Attorney Dan Beasley says while House Bill 832 appears to be well-intended, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is concerned about the implications it would have for homeschoolers.
"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 explains.
Delegate Sheila Ruth (D-Baltimore County) introduced House Bill 832 on February 3rd.
"It would create a homeschool advisory council in the state Department of Education, and the purpose would be to gather information on the needs of homeschool parents and homeschool umbrella schools," the HSLDA attorney relays. "The council would meet four times a year, and they would –quote— 'advise the state superintendent, the state board, the general assembly, and the governor on matters related to homeschooling.'"
Bethany Mandel, a conservative writer and homeschool mother in Maryland, is also concerned. She points out that the people chosen on the council are chosen by the Department of Education and should not be expected to be "your average freedom-loving homeschooler."
"They're going to start proposing some new regulations and some new hoops to jump through, and they're going to claim when they face opposition, 'This was recommended to us by homeschoolers; this is what we were told you people wanted,'" Mandel predicts. "This is going to provide them cover in order to make them more easily able to pass more regulations on homeschoolers."
16 seats would make up the council.
"I think every state has been seeing an exodus of people from the public school system because of how they've handled COVID, and so I think a lot of homeschoolers who were homeschooled before COVID had a feeling that they would try to come for the homeschoolers next and come for our freedoms next," says Mandel. "They realize that they are losing their market share … so I think we all sort of figured that they were going to make homeschooling more difficult, and this was the first step in Maryland."
Several members of the Maryland House of Delegates have since written a letter asking Delegate Ruth to withdraw the legislation.
"We have a page on our website dedicated to informing Maryland residents about this bill and encouraging them to contact both the sponsor of the bill and the members of the House Ways and Means Committee, where the bill is," Beasley notes. "The next step … would be a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, and that's on March 3rd."
Ruth did not respond to AFN's email seeking comment.