4: The Skirmish Is Lost (1987)

In the January, 1987, issue of the Greenhouse Report, the NCHE leadership informed homeschoolers that Walt Goforth had resigned his position as vice president of legislative affairs. He and his wife, Sandi, had been so involved with lobbying the legislature and teaching other homeschoolers to lobby that it was almost a full-time job in itself. He needed to turn his attention to his business and his family. He recommended that NCHE hire a lobbyist who lived in the Raleigh area. Acting on Walt’s advice, NCHE hired Diane Ridenour to be available on a full-time basis to act for NCHE whenever she was needed. Diane wrote an excellent article for this same Greenhouse Report issue on how to lobby. NCHE also appealed to its members to contact their legislators in visits to Raleigh and via telephone with three messages:

  1. North Carolina homeschoolers are committed, conscientious, law abiding, intelligent and friendly people.
  2. Home schools are an effective means of education.
  3. Our desire is for our existing protection under the 1979 “Church School” law to be left untouched.3

In April 1987 the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) proposed legislation entitled An Act to Permit Home Instruction under Certain Conditions, as a Means of Complying with Compulsory School Attendance Requirements. Under this proposed legislation homeschools would be under the authority of DPI and local boards of education: homeschool teachers would be required to have a college education and to teach a state approved curriculum. This proposal also required a six-hour school day and gave the local school authorities ability to deny the permission for a family to homeschool based on a twice-a-year subjective review of their homeschool.

“NCHE responded immediately. The home of Susan and Gerald Van Dyke, treasurer and vice president of NCHE, became a virtual mail room. NCHE’s legal liaison, Diane Ridenour, composed a letter to all North Carolina home schoolers and friends of home schoolers informing them of DPI’s move and the impending legislation. She asked home schoolers to write, phone, and visit their legislators immediately, not to wait for the bill to be introduced.” 4

NCHE proposed legislation that would keep homeschooling the same as it had been since the 1985 Supreme Court ruling. That proposal was never introduced to the house or the senate.

Then on April 17, 1987 disaster struck. Representative Tyndall introduced HB 837 (PDF) for its first reading. This bill was identical to the DPI proposal. Immediately, NCHE members began to flood Raleigh with letters and calls. On April 30, Senator Marvin introduced SB 779 which was virtually identical to HB 837. On May 1, Senator Hardison introduced a substitute bill, SB 708 (PDF), which was a proposal put forward by DNPE director Rod Helder. While SB708 was less restrictive than HB 837 and SB 779, NCHE lobbied against it as well as the other two bills.

On May 1-2, NCHE held its third annual conference in Winston-Salem with featured speaker basketball pro Jerry Lucas. Bob and Teena Goble were once again in charge of conference planning, and Carolyn Winslow planned and managed the book fair. The growth of the conference attendance was a good indication of how homeschooling was growing in North Carolina.

On May 14 both senate bills came before the Senate Education Committee, and they were both sent to a subcommittee for additional study. By May 18, SB 779 had received an unfavorable report and there had been no action on SB 708.

From May 19 through August 11, HB 837 went through several subcommittee and committee meetings, was revised five times and finally passed its third reading in the House. During this time, it became apparent that DPI was orchestrating the entire process. NCHE had requested a public hearing on the bill and that request was denied. However, NCHE was allowed to have an expert speak in favor of home education during a House Education Committee meeting on July 14. “Bill Suttles introduced Dr. John Wesley Taylor, V, an educational specialist in curriculum and testing from Virginia, who was himself home schooled. He spoke forcefully and articulately for about seven minutes, after which there was discussion from the floor.”5 Prior to this meeting NCHE passed out roses to all the secretaries of all the House and Senate Education Committee members. Susan Van Dyke remembers spending hours with her children removing the thorns from all those roses and tying them with ribbons. Those who spent hours in the legislative building during this long process knew how hard the secretaries were working due to our lobbying efforts, and NCHE wanted to appropriately acknowledge them.

There were several NCHE leaders that volunteered countless hours lobbying the legislators, attending meetings, keeping NCHE members informed and fighting this bill. Their sacrificial giving of their time and efforts in rallying homeschoolers from across the state saved us from having to live with an onerous homeschool law. They were Bill and Carolyn Suttles, Gerald and Susan Van Dyke, Walt and Sandi Goforth, Don and Diane Woerner, Charlie and Debbie Leverett and Herman and Karen Logan.

The House passed HB 837, and, because there was money requested for the 1987-1988 fiscal year, it was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval. When the 1987 legislative session came to an end, HB 837 was still waiting for Appropriations Committee approval. With the State Board of Education backing these bills and HB 837 having already been passed by the House, it seemed inevitable that both bills would be passed in the 1988 short legislative session.

1 Page 9 The Legal Battle for Home Schooling in North Carolina by Jacqueline E. Burkhardt
2 Page 12 The Legal Battle for Home Schooling in North Carolina by Jacqueline E. Burkhardt
3 Page 1 January, 1987 Greenhouse Report
4 Page 15 The Legal Battle for Home Schooling in North Carolina by Jacqueline E. Burkhardt
5 Page 10 October, 1987 Greenhouse Report

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