Final Comments on HB832 for Your Consideration - Feb 28, 2022



Febuary 28, 2022


Dear Homeschool Friends and Homeschool Allies,

Thank you for your great feedback on the statement I sent this past weekend on my opposition to HB832 and proposal for an alternative solution. (http://tea-education.com/why-i-oppose-a-state-homesc.html)

Many comments were like these: ‘It sounded like a good idea until I read your points,’ ‘I assumed the council idea had been discussed first by homeschoolers,’ and ‘Maybe we don’t fully understand what grassroots advocacy means.’

In light of your feedback, I submit these final comments ahead of Thursday’s hearing on HB832. Remember, the only/best way to register your opposition to the bill now is ONLINE - TUES MARCH 1st - 8AM to 3PM - on a myMGA Account that you create asap. That info is pasted at the bottom.

Final Comments on HB832 for Your Consideration

***1—Are homeschoolers aware that the Maryland State Homeschool Advisory Council would NOT be
a freestanding, autonomous homeschool council, but actually part of the Maryland State Department
of Education?
The council is not a homeschool council that includes some MSDE members, but an MSDE
council that includes homeschool members. Statutorily placing what should be freestanding, autonomous homeschool advocacy under MSDE's framework and making it the supposed ‘legal voice’ of homeschooling in
MD in exchange for quarterly council meetings is a chilling thought that I don’t think most homeschoolers have taken into consideration. Statutorily entangling MD homeschool advocacy with MSDE, including government voting members, will negatively impact our advocacy power and voice, our homeschool freedom, and make us much more vulnerable to bad actors. This is NOT speaking from fear, but from the reality of the proposed situation.

2—If a MSDE Homeschool Advisory Council is created to look into the needs of homeschool students,
that means that ANYONE can bring their concerns to the council
, including those like teachers’ unions, school boards, adversarial state legislators, and countless others who believe homeschooling does NOT meet the needs of our children. This is one of the many unintended consequences a MSDE State Homeschool Advisory Council could easily and very predictably lead to.

3--Why add all of the unelected ‘gatekeeping’ of a council when diverse homeschoolers can speak directly with MSDE if given the advocacy tools to do so? Or if homeschoolers reconvene general meetings once held with MSDE? Why create an artificial ‘legally-recognized’ voice of MD homeschooling? Why make this more complicated and susceptible to negative outcomes than it needs to be? The example of every other state demonstrates that homeschool advocacy is conducted without a statutorily-created council within their State Department of Education (even in NH’s case, which is highly specific).

4—Why is HB832 being rushed to a vote this session when the idea of a council came out of the blue less than a month ago? We need to start over and begin a robust, inclusive conversation within the homeschool community on “How to increase HS access / influence with MSDE" before taking steps to pass a bill this session. We haven’t been given the opportunity to have this wider conversation, and it has put us in this ‘clock-ticking’ dilemma where a decision might be made without all options being thoroughly discussed by the widest number of people possible. If the idea is sound, it will withstand a year of genuine discussion and be reintroduced next session. If it is not and becomes law now, it will be extremely difficult to remove from the statutory code.

5—Is this council our only option? Do we need a law creating a State HS Advisory Council within MSDE? -OR- Do we need a law requiring MSDE to host regular public town halls with the HS community? -OR- Do HSers need

to be better equipped for individual/group grassroots advocacy as in all other states? HB832 is the extreme,

pitfall-fraught way to address the question of how to increase access to MSDE, and won’t solve the matter as its supporters are hoping, and actually will create worse problems.

Warmest wishes as you love and learn together with your precious kiddos! Wendy Bush ~ director@TEA-Education.com

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Below is copied from my original statement:
Another Solution and March 3rd Zoom Hearing

Another Solution:

Every benefit the bill seeks to offer can be accomplished without a new state HS law that prescribes how we advocate with MSDE and gives the state voting power in the decisions. We must increase and expand our grassroots advocacy as the solution for anyone who has said they’d like to have a voice in HS matters in Maryland. It can result in an unlimited number of diverse people able to advocate for HSing now and continuing into future generations.

--Increasing MSDE Access: The homeschool community needs to host OPEN meetings with MSDE themselves. In the past, MSDE and the county HS liaisons enthusiastically participated in meetings with umbrellas held by MACHE (once a 4,000-member group until it closed this past year when its leaders retired).

It was HSers who dropped the ball in continuing these meetings. We must resume them in a different format, increase their frequency, and expand them to include HS families, not just umbrellas. I have no doubt that the unexpected roar of HS voices heard by the General Assembly and MSDE about this bill, with the support of our legislative allies, will cause MSDE to agree to resume these meetings with the HS community.

--Advocacy Toolkits: We must create HS Advocacy Toolkits freely available to the HS community so everyone
can learn how to personally advocate on the state and county levels. These would be nonpartisan, online information tools that everyone can support and use. Those of us who have been dealing with MSDE for decades can describe how the agencies work and how to advocate directly. It also would include Information Pages of people to contact within MSDE, MHEC, Nonpublic School Approval Branch, MBOE; info on using the MD Register; running history
of changes to the HS COMAR, list of MD Facebook groups and other communication channels; etc. I’m prepared to coordinate this effort and ensure it is available as a free resource to everyone.

This is the grassroots eternal vigilance advocacy that we know we can rely on. I’d rather trust it than entrust our future HS freedoms to an untried MSDE State council with government voting members that we cannot elect, cannot remove, doesn’t answer to anyone, and has no accountability to the homeschool community that it is supposed to speak for.

***March 3rd ZOOM Hearing on HB 832: Must register before & upload on March 1st***

Del Ruth and her colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee are eager to see the extent of support for or opposition to HB832. It is vital for you to register your position on the MD General Assembly website on Tuesday, March 1 from 8am to 3pm, the only window to do so. The input on March 1 will become part
of the
Zoom hearing on March 3 and determine who the live speakers will be at the Zoom hearing that day.

This ACTION is for anyone concerned about the bill, not just homeschool parents! And, you DO NOT have to sit in on the Zoom hearing on March 3rd to register your opposition on March 1st. Those opposed should register their position as ‘Oppose’ and choose to offer Both oral and written testimony, written testimony only, or no testimony at all. ‘No testimony’ (none) will enter your opposition to the bill without any accompanying statement, and is perfectly fine. If you choose to upload a statement, it can be as short as one sentence, or you can draw from things you’ve read in other comments about the bill. Don’t be shy! Numbers are important!


Steps to Register to Oppose the Bill: Must be done on Tuesday, March 1st from 8am to 3pm ONLY
 

 

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PDF file of above information for downloading and sharing




Why I Oppose A State Homeschool Advisory Council 
and Proposal for 
Another Solution
by Wendy Bush, Director of The Excelsior Academy 
Homeschool mom advocate since helping pass homeschool regulations in 1984 

Febuary 26, 2022

PLEASE FREE TO COPY AND DISTRIBUTE! (PDF file for download


Text of HB 0832: https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2022RS/bills/hb/hb0832f.pdf
 
My friend, Del Sheila Ruth, introduced HB832 on February 3rd. I’ve known Sheila since 2007 when she enrolled her son in The Excelsior Academy (TEA). She’s a very down-to-earth, gentle spirit and when we spoke about the bill, she assured me it was well-intended. Sheila assumed the bill would be well-received by homeschoolers when a mutual friend and HS advocate brought the bill to her asking her to sponsor it. Unfortunately for Sheila, she didn’t realize the bill would be seen as an existential threat by so many diverse HSers and result in the overwhelming outcry of concern her office has received.
 
Surprisingly, the draft for this bill was brought to Del Ruth before the idea of a council was offered for discussion within the HS community and now it’s to be voted on quickly before the end of this session. Such an untested, novel idea needs to be thoroughly researched and discussed within our community first – not rushed to a vote to become law within a few months’ time after the idea was first even broached. And not when it has generated so much concern, and with so many homeschoolers just hearing about it now. We need to apply the brakes to allow an in-depth, unhurried conversation – on the same channels currently used to discuss HB832 plus many, many more. There is no reason to rush and force such a novel, untested idea into statute, especially when no other state has one except NH. Because once it is passed, it would be extremely difficult to remove from MD statutory language.
 
Concerns with HB832: Diminishes Power/Voice of Grassroots Homeschoolers; Has Intentions Not Enforced by the Language in the Bill
 
1--HB832 makes it far too easy for MD State Department of Education (MSDE) to choose to ignore the voices of all HSers except those on the council. The council will be seen as the ‘legal voice’, the primary voice, perhaps the only voice of HSers, making it harder for grassroots HSers to advocate with any effectiveness and be heard by MSDE, especially when they disagree with the council. The council becomes another layer of bureaucracy that grassroots HSers must work through to advocate for their positions, instead of just going directly to MSDE.
 
2—The council has NO accountability to the homeschool community whatsoever. It is an entity answerable only to itself. It is NOT a representative council, but an appointed one, starting with four appointed by Del Ruth and two state and two county government employees who have voting rights. These initial members then choose all remaining HS council members, and the council chooses its successors, making it a self-perpetuating body – which can easily devolve into a clique or an ideologically narrow group despite outward diversity.  
 
3—The council is NOT required to be transparent or accessible to the HS community beyond the open meeting laws of the State (attend/watch meetings, access meeting documents on State website, ask questions during comment time at meeting). The bill makes no requirement that the council make itself or its work further transparent/accessible to the HS community for input, discussion, information sharing, explanations of actions, etc.    
 
4—HSers have no veto power over council actions or decisions. The bill gives HSers no method of removing council members whose actions jeopardize HS freedoms.
 
5—And, HB832 does NOT include any language that forces MSDE to engage with council members in good faith with full transparency, as some maintain. It does NOT force MSDE to “share accurate and timely information with the council” as some say, or include us in their decision-making.  
 
No Amendments Can Make It Beneficial:
 
Because the core idea of a HS Advisory Council imposed by state law is fundamentally flawed, no amendments of any kind will make it beneficial to our HS liberties in MD. The council would weaken our grassroots power at best and potentially could lead to poor or seriously damaging decisions for us at the worst, with no grassroots recourse.   
 
Another Solution:
 
Every benefit the bill seeks to offer can be accomplished without a new state HS law that prescribes how we advocate with MSDE and gives the state voting power in the decisions. We must increase and expand our grassroots advocacy as the solution for anyone who has said they’d like to have a voice in HS matters in Maryland. It can result in an unlimited number of diverse people able to advocate for HSing now and continuing into future generations.
 
--Increasing MSDE Access: In the past, MSDE and the county HS liaisons enthusiastically participated in meetings with umbrellas held by MACHE (once a 4,000-member group until it closed this past year when its leaders retired). It was HSers who dropped the ball in continuing these meetings. We must resume them in a different format, increase their frequency, and expand them to include HS families, not just umbrellas. I have no doubt that the unexpected roar of HS voices heard by the General Assembly and MSDE about this bill, with the support of our legislative allies, will cause MSDE to agree to resume these meetings with the HS community.  
 
--Advocacy Toolkits: We must create HS Advocacy Toolkits freely available to the HS community so everyone can learn how to personally advocate on the state and county levels. These would be nonpartisan, online information tools that everyone can support and use. Those of us who have been dealing with MSDE for decades can describe how the agencies work and how to advocate directly. It also would include Information Pages of people to contact within MSDE, MHEC, Nonpublic School Approval Branch, MBOE; info on using the MD Register; running history of changes to the HS COMAR, list of MD Facebook groups and other communication channels; etc. I’m prepared to coordinate this effort and ensure it is available as a free resource to everyone.
 
This is the grassroots eternal vigilance advocacy that we know we can rely on. I’d rather trust it than entrust our future HS freedoms to an untried State-enacted council with government voting members that we cannot elect, cannot remove, doesn’t answer to anyone, and has no accountability to the HS community that it is supposed to speak for.


***March 3rd ZOOM Hearing on HB 832: Must register before & upload on March 1st***


Del Ruth and her colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee are eager to see the extent of support for or opposition to HB832. It is vital for you to register your position on the MD General Assembly website on Tuesday, March 1 from 8am to 3pm, the only window to do so. The input on March 1 will become part of the Zoom hearing on March 3 and determine who the live speakers will be at the Zoom hearing that day.

 
This ACTION is for anyone concerned about the bill, not just homeschool parents! And, you DO NOT have to sit in on the Zoom hearing on March 3rd to register your opposition on March 1st. Those opposed should register their position as ‘Oppose’ and choose to offer Both oral and written testimony, written testimony only, or no testimony at all. ‘No testimony’ (none) will enter your opposition to the bill without any accompanying statement, and is perfectly fine. If you choose to upload a statement, it can be as short as one sentence, or you can draw from things you’ve read in other comments about the bill. Don’t be shy! Numbers are important! 

 
Steps to Register to Oppose the Bill: Must be done on Tuesday, March 1st from 8am to 3pm ONLY
 

 
Thank you for reading! I’m semi-retired now and hope to pass my nearly four decades of accumulated knowledge on to the wonderful homeschooling parents of today so they can further build on the foundation of freedom that our generation established.
 
With much love and admiration, 😊


Wendy Bush  ~ director@TEA-Education.com

PDF file of above for information for downloading and sharing