History of Homeschooling in Oregon
(Adapted from Timeline of Oregon Homeschool Freedoms, July 2002, by Dick & Dorothy Karman)
Home schooling is legal in Oregon and has been for many years. At one time however, permission was required from the local school district. This often resulted in a great deal of confusion, as some districts granted permission readily, others grudgingly, and still others refused. Following is a history of how the home school movement began, struggled and flourished, by the Grace of God.
The Arbitrary Power of Local School Districts: In 1985, Pastor Dennis Tuuri of the Parents Education Association PAC (PEAPAC) and other home educators, worked for the passage of a home school bill that removed the arbitrary power of local school districts.
Shortcomings in the New Statute: In 1986, Pastor Tuuri, OCEANetwork's Dick Karman and others worked to ensure that administrative rules to implement the new bill did not violate the intent of the statute. While the new statute was an improvement over local jurisdiction, home schoolers were still required to test annually, there were no provisions for children with special needs and the district superintendents retained the right to remand students to school if they were not showing satisfactory educational progress.
Threat to new home school freedoms: In 1987, lobbyists from the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators introduced House Bill 3342, which would have abolished the new-found home school freedoms. Home school families, acting with information from OCEANetwork and PEAPAC, contacted their legislators. HB 3342 died in committee.
ESDs Add Their Own Administrative Rules: In 1988, Educational Service Districts (ESDs) around the state decided to come up with their own interpretation of the rules. The Joint Interim Education Committee agreed to listen to complaints from the Department of Education and the ESDs.
Outcome Based Education: In 1989, the Department of Education introduced House Bill 2551, designed to replace standardized achievement tests with tests of "essential learning skills and common knowledge," a move toward outcome-based education. PEAPAC and the OCEANetwork reminded the Department that home education laws required a nationally-normed standardized test. The bill was defeated.
Education Vouchers: In 1990, a non-legislative year, an initiative petition to legalize education vouchers would have resulted in new, more restrictive administrative rules, requiring many home educated students to return to the classroom. In the face of stiff resistance, more than 1,000 home educators came to Salem to a rally sponsored by OCEANetwork. The line to give testimony was more than five blocks long and at least three abreast. By God's grace, the home education community made huge public relations strides with the hearing officers, the Legislature, the public and the media.
Inter-scholastic activities: In 1991, PEAPAC and OCEANetwork reminded the Legislature of the irresponsible action of the Department of Education in 1990 and introduced House Bill 2820, placing into statute the definitions which were vulnerable in the administrative rules. HB 2820 eventually passed both the House and the Senate. The governor, at the request of Department of Education, vetoed the bill. House Bill 2574 passed allowing home schoolers to participate in public school inter-scholastic activities.
Home Education Steering Committee Formed: In 1992, The Home Education Steering Committee began meeting in Salem. A representative from OCEANetwork attended each meeting to ensure that home school freedoms would not suffer at the hands of this body, top-heavy with government educators.
Home school notification rules: In 1993, the ESDs introduced Senate Bill 496 to change the way notification was done. With cooperation from home education families around the state this bill stalled. House Bill 3083 would enhance the home school inter-scholastic participation law passed in 1991. It did not pass, but beneficial elements from HB 3083 were enacted any way.
Administrative Rules Under Attack: In 1994, interpretations of the administrative rules came under attack at the local level. Home education advocacy groups reminded legislators of the persecution in 1990. The memories were fading and a positive, pro-active approach was being conceived by Pastor Tuuri and the Parents Education Association.
Bill to Abolish Testing Dies in Committee: In 1995, the Parents Education Association authored HB 2998 which placed specific, beneficial definitions from administrative rules into statute where they could not easily be changed by the Department of Education. Most importantly, it abolished testing requirements. It was a step closer to less government control. The bill died in committee, but valuable groundwork was laid for future efforts.
Education Progress Definition Under Attack: In 1996, the Home Education Steering Committee began to reinterpret the rules by changing the definition of standardized tests to those with an interpreted outcome, rather than scored and compared to a national norm. The Board of Education also informed the Steering Committee that it would be changing the definition of satisfactory educational progress after the 1997 legislative session. They no longer tried to hide their intent to destroy home school freedoms.
Governor Vetoes Another Bill: In 1997, home educators worked on a bill to provide alternatives to the testing requirement before the definition of "satisfactory educational progress" could be changed. Home school parents and students lobbied extensively, and OCEANetwork joined forces with other home school organizations in Oregon. The bill passed through the Legislature with a great deal of support, but the governor vetoed the bill at the request of the education lobby.
Daytime Curfew: In 1998, communities around the state proposed daytime curfew ordinances. Home educators were successful in stopping some of the proposed ordinances, but many passed. Even lawmakers in favor of home education did not see the constitutional danger in these curfews. Also, home school families were frequently impacted by ESD's misinterpretations of administrative rules.
Home school Freedom Bill Signed Into Law: In 1999, OCEANetwork submitted a "total freedom" home school bill based on parental right to educate. The new law greatly reduced the burden of testing and provided additional freedom for special needs families. After passing the House by a large majority, the governor indicated he would veto the bill. Some compromises were made and through a united effort of hundreds of home educators from both OCEANetwork and OHEN, the governor signed HB 3013 into law.
Government Tries to Redefine "Home School": In 2000, once the administrative rules were written, the work of educating ESDs and home educators across the state began. Another threat to home school freedoms began to appear. Government schools began using the word "home school" to describe alternate education programs funded and controlled by the local schools districts.
Anti-Truancy Bill: In 2001, during the legislative session, several school districts, out of concern for truancy, submitted legislation to take away the freedoms gained in 1999 and to lower the compulsory school attendance age. OCEANetwork and OHEN pointed out the inequity of these bills. The bills died in committee. At the same time, the governor introduced The Oregon Children's Bill requiring government assessment of all families when a child is born, and government intervention if warranted. Successful lobbying by OCEANetwork and the diligence of Senator Starr resulted in making participation voluntary.
ESDs Continue to Misinterpret the Administrative Rules: In 2002, the ESDs continued to find creative ways to interpret the home school laws. OCEANetwork worked on lobbying strategies for the 2003 legislative session.
Improved Home School Freedom Bill Vetoed: In 2003, OCEANetwork and OHEN asked Senator Bruce Starr to submit a total freedom bill. By God's amazing grace, the bill passed the Senate with strong bi-partisan support and passed the House by a strong majority. However. the governor vetoed the bill.