NH House Floor debate of HB595, 1/5/2011
Transcribed by Chris Hamilton
From the audio file at the General Court website
PM Audio, starting at 1:17:30
Speaker O’Brien: The Majority of the Committee on Education, to which was referred HB 598 [sic], an act amending the compulsory school attendance statute to permit parent to direct an instruction program and repealing the home education statute, having considered the same, report the same with the following resolution: Resolved that it is Inexpedient to Legislate, Representative Ralph G. Boehm for the Majority of the Committee. The Minority of the Committee, having considered the same and being unable to agree with the Majority Report with the recommendation that the bill Ought to Pass, Representative J. R. Hoell for the Minority of the Committee.
Speaker: The chair recognizes Representative Manuse for the purposes of a motion.
[long pause until 1:19:15]
Speaker: The question before the House is the adoption of the Majority Committee Report of Inexpedient to Legislate. The chair recognizes the Honorable Member from Farmington, Representative Pitre, for purposes of addressing the question.
Representative Pitre: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Honorable Colleagues. There were three bills retained by the House Education Committee, HB301, 545, 595. HB545 was used as the vehicle to incorporate the best attributes of each bill. Unfortunately, 13 of the 15 members of the new statutory committee of 595, which would replace the Home Education Advisory Council, they would be students and not parents. This is like putting the inmates in charge of the asylum. Students would be clearly less intellectually mature on educational matters. HB545 as amended balances the membership and voting on the House Education Advisory Council by making the two legislators and the senator non-voting members. There would be no notification of school districts in HB595. A compromise of notification to homeschool was made commencing a home education program…in other words, when you start a home education program, or withdraw from a public school, or enter a school district, then you would have to notify. Federal law requires that school districts to follow prescribed protocol for special education students. If you don’t notify, and they are on a special education roll, then the school district can be sued for not providing an adequate education by the parents. That is a problem. That’s Title 20, US C, if you check on it. The rule-making and policy-making authority of the school district officials concerning home education pupils will be limited by HB545. Rules or policies that are inconsistent or more restrictive than the provisions of the bill are prohibited. Some people feel that New Hampshire must provide its children an education by our constitution. Society, I believe, needs to make sure that kids have an education. If they don’t, they’ll end up probably in county jail or state prison. HB allows the possibility that NH children will not be educated. Therefore I ask you to ITL HB595. Thank you.
Speaker: The question before the House is the adoption of the Majority Committee Report of Inexpedient to Legislate on HB595. The chair recognizes the Honorable gentleman from Derry, Representative Manuse, to speak to the Committee Report.
Representative Manuse: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, Members of the House. We just heard an analogy…
Speaker: Would the member suspend and please come to sidebar?
Speaker: The member may proceed.
Representative Manuse: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We just heard an analogy that allowing parents to control the education of their children is akin to putting inmates in charge of the asylum. I find that idea repugnant. Natural law indicates that parents are the primary and only authority over their own children, particularly for their education and specifically for their education. Article 2 of Part I of our constitution indicates as such. Natural rights are inalienable; they’re to be protected at all times unless there’s some element of forfeiture in which case it’s abundantly clear, and the state has to prove it, that the parent’s unfit to be in that responsibility. But otherwise parents are the inviable [sic] authority over their children, and the state has no place over those children, which if the parent does not agree to the education that child is receiving. Now, this bill…we amended…and if we defeat this motion, I will have an amendment for you to consider, which was the same amendment as the Committee had at the time of its deliberations on this. It is true that HB545 passed on the Consent Calendar, but in my opinion it did not go far enough. This is one of those cases where we have a clear natural right here, where parents are responsible for their children’s education, and when they choose to take their children out of the public school, or put them into a private school, or homeschool them, they’re doing that because they don’t trust the public school system to educate their children the way that they want them to be educated. And it’s the parent’s right to do that. I know what’s better for my daughter than the state does, and if I think that public education is not suitable for my daughter, it’s my right and responsibility to find a suitable alternative. And private schooling is certainly one alternative; homeschooling is another. And there really…It befuddles me that anyone would disagree with that, frankly. I don’t understand it. It’s beyond my comprehension. So I really think that with this amendment, the amendment that’s coming, this bill would essentially allow parents to homeschool their children according to their own wishes, as is their natural right, under the constitution. We don’t even need the constitution – it’s a natural right before the constitution. Why do we have to notify the state? What is the state’s role in this? I don’t understand. The parent has to notify the state that the child is going to school, going to public school; that makes sense to me. But if the child isn’t going to go to public school, why do they have to notify them? The state doesn’t even know the child exists. They shouldn’t need to. The parent is responsible for the education… If you can prove that the child is not being educated, and you have evidence, and you have probable cause, then you can get a warrant and do some research, and find out that the parent isn’t actually doing the education, and the child is suffering as a result, then by all means, send the kid to public school. The state has a right to step in, and this bill would allow for that. But those cases are so few and far between. If a parent chooses to homeschool, it’s because they’re good at it. I know many homeschooling parents, and many of them are in this house. Their children learn more than kids do in public schools. It’s just a fact. There’s evidence to prove it. So I ask you to oppose this motion of ITL, so that I can put another motion forward to pass this bill as amended. Thank you.
[NOTE: for the benefit of the reader, the text of Part I, Article II of the NH Constitution is included at the end of this transcript.]
Speaker: Question? Does the member yield for a question?...The member does not yield. The question before the House is the adoption of the Majority Committee Report of Inexpedient to Legislate. The chair recognizes Representative Lauer-Rago to speak to the question.
Representative Lauer-Rago: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Fellow legislators, I rise today in support of the Committee Recommendation of ITL for HB595. The subcommittee, which I was on, reviewed three homeschool bills over the summer. And after listening to testimony, we determined that the best solution of all three homeschool bills would be to use HB545 as the compromise vehicle. HB301 was ITL’d on Consent, and we just passed HB545 on the Consent as well. There were three issues that the Home School [sic] Education Advisory Council wanted us to put in the compromise bill. The section of 595 [sic] that stated that it’s a parent’s natural right to determine and direct the education of their children was one. That was included in HB545. And as a former homeschooling parent, I strongly concur with that. The second item was that the Home School Education Advisory Council did not want to completely eliminate the home education statute, but to be an integral part of the process, having final say in rules. That was also included on HB545. We also changed the annual notification to a one-time notification, which is also in HB545. The Committee does not believe that HB595 is needed, and I ask you to press the green button in support of ITL. Thank you.
Speaker: The question before the House is the adoption of the Majority Committee Report of Inexpedient to Legislate on HB595.Are you ready for the question?
[voice from the floor] Division.
Speaker: Request a division? Representative Pitre requests a division. This will be a division vote. Will members please take their seats.
[Sergeant-at-Arms announces division vote in the hallway]: Division
Speaker: Rep Jones requests a roll-call vote. Is that sufficiently seconded? That is sufficiently seconded. This will be a roll-call vote. Will members proceed to their seats.
[Sergeant-at-Arms announces roll-call vote in the hallway]: Roll-call.
Speaker: The House will come to order. The question before the House is the adoption of the Majority Committee Report of Inexpedient to Legislate on HB595. This is a roll-call vote. The chair recognizes Representative Boehm for a parliamentary inquiry.
Representative Boehm: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And Mr. Speaker, if I know that yesterday we just passed a comprehensive home education bill in the Consent Calendar, HB545; and Mr. Speaker, if I know that the majority of the home education … home educators and the Home Education Advisory Council wants the home education laws and rules as amended in HB545 for their protection, and HB595 does away with that protection; and if Mr. Speaker, if I know that the Home Education Subcommittee voted unanimously to ITL HB595; and Mr. Speaker, if I know that the Education Committee voted in a bi-partisan vote of 12-2 to ITL this bill, so you now join me in pressing the green button to ITL this bill? Thank you.
Speaker: The question before the House is the adoption of the Majority Committee Report of Inexpedient to Legislate. If you’re in favor of adopting the Majority Committee Report, you’ll press the green button. If you’re opposed, you’ll press the red button. Voting stations will be open for 30 seconds.
Speaker: The House will be attentive to the state of the vote. 263 members having voted in the affirmative, 82 in the negative, the Committee Report is adopted.
http://www.nh.gov/constitution/billofrights.html[Art.] 2. [Natural Rights.] All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights - among which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property; and, in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this state on account of race, creed, color, sex or national origin.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1974 adding sentence to prohibit discrimination.