With the number of homeschooling families surging at an unprecedented rate, lawmakers in Maryland are considering a new plan to create a controversial new “Advisory Council” that would oversee and gather data on homeschoolers. Home educators and their advocates are sounding the alarm, warning that it could be a tool to introduce regulation and control over home education in the state.
Under the House Bill 832 plan, introduced by Democrat State Delegate Sheila Ruth, the new “Advisory Council” would gather information and “advise the state superintendent, the state board, the general assembly, and the governor on matters related to homeschooling.” Members of the body would be selected by the state Department of Education.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which represents hundreds of thousands of homeschooling families nationwide, immediately sounded the alarm about the legislation and its proposed Maryland Homeschool Advisory Council. Among other concerns, HSLDA Attorney Dan Beasley warned that the measure was both unnecessary and a “threat to liberty.”
“Our primary concern is that creating an official designated voice to speak for homeschoolers minimizes the voice of grassroots homeschooling families and organizations that are committed to preserving liberty,” Beasley was quoted as saying in media reports about the proposal, adding that homeschooling has thrived because it empowers parents to provide a customized education to their children.
HSLDA already has a page on its website to inform homeschooling families in Maryland about the controversial measure and allow them to contact lawmakers. It appears to be having an impact. According to news reports, multiple lawmakers have already asked Del. Ruth to withdraw the legislation. There will be a hearing on March 3 about it in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Delegate Ruth, the sponsor of the bill to create the council, refused to respond to multiple requests for comment from various media organizations. However, in a statement posted on her website after sparking a firestorm of controversy nationwide and across the state, she said the proposed body would not have any authority to regulate homeschooling.
“It would simply act as a liaison between the homeschool community and the Maryland State Department of Education,” she said on her website. “It would not put any requirements on home-school parents. You would still be free to educate your children as you currently are, according to your personal beliefs and home-schooling methods.”
The controversial proposal comes amid growing efforts by totalitarians in the United States and around the world to crack down on homeschooling and centralize control over education. Following the lead of mass-murdering National Socialist dictator Adolph Hitler, the first leader to criminalize homeschooling, a number of European nations have outlawed the practice in recent years.
In the United States, a powerful alliance of leftwing attorneys led by Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet are working to do the same. Bartholet, who purports to advocate for children, wrote an article in which she called for a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling. A conference she organized at Harvard to coordinate the assault on home educators was cancelled. But she is not giving up.
There should be no doubt about the true intent of this and other similar measures: Get the camel’s nose under the tent as a starting point to regulate and eventually crush educational freedom in general and home education in particular. But with homeschoolers now a very potent political force even in liberal states, the battle is far from over.