Do You Want the Government to Partner with Your Family?

The Government believes that raising the next generation is a “shared” responsibility between it and a child’s family.  They will even provide home visits.  They are seeking your comments on their latest policy proposal.

The U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) are requesting comments on a draft policy statement on the implementation of effective family engagement practices from the early years to the early grades.

Comments are requested on the draft statement to inform the final document through JANUARY 4, 2016 by emailing your comments to:


ED and HHS have established the Early Learning Interagency Policy Board (IPB) to develop policy recommendations and improve program coordination and quality across federally funded early learning and development programs serving children from birth through age eight. Previously, ED and HHS have released policy statements on Expulsion and Suspension Polices in Early Childhood Settings and Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs based on public comments received.  SMALL 300 Join Action E-List

It is the Departments’ position that strong family engagement* is central in promoting children’s healthy development and wellness, including:

social-emotional and behavioral development;

preparing children for school;

seamlessly transitioning them to kindergarten; and

supporting academic achievement in elementary school and beyond.

When families and the institutions where children learn partner in meaningful ways, children have more positive attitudes toward school, stay in school longer, have better attendance, and experience more school success. To further this position, the Departments will release a policy statement on the implementation of effective family engagement practices in early childhood and learning programs.

Read more here.

*family engagement:  the systematic inclusion of families as partners in children’s development, learning, and wellness.  Engagement is enabled by positive relationships between families and staff in the institutions where children learn. The goal of family engagement is to support family wellness and children’s learning and development.

2016 TeenPact Information

Bring your 8-12 yr. olds to Indianapolis for a One Day interactive field trip–TeenPact Indiana!

At TeenPact, you and your kids will experience a fun, fast-paced day at the Indiana Statehouse. Explore the three floors, atriums, and rotunda on a scavenger hunt of your Capitol building, learn how a bill becomes a law through a fun skit, attempt to pass your own bills through mock legislature, participate in prayer walks and more . . . This is a fantastic introduction to show young students that they can start having an influence on the political process.

Make Friday, February 5th, or Friday, February 12th, a must-do field trip.

To register, or for more information, please visit

Wait, what if my students are in Junior High or High School? TeenPact also offers a unique four-day government class which blends active citizenship, teenagers, and the Statehouse into a delightful educational experience with a Biblical worldview. During field experiences and committees, students interact with other like-minded students and have more fun at the Capitol than they could have imagined. They have opportunity to run for TeenPact office, write bills, which could potentially become the law of TeenPact land through mock legislature, and meet elected officials, who are actually very interesting people. Guess what? There’s still more! TeenPact—it’s about as much fun as you can have in downtown Indy.

Four Day Class (13-19 year olds): February 1-4, 2016
Political Communication Workshop (13-19 year olds) or One Day Class (8-12 year olds): February 5, 2016

Four Day Class (13-19 year olds): February 8-11, 2016
Political Communication Workshop (for 13-19 year olds) or One Day Class (for 8-12 year olds): February 12, 2016

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions! – Loni Montgomery & Debbie Armbruster, TeenPact State Coordinators –

Concerning Education Savings Accounts

Over the past five years there has been a shift towards Republican control of state governments. Today, there are 31 Republican governors and 22 states where Republicans also hold both houses of the legislature (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature). Indiana is a state which not only has a Republican governor and state legislature but also super-majorities in both the senate and the house. Consequently, policy ideas associated with the Republican party are being tested in many states.

For homeschoolers the area of concern are changes in education policy. It should be no surprise that Republicans are reforming education by introducing measures to enhance the concept of “school choice”. The most sweeping change recently occurred in Nevada where every student enrolled in a public school for a minimum of 100 days now has access to a voucher style Education Savings Account (ESA). These accounts allow parents to choose alternative education options with taxpayer provided education funds.

While it should be noted that historically homeschoolers have not been particularly concerned with how the state distributes taxpayer funds to provide education to children within the public system, the distinctions today are becoming muddied, often by well-intentioned people.

Nevada’s program has caused a debate among homeschoolers because a homeschool family could gain access to the $5,000 per child per year account if they rescind their Notification of Intent to Homeschool, enroll their child in a public/charter school for 100 days, apply for an ESA and then use the money to enroll the child in a private school or provide a “home-based education” themselves under the regulation of the Nevada State Treasurer. The money is used as a way to control parents’ decisions.

States are spending in excess of $10,000/student for a public school education. Are we seeing excellent results for the use of this money? The government is desperate for “school choice”, but in reality what difference is there when all schools receive taxpayer money and are subject to the same accountability? True “school choice” is giving families the option of choosing their own curriculum and doing what is best for their children without government involvement. Homeschoolers have proved how well it has worked for decades!

ESAs are the carrot, but the stick will follow every home educator as the state political climate changes and those who seek to control every aspect of education a child receives (from cradle to college) convince parents and voters it is in the “best interest of the child”. SMALL 300 Join Action E-List

It is important to note that in reality the new Nevada law actually created a 4th “education option” for parents to meet the compulsory attendance law. Now Nevada children between the ages of 7 and 18 will be classified as a “public school, private school, homeschool, or ESA Opt-in” child. Each of these four education options have their own statutes under which they operate. However, the media continues to falsely call a government controlled “Opt-in Child” the same as homeschooling. While the two may use similar methods for educating the child, they are NOT the same in that one receives tax-payer funding and  therefore accountable to the government for the education of the child (Opt-in) and the other is not (homeschooling). This is clearly a freedom issue for parents to carefully consider before signing up for “free” money.

As with every program providing taxpayer funds to K-12 education there are inevitably strings attached. To use Nevada as an example, to utilize the ESA Grant Program the child is required to take an annual standardized test beginning the first year he/she applies for the grant. For many families, this may appear to be a small burden in return for the financial assistance but it is important to remember that laws and requirements can change over time and the burden placed on students utilizing ESA’s could become increasingly heavy as the government seeks to impose more accountability. For example, Nevada’s new law requires that all ESA recipients take either common core-aligned tests given to public school students OR “any norm-referenced achievement examinations in mathematics and English language arts”. However, in one legislative session that option could be struck from the law.  Nevada’s ESA law was carefully amended to distinguish a “homeschool child” from an “ESA opt-in child” to protect parents who choose NOT to utilize the ESA grant program and educate their children through the homeschool option. Depending on how an ESA program is structured in other states, it could be used to regulate all homeschoolers.

As we look ahead to the upcoming legislative session in Indiana we should be aware that a voucher-style ESA reform measure is likely to be introduced. It will most likely be focused on public school students with special needs similar to the Arizona ESA Program which is not as “broad” as Nevada’s program. We need to watch for bills that other states have seen that “DIVIDE” homeschoolers since it will pit home educators against each other – one group that has a no-government involvement policy and those who take taxpayer money with strings attached. It weakens and divides our community.

IAHE will be closely monitoring the progress of this potential legislation to make sure the rights of parents who choose not to participate are protected.

*In some states these are known as education scholarship accounts.

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HSLDA Weighs-in on ESEA Rewrite, Concerns Remain

On Monday, Congress unveiled the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is the Conference Committee report for the major reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The last time ESEA was reauthorized was in 2001, as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

The Every Student Succeeds Act takes H.R. 5, which passed the House, and S. 1177, which passed the Senate, and combines the two bills into one. The final bill is 1,061 pages long. You can read it here. We anticipate that the House will vote on this bill later this week, and the Senate will vote on this bill sometime before Christmas. SMALL 300 Join Action E-List

Analysis of Provisions

HSLDA is pleased to announce that all of our language protecting homeschools from any federal control remains in the Every Student Succeeds Act. (This protection also applies to private schools that do not receive federal funds.) Congress included this section in the 2001 NCLB as Section 9506. The Every Student Succeeds Act recodifies it as Section 8506. This is a major victory for homeschool freedom, and we applaud Congress for retaining and reauthorizing this essential language.

Read more here.


The Rise of Homeschool Discrimination

IAHE has had concerns over the past several years as it noticed a shift in the attitudes of some regarding homeschool diplomas.  There have been various instances in Indiana where questions have arisen regarding diplomas; such as, with the military, higher education, and employers.  A case involving an Indiana company, NiSource, was troubling to many homeschoolers as they learned of its discriminatory practice toward homeschoolers.

Home School Legal Defense Association has seen an increasing number of cases of discrimination against homeschoolers.  Listen to Equal Rights for Homeschoolers: An Interview with HSLDA Attorneys from their latest Homeschool Heartbeat to learn more.

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Why IAHE Action?

In recent years, Indiana Association of Home Educators has observed increased threats to parental and home education rights. The threats have been seen in various forms. Christian home education is particularly egregious to many who oppose homeschooling. WEBSITE RGB Action Logo 400x400

As IAHE assessed these threats, they felt like the time had come to commence a new sister organization that is better prepared to meet these needs. Indiana Association of Home Educators Action 501(c)4 was founded to support the mission of the IAHE (c)3 and to act as its lobbying arm. IAHE Action has greater flexibility than the 501(c)3 and is able to perform unlimited lobbying and limited political work.

It is our desire that all Indiana home educators receive legislative updates in order to protect our freedom. As the majority of advocacy transitions from IAHE to IAHE Action, legislative updates will come from Action. Be sure to sign up here to receive our legislative updates.  IAHE Action will also provide a forum that permits posts that IAHE does not.  We are all in this together to protect Indiana home education freedom!

Please share this information with those who value home education freedom.

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Homeschoolers and Indiana’s RFRA

As we gear up for the 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly, IAHE Action thinks it would be a good time review our stance on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Home education rights rest on two pillars:  religious liberty and parental rights.  We need both strong pillars to protect home education rights.

RFRA was signed into federal law in 1993, and there is no federal law giving special class to sexual orientation and gender identity.  This law has been used ZERO times to allow for discrimination. [1]  RFRA was demonized as allowing discrimination, but that was untrue.  It is a shield and not a sword that protects ALL Hoosiers’ deeply held religious beliefs against government intrusion.

After Indiana’s RFRA was amended by SB 50, “IAHE asked Darren Jones, HSLDA staff attorney, if we are accurate in our understanding that homeschoolers can still benefit from Indiana’s RFRA as it pertains to the state trying to force us to teach evolution, sex education in a certain manner or by a certain age, or by attempting to ban home education, etc.? WEBSITE RGB Action Logo 400x400

His response: “Yes, you are accurate in your understanding. Individual homeschoolers could still claim the protection of RFRA in a court proceeding if Indiana tried to impose religiously-objectionable curriculum requirements or ban home education. The amendment to RFRA only applies to “providers” in the context of services, facilities, etc., and so that amendment would not diminish an individual homeschooler’s right to raise RFRA in the situations you have mentioned.”” [2]

“The important conclusion is that no one should be forced by the government to violate his or her faith. This is what makes RFRA so important, but those that oppose religious freedom are at work using misinformation to stop this.”  [3]

IAHE, Inc. had an excellent article about Indiana’s RFRA.  Read it here.

[1] Indiana, Arkansas are Standing for Religious Freedom…Will you?

[2] Portion of article originally printed in the Indiana Association of Home Educators, The Informer Magazine, Fall 2015.

[3] Does RFRA Equal Discrimination? No It Prevents It

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Indiana Vaccination Data Questions Remain

Indiana families were not the only ones that received letters regarding vaccinations from their State Department of Health which IAHE alerted Indiana home educators about in this post from mid-October.  Michigan families also received a similar letter.  These types of occurrences highlight IAHE Action’s concern about the increased amount of government data collection. WEBSITE RGB Action Logo 400x400

HSLDA asks, “Is Government Data Being Used to Deliver Drug Company Profits?” 

Hundreds of thousands of families in Indiana and Michigan recently received letters from their respective departments of health notifying them of their children’s immunization status and ordering them to schedule additional vaccinations. Many families were unaware that officials had access to such private information or that it had been compiled into statewide databases. Some of the parents contacted were HSLDA members who subsequently sought advice from HSLDA—particularly regarding the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV).

Read more here.

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ISTEP+ and Homeschoolers?

It was recently brought to our attention that the Indiana Department of Education had sent a memo to Superintendents and Principals giving guidance related to homeschoolers enrolled in one class in public school and ISTEP+:

Q: Does the homeschool student have to take ISTEP+ and relevant ECA assessments if they are only enrolled in one course?

 A: Students in grades 3-8 and grade 10 in a public school or accredited non-public school must take the ISTEP+ assessments. Students in grades 10, 11, and 12 during the 2015-16 school year must take the Algebra I and English 10 ECAs if they are enrolled in the course(s). WEBSITE RGB Action Logo 400x400

 The concern is in regards to homeschoolers and ISTEP+. Home educators enrolled in one public school are being tested with ISTEP+ on curriculum that they are not using. The purpose of the ISTEP program is designed to “provide a source of information for state and local decision makers with regard to…the overall academic progress of students…the need for new or revised educational programs…the need to terminate existing education programs…student readiness for postsecondary school experiences…(and) diagnosing individual student needs”.

HSLDA attorney, Tj Schmidt, wrote a post about this situation in July:  Homeschoolers Can Skip the ISTEP

If you have concerns about taking ISTEP+ or any tests while enrolled in a class in public school for any reason, contact HSLDA.

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Will Senator Cruz’s Bill Allow Homeschoolers to Receive Federal Funds?

Homeschoolers have reason to be concerned that government funding would lead to a loss of home education freedom. Some have expressed concern that Senator Cruz’ bill S 306 would allow homeschoolers to receive federal funds. Attorney Will Estrada, Director of Federal Relations for Home School Legal Defense Association, explains legally why this bill should not be a concern for homeschoolers.

Hi, all,

Anyone who thinks that Senator Cruz’ bill will allow homeschoolers (including in states which define homeschools as a type of private school) to receive federal funds has a deep misunderstanding of federal law.

Title I funds are limited, narrow, and are in high demand. There is a reason why Senator Cruz – and most other federal legislators who have tried to create Title I portability – only limit them to private schools, not homeschools.


The attached lengthy document (below) explains how Title I funds can be given to eligible private schools. As you can see, it’s a lengthy, convoluted process, which MUST begin with the private school trying to obtain the funds through “adequate consultation.” The bloggers who are trying to say this bill will allow the feds to control homeschools with federal funds are completely mistaken.

One sentence on page 6 is key: “A unilateral offer of services by an LEA [the local public school] with no opportunity for discussion is not adequate consultation.”

Right now, Title I services are available to private schools through the process I outlined above. Private schools cannot receive actual funds, which is what this Ted Cruz legislation would change.

So just to clarify, private schools (not homeschools classified as private schools under state law) can currently receive certain Title I services for low income and struggling students. They cannot receive actual federal dollars.

Ted Cruz’ bill, if it passed,  would allow private schools that are accredited by the states (and which pass all of the fire code, safety rules, background checks, etc.) to receive certain federal funds as actual dollars.

This should end any fear among the bloggers. The private school has to essentially spend months begging for any federal funds. They’re not going to be surprised by offers for largesse from the local public schools, who are the entities which would decide who will receive these federal Title I dollars, both under current law, and under any changes from bill’s like Senator Cruz’, in the highly unlikely event it became law.

Please see the attached document, and I would recommend that we forward this to anyone who thinks Senator Cruz’ bill will allow homeschoolers to receive federal Title I dollars.

Please let me know if you would like more details about this.

Will Estrada

Director of Federal Relations

Home School Legal Defense Association

Federal Title I guidance for private schools

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