Two lawmakers proposed amending the Texas Constitution to shore up protections for private and home school students from state and local regulations.
State Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) filed Senate Joint Resolution 33 (SJR 33) Wednesday. House Representative Mark Keough (R-The Woodlands) offered the identical HJR 62 Thursday. Each legislator hopes to get his resolution onto the November 7, 2017 ballot for voters. A constitutional amendment only makes it there if it first receives a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Texas Legislature.
The purpose of this amendment is to “reaffirm our promise of home school freedom and set that promise in stone,” Huffines told Breitbart Texas in a written statement. “SJR 33 affirmatively promises that state government will not regulate home schools through school choice or any other educational program,” he said.
“These communities play an invaluable role in our educational system and need to be able to operate free of government interference. That’s the whole point, and we need to safeguard these opportunities for future generations of students,” said Huffines, a homeschool parent of five children. He punctuated the importance of barring any seemingly current or future state and local government regulations over private and home school families as one of his top priorities.
“Getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot is no easy task, but I’m optimistic that I will have support from my colleagues and that all Texans will get to have their voices heard at the ballot box in November,” Huffines added.
— Senator Don Huffines (@DonHuffines) January 25, 2017
The proposed resolution would amend Article 7 of the Texas Constitution, which pertains to education, by adding a section that reads:
Sec. 3-d. An agency of the state government, including the legislature, or a political subdivision or agency of a political subdivision of this state may not regulate the educational program of a private school or home school in this state.
SJR 33 and HJR 62 mirror a 2013 House resolution, HJR 45, filed by Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford). It intended to prohibit the state from regulating private schools. These new amendments specify home school as an independent category of schooling. While the Texas Education Agency (TEA) does not regulate private or home schools in Texas, “non-public” private schools must be accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission. Home school is considered non-accredited private school and not governed by state compulsory public education laws.
“Texas is known for having a great homeschool environment. SJR 33 will constitutionally ensure the freedom home school enjoys is not taken away,” Huffines said, echoing sentiments from the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), a nonprofit support and advocacy organization. Breitbart Texas reported they called the Lone Star State “one of the most favorable for home educators in the United States,” underscoring, “here people are free to determine the course of their children’s education.”
Breitbart Texas inquired if SJR 33 was a reaction to education savings accounts (ESA), tax credit scholarships, and the Tebow bill filed in the 85th Legislature that raised concerns about liberties for some in the homeschool community.
“Out of the 100,000 homeschool families in Texas, I have certainly heard from a vocal minority of homeschool parent and advocates who are concerned about the implications of the ESA bill,” noted Huffines. “SJR 33 is responsive to these concerns, but it’s bigger than that, too. It’s important for us to safeguard the private and home school communities who contribute so much to students and parents in Texas.”
In response to SJR 33, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) Executive Vice President Dr. Kevin Roberts issued a statement. “The Foundation exists to promote liberty—especially for parents and their children—so we love the spirit of this proposal,” said Roberts. “As a homeschooling parent myself, I applaud this idea.”
THSC supports SJR 33 and HJR 62 as they did HJR 45, although it never made it of the House Education Committee. The national Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) also weighed in favorably for the “concept of a constitutional amendment to protect homeschool freedom,” but added: “We are currently neutral because of the vague wording of the proposed amendment and because of its possible effect on other education legislation expected to be introduced this session.”
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