Like lots of young boys (and older ones too), when I was younger, I loved watching Batman. He and his sidekick, Robin, were the heroes of Gotham. They were always principled and dependable in their fight for justice. Time and time again, just when you thought they were down, they’d fight back… and win.
Yesterday, as I watched debate on House Bill 1428, I witnessed the political version of Batman and Robin on the House floor as Representatives Christopher Olson (R – District 13) and Daniel Johnston (R – District 24) took to the floor to advocate for homeschooling families across North Dakota.
If you haven’t been following this legislative session, parents in general have been kicked in the teeth repeatedly on issues regarding education bills. HB 1428 was set up to be no different as it came out of committee and to the floor with a Do Not Pass recommendation.
In spite of the odds against his bill, Rep. Olson stood like the Dark Knight against the lunatics at Arkham Asylum to advocate for the right of homeschool parents to opt their children out of standardized testing. "It is clear that standardized testing is meant for standardized education," said Olson. He continued, "There is no one-sized fits all approach to [homeschooling]." Bingo! Which is exactly why home education is historically successful.
One of the most compelling aspects of Rep. Olson’s floor debate was his citing of research findings that there is virtually no difference between states that had the regulatory requirement and those that did not. This was a powerful point.
Rep. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck (R – District 25) tried to counter Rep. Olson, but it was fruitless. Olson had already picked apart any argument she had, and her words rang hollow. As someone that is not a fan of Rep. Beck, even I was a tad embarrassed for her.
To backup Olson like Robin does Batman, Rep. Daniel Johnston countered Beck, "The homeschool movement is growing and flourishing in North Dakota. It’s not flourishing because of a standardized test. It’s flourishing because a parent can tailor their child’s education on an individual basis."
Johnston wasn’t done there. He went on to expose the double standard that is held between public school parents and homeschool parents. Public school parents can opt their children out of standardized tests without the regulatory requirements of homeschool parents. Pointing out that homeschool parents with just a high school diploma are not currently trusted to opt out their children he asked, "What are we really saying about our K-12 institutions?" Ouch.
Rep. Denton Zubke (R – District 39) rose for the second time in what was a Joker-like last ditch effort to thwart the bill, but it was to no avail. In what was likely one of the best – if not the best – floor arguments of the session, Olson and Johnston prevailed like the Caped Crusaders when the floor vote resulted in passage with 58 Yea and 31 Nay.
For the moment, homeschool parents can finally enjoy a victory on the education side of things. That’s a rarity this session. But it just goes to show that when you have Batman and Robin on your side, anything is possible.
(Editorial Note: HB 1428 will now go to the senate.)