June 28th, 2018
By: Nathan Pierce and Roy Hanson – Private & Home Educators of California (PHE)
We are very thankful for the tremendous victories that God gave us this year with the defeat of AB 2756 and the defeat of AB 2926.
Our experienced Legislative Liaison, Nathan Pierce, and part-time PHE staff were tracking thousands of bills daily so that we might know at the earliest possible time of all bills threatening homeschoolers’ freedoms. When the Turpin family case became a major item in California and national media in January, we anticipated new legislation that aimed to further regulate private homeschooling. We were aware of and already working on this issue before most people had ever heard of it. In preparation, we researched and tracked legislation, personally contacted legislators, their staff and other key capitol staff, and watched for comments in the news from the representatives who said they would introduce legislation to regulate homeschooling. We also stayed informed on the rest of the California Legislature by monitoring (among other things) the websites, Twitter feeds, press releases, and legislation of every California state legislator.
“[The legislators] have never seen something like this. They have never seen so many people come down and testify on one bill.”
-Assemblyman Kevin Kiley
First, as introduced, AB 2756 required home fire inspections of private homeschoolers’ residences at least once a year – which we were able to get the author to drop before the hearing. Second, AB 2756 also included a provision that would have separated private home-based schools from private campus schools with the stated intent of adding future regulations to home-based private schools. It was this second provision that was in question at the April 25th hearing.
As bad as AB 2756 was, AB 2926 was the most potentially destructive bill to homeschooling this year. This amendment would have created a committee to consider further regulations on private homeschoolers, including requiring certified teachers (i.e. credentialed parents) for private homeschools. The passage of AB 2926 could have easily resulted in: (1) private homeschooling being separated from the current private school exemption; (2) private homeschooling being further regulated; (3) regulations making private homeschooling virtually impossible for most parents; (4) the elimination of 30 years of work done by PHE in teamwork with you to protect the right to privately home educate; (5) the loss of the exclusion from vaccination requirements; and (6) losing the due process protections for all private homeschools. We are thankful that the opposition to AB 2926 was so great that the author pulled the bill from its assigned hearing and decided not to attempt to push it forward.
In the months that followed, Nathan met with the staff of the authors of AB 2756 and AB 2926, and other Assembly members numerous times to ask them questions, give them information, and explain what their bills would and would not do in hopes of convincing the authors to withdraw their bills. Nathan provided a friendly and reassuring face that represented the private homeschooling community and our case that California homeschoolers do not need to be regulated further. Because of these regular visits, and others over the past 15 years, Nathan is known more and more as the familiar face at the Capitol that they trust to give them the facts about private homeschooling and any related legislation.
The week before the hearing, Nathan Pierce took a group of local homeschool families to the Capitol to visit each legislator who would be in the committee hearing for AB 2756. These families impressed the legislative staff with their professionalism, knowledge about the bill, and the quality of the informational materials they brought. Even through the toughest weeks leading up to the hearing, God was already showing us what a great victory He could bring about.
The day of the hearing, April 25th, 2018
Homeschool families started lining up at the entrance of the hearing room at 7:30 a.m., even though it did not open for seating until 1 p.m. At first there were just a few but they just kept coming. It was a long morning, waiting in the hallways all those hours, but our anticipation of a possible positive outcome later that day combined with the immoveable, faithful parents and students surrounding us (and wrapping around the hallways down to the next floor) kept everyone’s spirits high and hopeful.
The Assembly Education Committee took up their Special Order of Business scheduled for 1:30 p.m. – AB 2756. Medina presented his bill, the supporting key witnesses gave their testimonies, and then the two allowed opposing key witnesses, including Nathan Pierce of PHE, gave their allotted 2-minute testimonies. Next, about 2,000 parents and children lined up at the microphones to state their names and their opposition.
As the opposition testimonies finally concluded, Education Committee Chairman O’Donnell said, “Thank you Mr. Medina. And for those who came today, thank you for being part of the process. Thank you for one of the longer hearings I have participated in. Period. Ever.”
As the committee did not have a quorum to vote right after the testimonies, Nathan stayed another three hours to observe the final conclusion and answer any questions from any committee member about AB 2756. At about 8 p.m., Chairman O’Donnell asked for a motion on AB 2756 (a motion and a second are required in order to start taking a vote on a bill). The members had been making motions all afternoon and evening on various bills, and yet when Assemblyman O’Donnell asked for a motion on AB 2756, he had to ask a second time. After an uncomfortable silence he said, “We do not have a motion, so the file item number one [AB 2756] fails.” Not one of the committee members wanted to even hint that they were supportive of AB 2756 by making a motion to vote on the bill.
After the hearing
After the hearing ended, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, the Vice Chairman of the committee, personally congratulated Nathan, saying, “That was amazing, and that turn out was very impressive. I’ve been having people tell me this afternoon that in their 30 years in the California Legislature they have never seen something like this. They have never seen so many people come down and testify on one bill.”
The hearing room’s sergeant, who was in charge of the room’s security that day, walked Nathan out since he was the last one in the room and needed to lock up. As he did so, he mentioned to Nathan that he should be very proud of the victory we had achieved that day, but not just because of the bill dying. He told Nathan that he should be proud of his people that came out to participate. He said, “Your people were very calm and handled themselves very well and very professionally. You’ve got great people. The members will not easily forget what happened here today.”
We praise God for this victory and for using this trial to strengthen our homeschool communities and raise our voice in unison! We are very thankful for California home-schoolers and all who helped with our efforts to oppose AB 2756 and AB 2926. Thank you to all those who made calls, wrote letters, spread the word, and/or showed up to the capitol on the hearing day.