A Long Road to NV Homeschool Freedom; 1947-Present
Here it is, 2017 and I’m sitting in a meeting of the Nevada Assembly Education Committee listening to the introduction of AB 186, a bill to lower the compulsory school attendance age from 7 to 5, mandate Kindergarten for ALL Nevada children, and force all NV Public Schools to offer PreKindergarten. As NV homeschool parents showed up and testified against the bill because of the threat to their right to decide “when” their child is ready for school it became increasingly clear that current Legislators on both sides of the aisle have NO IDEA what is currently in NV law regarding homeschooling and the justification behind the current freedom of NV Homeschooling.
I began to wonder, perhaps even homeschool parents today really don’t know the history of our homeschool law. So, in response to a Legislator’s question of how homeschooling in Nevada got to where it is today I wrote this timeline to explain how burdensome homeschool regulations were back in the day and how parents across the state worked together over 25 years to give parents the FREEDOM they enjoy to direct the education of their children without government controls!
So, here goes…
1947, amended in 1956 – first “homeschool law” in the nation passed in Nevada. This law basically said that parents could educate their children at home if they provided “satisfactory written evidence of equivalent instruction to the public schools as approved by the NV State Board of Education.”
- 4/3/17 – Correction: the actual date of the first homeschool law in the nation was 1947 in Nevada, it was amended in 1956; see page 11 of Homeschooling; The Original Option. It took 60 years for homeschool parents to gain independence from the public school system. Many thanks to Frank Schnorbus, our NV homeschool history expert for pointing out the correct year.
1982 – Two mothers “applied” to the school district in Winnemucca, NV to homeschool their children. One mother was approved because she was a Nevada certified teacher, the other mother was denied because she was not a certified teacher and the family lived within 50 miles of a local public school. That mother filed a lawsuit and lost. The reason? The district court judge ruled because the State Board of Education had never written regulations for the law in existence at the time there was no basis on which to rule in her favor. That judge also stated in his ruling that he objected to the concept of homeschooling and he “recommended” several requirements if it were to be allowed.
1983 – Parents went to the NV State Legislature requesting a change to the law allowing parents to homeschool their children without government approval. However, the Department of Education testified that they were writing regulations based on the judge’s ruling for approval by the State Board of Education. The Legislature refused to move the bill forward to allow the SBOE time to “regulate” homeschooling via the Nevada Administrative Code (NAC). The SBOE not only approved regulations following the judge’s recommendations, they added many additional conditions which turned Nevada into one of the most “over-regulated” homeschool states in the nation.
The SBOE continued to ADD to the regulations over the next 5 years. By 1990 regulations included, in part, annual education plans and “approval” of the homeschool by the local school board, birth certificates and photos of the child had to be submitted, first-time homeschoolers had to work under the oversight of a NV certified teacher, children had to be tested annually AT the local public school (not in their home where they were taught), days and minutes of teaching time equal to the public school were required, the list went on and on. But at least parents were “allowed” to homeschool.
1988-1996 – Nevada homeschool parents throughout the state began to work together to oppose the more onerous regulations. In 1991, the Superintendent of Public Instruction said during a State Board of Education meeting I attended, “You parents might be allowed to homeschool but we WILL control you!” The board, at that same meeting, established the “Northern and Southern Home School Advisory Councils to the SBOE” and attempted to use the confines of these advisory committees to control our attempts to modify regulations. But parents kept up the fight and we SLOWLY got the regulations reduced, one at at time, and by 1996 we had met our ultimate goal of eliminating the annual testing requirement as discrimination against homeschooled children and not required by law.
1997-2002 – Nevada homeschool parents had regulations we could “live with.” However, the regulations were still “more restrictive” than allowed in law simply because the State Board of Education believed they were allowed to “regulate” as they saw fit no matter what the law actually said.
1999 – AB 348 was co-sponsored by a large bi-partisan group of Legislators to establish charter schools in Nevada. The bill also authorized homeschool students to participate in public school classes and extra-curricular activities. The bill passed and was signed into law by the Governor. Homeschooled students submit a Notification of Intent to Participate in Programs and Activities (NOIPPA) when seeking to take a class or participate in an extra-curricular activity, they are not “enrolled” in the public school.
2002 – The first step towards autonomy from government control begins. The Advisory Committees were invited by the newly elected State Board of Education President to offer the “least restrictive” regulations possible under existing law to the SBOE and those would be passed. That task took two more years but by 2004 the regulations were as minimal as they could be under the existing statute.
2003 – SB 503 introduced by the Senate Committee on Finance authorized homeschool students to “participate” in NIAA sports programs in the public schools. The bill passed and was signed into by the Governor. Again, homeschool students submit a NOIPPA to the local school, they are not “enrolled” in the public school when participating in classes, activities, or sports.
2007 – A bill is introduced in the NV State Legislature, The Homeschool Freedom Bill. SB 404, sponsored by State Senator Maurice Washington (R), was a bill to “codify” existing regulations. Former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle had requested a Bill Draft Request (BDR) for homeschooling in 2006 before she left office and Senator Washington agreed to be the sponsor of the bill in 2007. Frank Schnorbus and Barbara Dragon co-authored the bill which came out of the LCB exactly as we wrote it, a major accomplishment in and of itself, and a testament to the YEARS of experience we had in rewriting regulations and getting those approved. NHN spearheaded the lobbying efforts to get the bill passed. The Superintendent of Public Instruction at the time, Dr. Keith Rheault, was supportive of the bill. In addition, then Assemblyman Mo Denis (D) was very helpful in ushering the bill through the NV Assembly. SB 404 unanimously passed both the NV Senate and Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Jim Gibbons on June 14, 2007.
During the Legislative bill process, NHN produced Answers to Good Questions to explain to Legislators why we had requested SB 404. Basically, the new law moved “homeschooling” out from under the oversight of NV State Board of Education and gave parents the right to direct the education of their child based on the age and skill level of the child as determined by the parent. By signing the Notification of Intent to Homeschool parents take FULL RESPONSIBILITY (including financial) to provide education of their child. Education neglect laws do apply to protect the interests of the child. However, to date there has never been an accusation of education neglect against a parent in Nevada who has filed an NOI to Homeschool.
L to R: Kelley Millard-Radow (NHN), Tina Goodman, Frank Schnorbus (NHN), Barbara Dragon (NHN), Governor Gibbons, Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, Carl Lucas (NHN), Kime King-Patraw, Irene Rushing. Not pictured: Elissa Wahl (NHN), Laura Seigal (NHN), Lynn Chapman, Marita Sanders
Nevada homeschool parents have worked hard to not only educate their children well but to defend their right to do so. Many parent groups have been formed throughout the state, beginning in 1983, always advancing the cause of homeschool freedom. NHN was founded in 2002 as a “statewide organization” by parents living in both the north and the south to work together to protect the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children via homeschooling. Elissa Wahl and Frank Schnorbus were two of the original founding members of NHN who dedicated their time, effort, and resources to the success of the organization. Over the last 30 years Nevada parents have also worked hand in hand with HSLDA to advocate for parents who are doing a GOOD job educating their own children, without “help” or oversight from the government.
In hindsight, it is now interesting to compare and contrast the 1947 law and the skirmishes that ensued 1983-2007 with the following statement from a Nevada Supreme Court ruling in Schwarz v. Lopez, Pages 19-20 (2016 – regarding the NV-ESA bill, SB 302) reflecting the mindset of the writers of the NV Constitution in 1864 with regards to parental rights:
“And although the debates surrounding the enactment of Article 11 reveal that the delegates discussed the establishment of a system of public education and its funding, they also noted the importance of parental freedom over the education of their children, rejected the notion of making public school attendance compulsory, and acknowledged the need to vest the Legislature with discretion over education into the future. See Debates & Proceedings of the Nevada State Constitutional Convention of 1864, at 565-77 (Andrew J. Marsh off. rep., 1866); see also Thomas W. Stewart & Brittany Walker, Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts: A Constitutional Analysis (2016) (Nevada Supreme Court Summaries), http://scholars.law.unlv.eduffivscs/950, at 12-15 (discussing the history of Nevada Constitution Article 11, Section 2).”
There are SO many details I could add to this timeline… as well as the names of ALL the parents who participated in the process over the years. But the list is long and I may forget someone! If you were one of those parents we want to say THANK YOU for all you did to ensure that future generations would not suffer the intolerable regulations of days gone by. And to all you parents just starting on your homeschool journey, WELCOME… you will succeed because you care!
~Barbara Dragon, NHN Officer Emerita
The road to education liberty for NV homeschoolers was long… but we must remain vigilant to maintain our freedom. To that end NHN keeps on working:
2009 – after a time consuming 2007 session we were hopeful 2009 would be easier… not so much.
We’re now in “defense” of any attempted changes to the new Homeschool Freedom Law. During the session NHN tracked over 2 dozen bills pertaining to “education, the family, and/or children. We focused on defeating SB292 – Child’s “Best Interests” Attorney bill and SB378 – Early Childhood Education creating a state approved prekindergarten curriculum.
SB 292 (Care – D) died in the Assembly and although SB 378 (Senate Health & Education Committee, D controlled) passed both houses, NHN lobbied Governor Jim Gibbons (R) to veto the bill which he did on 5/28/2009. Of note in the Governor’s Veto Message of SB 378 are the following statements,
- “Early childhood education is critical for mental and emotional development and school preparedness. However, this is an area that has traditionally been left to parents.” (emphasis added)
- “Requiring all state-funded preschools to follow this set curriculum would also restrict parental choice. It would allow wealthy parents to make free choices about their young child’s education but force those of less means into a program dictated by the state. This establishes unequal access to educational choices for parents of varying income levels.”
In future sessions Nevada parents will see Legislators repeatedly attempt to thwart parental choice which Governor Gibbons astutely warned against.
NHN Officers: Frank Schnorbus (Minden), Chair · Barbara Dragon (Gardnerville), Treasurer · Elissa Wahl (Las Vegas), Secretary · Carl Lucas (Lovelock) · Laura Siegal (Las Vegas) · Kelley Millard-Radow (Reno) · Missy Pique (Fallon)
2011 – Sometimes “quiet” is nice and this year proved to be just that.
In order to introduce new and returning Legislators to homeschooling and our efforts to achieve homeschool freedom, NHN drafted a Letter of Introduction that we delivered to all. Two bills did affect homeschooling in a round about way and were easily amended to protect parents and children.
- AB 171 (Benitez-Thompson, Smith – D; Denis, Kihuen – D) regarding charter schools but also would have changed our homeschool law to require homeschool parents to notify the local school district if they enrolled their child in an online public charter school. But the DOE agreed to our request to have the charter school notify the school district if a formerly homeschooled child was enrolled to avoid “another step” for the parent.
- AB 138 (Committee on Education – D controlled) was a bill “governing pupils” that deleted some “parent/child rights” language. On HSLDA’s recommendation we requested an amendment to leave the language they were trying to delete. Two of the three statutes we requested to leave on the books were not deleted per our request, one was.
NHN Officers: Frank Schnorbus, Chair; Barbara Dragon, Treasurer; Elissa Wahl, Secretary; Laura Siegal,member; Kelley Millard-Radow
2013 – NHN joined with ParentalRights.org to introduce the “Fundamental Parental Rights” bill.
We asked Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis (D) to sponsor SB 314 to secure fundamental parental rights for all parents in Nevada. The bill codified court case president, acknowledging that parents have a “fundamental” right to direct the health, education, and welfare of their children. NHN Chairman, Frank Schnorbus wrote the NHN information pamphlet, The Right of Parents to Raise Their Child (and conversely the right of the child to be raised by his/her parent), explaining the need for such in a law in Nevada. The bill passed both the Nevada Senate and Assembly and was signed into law on 6/15/2013 by Governor Brian Sandoval (R).
Two other bills that threatened the very fundamental parental rights we were fighting for with SB 314 were successfully defeated this session.
- AB 203 (Livermore – R) was a “grandparents visitation” bill that would have threatened the rights of an “intact” family to determine who their children should associate with. Existing law already allows grandparents to sue for visitation in cases where parents are divorced on one is deceased however, this bill sought allow grandparents to sue parents for visitation of their grandchildren even if the child’s parents choose not to allow visitation. NHN argued that asking the state to usurp the parent-child relationship and decision making by granting legal recourse to the grandparents would be a violation of current court decisions uphold fundamental parental rights. Legislators agreed and the bill “died in committee.” Similar bills had been requested over previous sessions dating back to 2001 and all have met similar fates.
- SB 182 (Smith – D) sought to lower the compulsory school attendance age from 7 to 5 as well as mandate that “All-Day Kindergarten” be provided in every public school and that all 5 year olds attend (or enroll in a private school or homeschool). NHN opposed the bill and later offered an amendment request to maintain a parent’s right to decide when the child was ready to attend school up to the age of seven. Senator Smith did amend the bill though not as we originally requested. However, in the end due to the “unfunded mandate” on local school districts regarding all-day kindergarten, this bill also died in committee.
It should be noted and remembered, that similar bills to these two have been requested over previous sessions dating back to 2001 (grandparents visitation) and 2007 (lowering the compulsory attendance age) and more than likely will be seen again.
NHN Officers: Frank Schnorbus, Chair (Minden); Elissa Wahl, Vice-Chair (Las Vegas); Barbara Dragon, Treasurer (Gardnerville); Kelley Millard Radow, Officer (Reno); Laura Siegal, Officer (Las Vegas); Ray Poole, Secretary (Gardnerville)
2015 – A session like no other to date!
As always we hope that each session brings no threat to homeschool freedom, but this was not to be one of those, there seemed to be a fire everywhere we turned. And the threat came from those we traditionally consider “our friends.” For the first time since 1929, the Republicans controlled the State Senate and the Assembly! A Republican was Governor as well.
By late 2014 we began to smell trouble in River City… not Iowa, but rather Carson City, NV. Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) began touting a “government funded school choice” idea that would quietly make its way to passage in 2015 as a political tool to convince Republican lawmakers to vote for the largest tax increase in the history of Nevada (the Commerce Tax). In fact, the Commerce Tax, written by Governor Sandoval (R), was exactly the same as the teacher’s union backed Margins Tax the voters of Nevada had rejected at the voting booth in 2014. But I digress…
Having attended NPRI events in Reno and Las Vegas in November/December 2014, Barbara Dragon and Elissa Wahl spoke at these events against government funding of homeschooling due to the burdensome “strings” that would be attached with tax-payer funding. In January, 2015 prior to the start of the Legislative Session NHN posted the following position statement, Alternative Education Funding Programs.
SB 302 – (Hammond – R) The Educational Savings Account (ESA) bill made a surprise appearance on April 3rd. The bill was scheduled for hearing just before the deadline for bills to be heard in committee (if not heard they die). It was a “surprise” because the original bill was nearly totally rewritten by the sponsor of the bill, Senator Hammond, just prior to the meeting.
NHN Officers had gone on record with Senator Hammond requesting that he protect HOMESCHOOL FREEDOM. However, although NHN Officers had been in constant contact with Senator Hammond on other bills, he never informed us of his intent to use the homeschool law as a “vehicle” for students to receive tax-payer money from the state and the “controls” that go with it. Thankfully, Elissa Wahl was in attendance the day of the hearing and “opposed” the bill as written.
NHN was able to work with Senator Hammond and submitted an amendment to protect those parents who DO NOT wish to receive money from the state. Details of what happened can be found here, Homeschooling vs ESA Grant. Thankfully, in the end “homeschool freedom” was protected and kept separate from “government funded school choice” but as always, that freedom came with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
Click here for continuing updates on ESA program. For more information on the impact of ESAs on homeschooling follow our blog; ESAs: Public-funded ED Choice vs. Self-funded Education Liberty
Other bills of addressed by NHN in 2015:
SB 25 – This bill was submitted by the Department of Education as a “house keeping” bill. However, section 2 of the bill was very concerning to NHN as it would give the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) authority to “Coordinate educational programs for children from birth through prekindergarten.” NHN testified against Section 2 of SB 25 at the hearing and submitted this letter to Senate Education. Other parent groups also opposed this intrusion on parental rights and the DOE withdrew Section 2 of SB 25 from the bill. A win!
SB 228 – (Gustavson – R) Student Right to Privacy bill. NHN supported this bill. Since this bill would protect ALL Nevada parents and their children whether enrolled in a public, private, or home school; Barbara Dragon, Elissa Wahl, Frank Schnorbus, Kelley Radow, and Ray Poole, Legislative Liaisons for ParentalRights.org, lobbied in support of SB 228 ; WHY DO WE NEED SB 228?
However, the Senate Education Committee Chairwoman, Senator Becky Harris (R) was not willing to bring the bill for a vote and instead [at the request of Senator Gustavson (R) and Senator Mo Denis (D)] agreed to amend two protective sentences from the bill into another “student privacy bill”. A sentence declaring that a student’s personally identifiable information and data “belongs” to the student was amended into SB 463 (letter in support of SB 463 – 5.1.15).
SB 463 (Senate Education Committee – R controlled) was passed by the Senate. However, the protective language from SB 228 was DELETED by amendment (letter in opposition to the SB 463 amendments – 5.15.15) by the Assembly Education Committee as was other protective language in the bill. A very watered down version of SB 463 was passed by the Assembly and “concurred with” by the Senate. A loss.
AB 221 – (Kirner – R) This bill did not affect homeschooling but was a “companion” bill to SB 463 mentioned above. The bill was intended to protect public school student information and data collected by the public school, the school district and the Department of Education but in reality was only a “sunshine bill”; meaning the DOE and local school districts must tell parents what info/data is being collected on their child and allow for “corrections” to the information/data to be made, as requested by the parent or student over the age of 18. ParentalRights.org/Nevada opposed AB 221 and submitted this letter to the Assembly Education Committee – 3.23.15 Here again, there were many amendments in both houses to this bill before it was eventually passed and signed into law by the Governor.
SB 126 – (Senate Education – R controlled) NHN opposed language calling for “regulation and evaluation” of “any early childhood education and prekindergarten programs at both private and public schools”. NHN also opposed language in the bill allowing public school officials to “conduct a survey AT THE HOME of child whose primary language is not English”. In both cases the problematic language was removed by amendment. However, the amended bill was never brought for a vote and “died” in committee. Another win!
SB 117 – (Health & Human Services – R controlled) A bill adding two new vaccinations required for “school enrollment” also died in committee. NHN did not take a position on this bill but did notify homeschool parents and friends of homeschooling that this bill was being considered.
NHN Officers: Frank Schnorbus, Chairman; Elissa Wahl, Vice-Chair; Barbara Dragon, Treasurer; D. Raymond Poole, Secretary; Kelley Millard Radow, Officer; Aaron Sutherland, Officer; Matt Alder, Officer
2017 – Why does Government always think they know what is best for children and not the child’s parent?
That was the theme of at least one bill during this year’s session.
AB 186 – (Diaz) proposed (yet again!) to lower the compulsory attendance age from 7 to 5, mandate Kindergarten attendance, and force public schools to offer prekindergarten with no additional funding. NHN Officers met with Assemblywoman Diaz early in the session to express our concerns for taking the responsibility of parents to decide when their child is ready for school out of their hands. But she decided to move ahead with her bill because she believes that although homeschool parents are competent to decide, other parents are not and she’s “protecting children.” NHN and HSLDA joined forces to defeat this piece of legislation. Thankfully, the bill languished in the Assembly Ways & Means committee for lack of funding and died in committee.
SB 506 (Senate Education for Governor Sandoval) – This was a “funding” bill for the ESA program that passed in 2015 but that the NV Supreme Court declared unconstitutional and placed an injunction on the program until the funding mechanism was corrected. To correct the problem, the Governor proposed to fund the program with $60 million from the state’s general fund (not the Distributive School Account). However, the now Democratic controlled Legislature chose to to ignore the bill and it too died in committee. NHN watched the bill closely to ensure that “homeschooling” was not written back into the program limiting the rights of self-funding homeschool parents.
NHN Officers: Elissa Wahl (Las Vegas), NHN Chairwoman; Matt Alder (Reno), NHN Vice-Chairman; Kelley Millard-Radow (Reno), Treasurer; D. Raymond Poole (Gardnerville), Secretary; Aaron Sutherland (Reno), Officer; Kristi Casaus (Reno), Officer Barbara Dragon, Officer Emerita-2016 (active); Frank Schnorbus, NHN Chair Emeritus 2017
In even years NHN is not idle. During “off years” we are continually advocating for homeschool freedom and parental rights; addressing issues raised by parents, educators, school districts, politicians, public policy groups, government bureaucrats, journalists… the list goes on and on; and helping families new homeschooling to get started.
We invite any interested homeschool parent to join our team. Potential Officers spend a year on our email loop “learning the ropes” so you’ll be well equipped before becoming a voting member. Please contact us via our email contact page if interested, we’d love to have you!