Home Education Advisory Council–HEAC

The Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) meets monthly to discuss homeschooling issues. Established by RSA 193-A (home education law), the HEAC exists to carry out duties assigned to it by the Commissioner of Education, and to advise the Commissioner and State Board of Education about issues facing home educators in New Hampshire.
The Council –
includes representatives of:
homeschooling organizations in New Hampshire; currently NHHC (NH Homeschooling Coalition), CHENH (Christian Home Educators of NH), and CUHE (Catholics United for Home Education), Unschooling NH, and Seacoast Christian Home Educators, have representatives on the Council.
NH Legislature
NH Department of Education
NH School Boards Association
NH School Administrators Association (Superintendents)
NH Association of School Principals
Nonpublic Schools Advisory Council
meets in Concord monthly September through June
establishes common ground and maintains communication between education institutions and home educators
works to find solutions to problems before they escalate to the level of needing hearings, court, or legislative remedies
can hear grievances and make recommendations to the Commissioner
drafts language for Ed 315, Administrative Rules for Home Education, which clarify the details of RSA 193-A and have the force of law. The Council recommends rules changes to the NH Board of Education which approves them.

The Council gives NH homeschoolers a voice at the Department of Education, helps legislators on education committees understand the breadth and depth of home education, and allows us to participate in the rulemaking process. The council is also a way to allow home educators to understand the challenges faced by the state and school district officials who serve us. It provides an effective venue for solving problems that are difficult to solve at the local level.

In 2009 the House Education Committee tried to insert egregious language into RSA 193-A. Those bills were defeated in the legislature due to the action of 1,000+ homeschoolers who showed up at the State House to testify against it. At that point the Chair of the House Education Committee tried to insert the same language into Ed 315. It was due to the watchful eye of Council members that this subversion of the political process was avoided.

If you want to be informed of homeschooling issues and lend support to our representatives, attend a meeting. The HEAC meets on the second Thursday of the month, 3:30-5:00, room 15, Department of Education (there are no meetings in July and August). If you have questions about the HEAC, please contact the Chair, Amy Gall, (603) 838-5081, amyginnh@yahoo.com. Check http://www.education.nh.gov/instruction/school_improve/home_ed/heac.htm at the Department of Education website.  Visitors are not allowed to participate in Council discussion unless given special permission.
Report from the Home Education Advisory Council, February 2017
I am pleased to report that the only current vacancy on the HEAC is a Department of Education seat. The remaining home educators’ seats prescribed by law have been filled by David Menard of CHENH, and Janet Ellis of Seacoast Christian Home Educators.

The Home Education Advisory Council has experienced an uptick in meeting attendees over the past few months. Much discussion has centered around the issue of DCYF involvement in investigating alleged cases of home-educational neglect. Council members have heard from an increasing number of individuals involved with DCYF for reports of educational neglect since the provision for a due process hearing at the Department of Education was removed from home education law in 2012. The Department of Education was finally able to obtain statistics from DCYF regarding their investigation of educational neglect cases over the past three years, but unfortunately those numbers are a combined total of all schooling methods and not particular to home education. It is notable that only 10% of allegations are found to be substantiated, and a suggestion was made to have that small number of cases reviewed to determine how many are related to homeschooling. Other suggestions brought forth by meeting attendees include approaching the legislature to reinstate the due process hearing through the DOE, and transfer of jurisdiction for home-educational neglect allegations from DCYF to the DOE.

Finally, I want to draw attention to Rep. Hoell’s bill this legislative session to eliminate home education rules. Rulemaking is a function the HEAC has filled for the past 25 years to flesh out the details of the law. For instance, over the years it has become apparent that we needed to spell out that home educators are not subject to public school calendars, homeschooling does not need to coincide with regular school hours, and school districts cannot ask homeschooling parents for more than what is required by the RSA (such as immunization records). Because these items do not go beyond the scope of the RSA we were able to include them in the rules, which have the force of law. In every instance of rules revision, the HEAC has ensured that the rules protect home educators from government over-reach.

When Rep. Hoell’s bill text became available after the January 12 HEAC meeting there was still no public hearing date scheduled. However, the hearing happened just 10 days later, and the homeschooling community was only made aware of the date on the afternoon before the hearing occurred. The hearing took place during a snowstorm bad enough to close schools in northern and central New Hampshire, and even Chairman Ladd of the House Education Committee was unable to get there. Rep. Hoell has expressed his belief that eliminating the rules will increase the ability of home educators to participate in the legislative decision-making process; others disagree.

Executive session on HB395 is scheduled for February 8, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. in LOB 207. Members of the public can register their position on this bill with House Education Committee members; a list of HEC members can be found on the General Court website at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?c… .

Respectfully submitted,
Amy Gall, Chair