receive a hearing in the House.

HB 1004 then began to move through the Senate, where IAHE Action watched to see if it would pick up language from SB 266 which included mental health screenings from birth to age 22. IAHE Action was pleased to see Sen. Dennis Kruse add language protecting parental rights by requiring written parental consent prior to mental health screenings and surveys, even though this was still a public school issue at that point. The bill passed the Senate with those provisions intact. However, Rep. Wendy McNamara, unhappy with the addition of these parental consent language, stripped the bill of mental health language before it passed.

HB 1001 was the biennial budget bill and it did pass with language included that allowed for the Secured School Safety grant funds to be used for school-based mental health services. However, in their final day of the session, the House heard the cries of conservative groups (including YOU!) and allowed SB 1629 to nullify the allowance in HB 1001 of using those funds for mental health services in schools. In addition to this, SB 325 included some parental protections for those using public schools. These protections are not perfect and do not allow for penalties, but all in all IAHE Action is pleased to see that legislators heard the people’s voices. SB 325 may be a springboard for homeschoolers to use in future sessions if parental protections of homeschoolers are infringed upon by extending mental health screenings outside of the public school system as was attempted this session.

READ MORE: UPDATE: HB 1004
READ MORE: What About SB266?

Virtual Public School Acountability

SB 567 – (Sen. Jeff Raatz – Republican – District 27)

  • Final Status – passed

In the final weeks of the session, a bill to create additional oversight for virtual public schools harkened back to old issues when SB 567 would have removed the “homeschool exemption” for students withdrawn to homeschool from the public schools for funding calculations. This change would have lumped these new homeschool students in with dropouts when the school reported back to the state. While it was unclear if there would be any long-term consequences for the individual student, the implications of grouping these two types of students does not reflect the intentions of the parents to continue the child’s education. We worked with Rep. Behning to address our concerns and the “homeschool exemption” was reinstated.

READ MORE: SB 567: Homeschoolers as dropouts?


Thank you for making a difference!

Despite having a Republican supermajority in the legislature, parents cannot let their guards down because new issues are introduced each session, as we saw this year with the issues of mental health and bias crime bills. Your phone calls and emails were heard.

Also this session, IAHE Action had many good discussions with many legislators such as our friends Rep. Robert Behning, Rep. Timothy Wesco, Sen. Dennis Kruse, Sen. Randall Head, Rep. Mike Speedy, Sen. Greg Walker, and Sen. Jeff Raatz. Many of these legislators reached out to us when they found areas of concern. Our goal is always to keep them aware that homeschool parents are here, actively monitoring educational bills as well as parental rights concerns.

We have also been able to introduce IAHE & IAHE Action to several legislators who only had a basic understanding of homeschooling. We were able to work with them and share how IAHE stands for parental rights, homeschool freedom, and religious freedom. We are grateful to those legislators that attended the IAHE Home Educators’ Convention. Every year, we hear from new legislators how vital the convention is to their understanding of the home education community.

Thank you to all of you who stay updated and contact your legislators as needed. YOU make a difference!

DONATE NOW to IAHE Action to support ongoing efforts to protect your homeschooling and parental rights.

Lowering Compulsory School Age and Mandatory Kindergarten; Oh, my!

In the past week, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, has called for legislation during the 2018 session of the Indiana General Assembly to lower the compulsory school age to six and to make kindergarten mandatory. The Democrats attempted to push similar legislation in 2015 that would have lowered the compulsory school age.

Are Your Children Missing?

She states that the government via public education is “missing a big chunk of kids.” We must never forget the original purpose for Common Schools (government-run schools). According to E.G. West, the author of Education and the State, public education’s purpose is to serve those who chose not to take responsibility for educating their own children.

As our sister organization, Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE), has noted on their blog, many are frustrated by the public schools and have decided to educate their own children.  Could these be some of the “missing chunk” of children?  IAHE has noticed what appears to be a large influx into the homeschool community as noted by calls and inquiries they receive about home education. They took a survey to see why parents had decided to remove their child from a traditional school setting to home school.

At-risk Families Put All Families At Risk

The Tribune Star article about the call for mandatory kindergarten states, [Indiana] “has 7,000 children who don’t take advantage of kindergarten, and of those, 5,000 are considered at-risk, she said. When they start formal schooling, those children face many disadvantages.” In case you are wondering the type of children who are “at-risk”, they may be children who are served by the Department of Child Services, Family and Social Services, the Department of Corrections, or the juvenile justice system.  

Unfortunately, if the compulsory school age is lowered and kindergarten becomes mandatory to force these families to put their child in school at an earlier age, it will affect homeschoolers, too. Government typically paints with a broad brush. Homeschoolers will be forced to begin formal education at an earlier age.

Homeschoolers take the view that education begins at birth, although they may not begin “formal” education until years later. Currently, in Indiana, that is age seven. A number of legislators have bemoaned the fact that there is a “gap” between pre-school and age seven and have hoped to close it.

Could Delayed “Formal” Education Actually Be Beneficial?

In a review of recent ISTEP scores, it appears a number of scores dropped between grades 3-8 and grade 10. Is it true in your area? Check out the results here. Could it be many students are burnt out with formal education and have lost their love of learning?

Homeschoolers are often more relaxed in their approach to education since they have a flexibility that is not available in the public school. If a homeschool student is not ready for a concept, a parent can wait a bit and circle back to it at a later date. Many parents have noticed that when the child is ready, they are able to learn the concept much more quickly. Waiting did not hurt but helped.  Our children are not “cookie cutter” kids. Some may be ready for a “formal” education earlier than others. We believe it is best to allow a fit parent to decide.

We see a more relaxed approach is used in schools of Finland.  It appears to be helpful to those students as well.  Compulsory school age is seven, and playtime is important. The love of learning for learning’s sake is fostered. There is not an emphasis on assessments. Learning is (or should be) fun for children!

In closing, IAHE keeps abreast of Indiana homeschool trends. They currently have a survey posted for those who chose to delay formal education until age seven. Check it out if this pertains to you.