Maryland House Bill 356, introduced on January 28, 2019, has the potential to impact homeschooling in Maryland, and we want you to be informed.
Many families who homeschool in Maryland operate under the supervision of an education ministry of a church. Others operate under the supervision of an umbrella program sponsored by a church-exempt or state-approved school. Here is a list of all education ministries and umbrella programs in Maryland (from the Department of Education).
If enacted, taking effect on July 1, 2019, H.B. 356 will require Primary and Secondary, Nonpublic Schools to submit required information to the Department of Education each year on or before September 1st. Failure to submit the required information can result in the State Board revoking the certificate of approval or church-exempt registration.
Nonpublic Schools Include:
A noncollegiate educational institution operating the State in accordance with a certificate of approval issued by the State Board under §2-206(j)
An institution operated by a church organization that has provided a completed church-exempt registration form and other required documentation to the Department of Education
These could be translated as Umbrella Schools, Umbrella Programs, and possibly even Education Ministries at local churches.
Impact on Church Education Ministries
It would possibly impact education ministries because the bill’s language is too broad. At one place in the bill, it refers to “institutions.” The meaning of that word is unclear. Someone might argue that it is broad enough to include the education ministries such as homeschool family support groups or tutoring programs operated by churches.
HSLDA has asked the sponsor, Delegate Edith Patterson, to take out the word “institution” and replace it with the word “school” to make sure the bill will not impact education ministries. If Delegate Patterson makes this change, I do not think the bill will impact education ministries. I believe Delegate Patterson intends to impact schools, not education ministries.
Impact on Umbrella Schools and Programs
Umbrella programs for homeschool families will be impacted in a secondary or indirect manner because the sponsoring school itself will be impacted. The extent of the impact will vary from negligible to major, depending on how the umbrella operates and whether it is sponsored by a church-exempt or state-approved school.
H.B. 356 would require church-exempt and state-approved schools to submit four types of documents to the state every year on or before September 1st. These documents are required whether or not the school operates an umbrella program.
A copy of the school’s occupancy permit;
A copy of the school’s fire marshal approval;
Information about the school’s accreditation status;
Information about the school’s curriculum and courses of study.
State-approved schools would probably take these requirements in stride. They must follow a hefty load of requirements already!
But church-exempt schools, I expect, would be overloaded with extra paperwork. Right now, once church exempt schools file their initial paperwork with the state, there are no additional filings that need to be made. (There are, however, a number of legal requirements that apply to church-exempt schools per the Department of Education.)
H.B. 356 would dramatically increase their paperwork burden. This could make it difficult especially for the smaller church-exempt schools who have limited staff available. Private school advocates are, we would hope, following a course of action on H.B. 356 that they believe is appropriate.
HSLDA, however, does not usually engage in legislative advocacy on behalf of private schools in states (including Maryland) where a homeschool is not categorized as a private school. Therefore, HSLDA has stated that "they will not take action on the bill except to take steps to make sure it does not apply to education ministries".
Is H.B. 356 is Even Necessary?
The documents that the bill would demand can already be demanded by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction under two sections of code that apply to church-exempt and state-approved schools: Maryland Education Code §2-206(j) and §2-205(n). The superintendent has the power to do what the sponsor hopes to accomplish without enacting any new laws. So is the bill even necessary? We don't think so.
If you homeschool in Maryland and/or run a homeschooling umbrella group and you are unsure if what this will mean for you, get one on one homeschool consulting with one of our experienced homeschooling mothers. You can also ask questions in our Homeschooling Community Forum.
What are your thoughts on this new bill? Let us know in the comment section below or in our homeschooling forum.