FAQs About HB 832 Homeschool Advisory Council
Get answers to your questions and concerns about Maryland’s proposed Homeschool Advisory Council.
In February 2022, a bill that would create a Homeschool Advisory Council was introduced into the Maryland General Assembly. This Frequently Asked Questions page addresses a number of concerns you may have about the bill and how it may ultimately affect your right to homeschool.
There’s a lot of information to share, so we’ve organized questions into 3 main sections:
- Bill Basics
- Council Membership
What is HB 832?
HB 832 is a bill in the 2022 Maryland General Assembly that seeks to create a Homeschool Advisory Council.
Why do we need a Homeschool Advisory Council?
In Maryland, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has the legal authority to create regulations and policies that oversee how homeschooling operates throughout the state. While the Maryland Homeschool Association has worked hard throughout the years to create professional, working relationships with MSDE, the state is not obligated to consult with homeschoolers before making decisions that affect homeschool families. The Homeschool Advisory Council (HAC) would change that. The HAC would give homeschoolers a voice in advising the state on equitable and non-restrictive homeschool policy development.
Don’t we have laws that already protect homeschool rights?
Actually, no. Maryland does not have any laws relating to homeschooling. State regulations developed by MSDE (what we commonly call “COMAR”) establish the legal parameters of how families can homeschool.
Will the HAC result in more oversight of homeschoolers?
No, the HAC’s sole purpose is to research matters of importance to homeschoolers and to advise MSDE on those issues. The HAC will have no legal authority to change existing homeschool regulations.
What kind of matters would the council “research”?
While we cannot predict what the council will research, it seems reasonable to expect the council to conduct an initial statewide survey of homeschoolers to see what issues are most important to individual families. Historically, we know that families have many concerns about “courses normally taught” in high school and are constantly seeking clarification about that. We also know that a number of homeschool families throughout the state are interested in sports participation. Those are just two topics we might see the council research and make recommendations on.
If the HAC has no decision making authority, do we really need it?
Yes, we do. Whether you believe that government should have any involvement in homeschooling or not, the reality is it does. Specifically, MSDE – not the legislature – has the ultimate say over our homeschool regulations. By creating the HAC, homeschoolers will finally have a legally recognized voice that the state must take into consideration, when it considers future policies and regulations. Without the HAC, homeschoolers will remain outsiders to the very process that can make or break our freedoms.
So what happens if MSDE tries to change homeschool regulations?
State law requires state agencies to conduct a comprehensive review of their regulations every 5-7 years. Maryland homeschool regulations are overdue for their review. Statewide homeschool leaders anticipate that the pandemic will push MSDE to conduct that review sooner rather than later. If the advisory council comes into being, homeschoolers will have a direct say into the drafting of any possible changes MSDE is looking to make. Without the advisory council, MSDE will have limited to no input from homeschoolers during the drafting period.
What if I don’t like the proposed COMAR changes?
Whether the advisory council exists or not, parents and members of the public will always have the right to submit comments during the open comment period when proposed regulations are published. Remember, though: It’s much easier to draft homeschool friendly regulations up front than to petition for changes after the regulations have been published.
Will the HAC just add an extra layer of bureaucracy to the system?
No. The HAC will actually create more transparency to the current system and provide individual homeschool families with more opportunities to be more proactively informed on important issues.
Who will be on the HAC?
The council will be made up of 16 people. Twelve of those members must be homeschool parents. Additionally, one member must be an employee of MSDE and one must be from the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The final two members will be homeschool liaisons from different counties.
Why do we need non-homeschoolers on the council?
The 4 non-homeschool seats are essential for ensuring that accurate and timely information is being shared by those who work within their respective agencies and with the rest of the council. Additionally, their agencies’ staff will be available to assist the full HAC in fulfilling its mission.
Will general teachers or school administrators be allowed to serve on the HAC?
No. HB 832 restricts council membership to four specific non-homeschoolers. The remaining council seats must be filled by homeschool parents or umbrella representatives. Note: Some current homeschool parents are former public school teachers and school administrators. Previous employment would not automatically disqualify someone from serving on the council, if they meet all the other criteria.
Will the HAC be representative of the diverse face of Maryland homeschoolers?
Yes. HB 832 would mandate that the council be representative of the rich face of homeschooling in Maryland, including homeschool philosophies, race, religion, and geographic areas.
I heard that the HAC will be full of political appointments. Is that true?
No, that is not true. HB 832 requires two of the 16 seats to be appointed by the Speaker of the House and another two seats to be appointed by the Senate President.
Won’t those political appointments be anti-homeschoolers?
No. HB 832 requires that two of those political appointments must be veteran homeschool parents who have successfully homeschooled their children to the end of high school. The other two political appointments must be representatives from homeschool umbrellas.
How can I believe those political appointments will be pro-homeschooling?
Historically, whenever a bill calls for a political appointment by the Speaker of the House or the Senate President, those individuals will defer to the lead sponsor of the bill for names of individuals who should be nominated. In this case, Delegate Ruth is a huge proponent of homeschooling and can be trusted to vet individuals who will fully support protecting homeschool freedoms.
Why do we need any political appointments at all?
Without those 4 initial appointments, the first round of homeschool self-nominations for the inaugural council would be selected by the non-homeschool representatives.
How can I serve on the HAC?
Should HB 832 become law, an application will be developed. Individuals may self-nominate by completing the application and submitting it to the initial council. The first eight members of the HAC will select the remaining members of the inaugural council. Afterwards, the full council will host a new member drive every three years, or when a seat becomes available.
Will I get paid to serve on the HAC?
No. All homeschool council members serve as volunteers. All non-homeschool council members serve as part of their existing job duties, with no additional compensation.
How will I know what the HAC is doing?
As a state created council, the HAC would be subject to public meeting laws. Anyone in the public can attend or livestream any meeting they wish. Additionally, copies of agendas and minutes, as well as recorded meeting sessions, will be available online through the MSDE website.
What if I disagree with something the HAC is doing?
Members of the public will have the opportunity to speak during the open comment section of all HAC open meetings. Anyone who agrees or disagrees with the HAC can go on record with their thoughts and opinions.
Why can’t we just let our state legislators continue to oversee homeschooling? It’s been working well, so far.
Maryland state elected officials have zero control or influence over the day-to-day functioning of homeschooling in Maryland. By law, it is the state department of education that holds the ultimate control over homeschooling.
Will the HAC keep me from being able to contact my legislators about homeschool issues?
No. Families will continue to have the right to contact their state elected officials regarding any education matter they wish to discuss.
What if I want my own homeschool bill to be considered by the General Assembly?
The advisory council cannot and will not take away your right to contact your elected official directly to ask that they sponsor a bill on your behalf.
Does Maryland have other advisory councils?
Yes. The HAC bill was based upon existing councils that work with MSDE, such as the Gifted and Talented Education Advisory Council and the Special Education Advisory Council.
Do any other states have homeschool advisory councils?
Yes. New Hampshire is the only other state we know of to have a homeschool advisory council.
Last modified on February 6, 2022