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V: Victory! 1988

The headline on the December 1987 Greenhouse Report read, “Will This Be the Last Year for Home Education?” This was not a sign of surrender, but a call to action. The NCHE leadership had divided the state into eleven regions, and they asked that support groups in each region find volunteers to fill the office of regional vice president for each region. (These positions would not be board members until April, 1988.) NCHE needed to get members in every part of the state more connected in order to implement a new tactic to counter the threat to home education. I volunteered and became the regional vice president for the Charlotte region. For the next few months NCHE assured homeschoolers that just because HB 837 had passed the House, it would have to pass in the Senate in order to be law. We could still beat this! NCHE was formulating a plan to reorganize. In March, NCHE sent a survey to all members to get their opinion about what NCHE should do about HB 837. They were also encouraging NCHE members to contact their legislators to voice their opposition to HB 837.

In the April 1988 issue of the Greenhouse Report, Herman Logan, chairman of the legislative committee, informed NCHE members that more than 260 replies to the March survey had been received and that the legislative committee was developing a plan. He explained that four mailings would be sent to every legislator with information about the current regulations of homeschooling, controversial issues surrounding the issue of home education, and a solution. He also asked NCHE members to invite their representatives and senators to visit their homeschools during the month of May. That May, I remember being quite nervous about inviting my representative, Harry Grimmer, to see my homeschool. It turned out that Representative Grimmer asked to meet in his realty office. We talked for almost an hour, and he pledged to support the NCHE position.

In the last weekend in April, at the fourth NCHE conference, the reorganization of NCHE was announced, and thirteen regional vice presidents were added to increase the number of board members from five to eighteen. In a board meeting on May 13, Herman Logan explained that the fourth letter to the legislators would suggest a substitute bill to replace the terrible HB 837 that had been passed by the House and was now in the Senate Education Committee. While some board members offered suggestions for the wording of the substitute bill, Herman developed the wording primarily on his own, rejecting wording that had been in earlier suggestions for substitute bills (SB708). The new eighteen-member board of directors voted unanimously to proceed.

The August 1988 issue of the Greenhouse Report gave the following explanation of what happened earlier that year.

“NCHE President, Walt Goforth, appointed Herman Logan, Jr., of Greensboro, to chair a legislative committee to formulate and implement a plan for the enactment of acceptable home education legislation. After tabulating the results of the survey distributed to homeschoolers in North Carolina, the legislative committee decided to attempt to have HB837 amended to “officially” indicate that a home school shall elect to operate under Part 1 or Part 2 of the current non-public school law. This would allow home schools to continue to operate by law as they have for the last three years according to a Supreme Court ruling.

After the completion of a four-step mail program to every senator and representative in the state, personal contacts were made with the members of the Senate Education Committee to determine if majority support could be obtained for the NCHE substitute version of the bill. Senator Bob Warren, Education Committee Chairman, from Benson, was extremely supportive of homeschoolers and provided every opportunity possible for successful passage of the bill.

One crucial step in the bill’s success was to find a prominent member of the Education Committee to sponsor the substitute bill on NCHE’s behalf.”

Once again, NCHE members were encouraged to invite their legislators to visit their homeschools. One hundred eighty-nine homeschool families volunteered to invite legislators to visit their homeschools. The strategy worked, and many legislators changed their minds and became supportive of home education. One senator, Dennis Winner, a prominent Democrat and member of the Senate Education Committee, agreed to introduce the NCHE substitute bill. He had read the four letters, visited the home of Bob and Joyce Brown in Weaverville and had come away with such a good opinion of homeschooling that he agreed to introduce the NCHE substitute bill if NCHE would agree to insert a requirement that standardized testing be required annually for homeschools (at that time, homeschoolers, as with all non-public schools, were required to test in grades 3, 6, and 9). Recognizing Senator Winner’s influence, Herman Logan agreed.

When Senator Winner introduced the NCHE substitute bill, NCHE members were asked to contact their legislators and ask them to support the substitute bill with no changes. The bill made it to the Senate floor with only minor changes to the wording. Then Senator Helen Marvin introduced an amendment that homeschool teachers have a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. Attempts to defeat this amendment were unsuccessful and the bill passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority.

The NCHE board was not happy with the addition of the requirement that homeschool teachers have a high school diploma, but they recognized that this was much easier to live with than the bills that were introduced in 1987. They agreed to push the bill, with no changes, through the House. The House then reached a unanimous decision to pass the bill.

The new law was not perfect, but it allowed homeschoolers to have control over how they would educate their children with minimal government interference. As the dust settled, homeschoolers began to recognize that this new law was an answer to prayer. NCHE had taken on the State Department of Public Instruction and the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and had won! This was truly a David and Goliath story.

In a letter to NCHE, Tim Bryant described a ceremony performed in Asheville.

“On August 12, 1988, the Mountain Region Home Educators presented Senator Dennis Winner with a plaque of appreciation for his work on behalf of home educators in North Carolina during the last legislative session. The plaque was presented by Bob and Joyce Brown and Tim and Angie Bryant along with their homeschooled children.

The senator was genuinely pleased and remarked that it was “one plaque the others won’t have.” He expressed his support of home schooling even stating he felt we were “right” and mentioning his visit in the Brown’s home as being responsible for his positive opinion of home education.”

I recently spoke with Judge Dennis Winner, who is a recently retired North Carolina Appeals Court Judge. I asked him how he had come to change his position on home education. He said that he had done a lot of reading about homeschooling before the 1988 legislative session began. I asked him about the visit to the Brown’s homeschool. His first response was, “How did you know about that?” He confirmed that the visit was also influential. He realized that his initial impression about home education was wrong. He said that elected officials should be allowed to change their positions when they realize their original position is wrong. He said that he had no regrets in sponsoring NCHE’s HB 837 amendment because it was the right thing to do.