JEFFERSON CITY - Hundreds of home-school families took a field trip to the Capitol on Tuesday. But they didn't come just to learn about state politics.
The throngs of parents and children wandering the halls were there to fight a proposal that would bring new standards to home-schoolers.
Rep. Bill Skaggs, D-Kansas City, is sponsoring a bill that would require home-school children to take the same performance tests given to those in public schools. The plan would also require parents to register with the state so officials can determine how many students are home-schooled.
Skaggs said he believes most students taught at home receive a quality education. The problem, he said, is that some people choose to abuse the lax state regulations, leaving their children without a fair chance at a good education.
"I personally know some people that are home-schoolers, and they are doing a terrible job," he said.
But the hundreds who descended on the Capitol on Tuesday did not share Skaggs' beliefs. As the committee hearing began, opponents of the plan jostled for a view of the proceedings as they poured into the room.
The crowded conditions were unusual for committee hearings, which often take place in half-empty rooms, and not with hundreds pouring out into the hallways.
The crowd stayed quiet during most of Skaggs' remarks, except after one particular comment. When he said home-schoolers failing to meet requirements would be subject to a visit from Family Services, the crowd responded with an audible groan.
Home-school lobbyists and parents were joined by Sen. Bill Kinney, R-Lee's Summit, and Rep. Todd Akin, R-St. Louis County, who both spoke against the plan during the hearing. And the hundreds of home-schoolers held two rallies -- one in the Capitol rotunda and the other on the front steps -- hours before the bill was ever heard.
Rep. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, attended the rotunda rally. He said the bill is merely an attempt to control the cirriculum of home-schoolers. Loudon, whose wife teaches their daughter at home, said they are just trying to do what's best for their family. Citing Teddy Roosevelt, Loudon also said those receiving home education have actually fared well throughout history.
"People who want to badmouth the idea that a child is unable to survive are forgetting leaders and kings that were taught at home," he said. "I think he's got a solution to a problem that doesn't exist."
Sarah Smith, a senior MU honors student, said she is living proof that no problem exists. She said she is one of the people who has benefited from a home education.
Smith rushed down to Jefferson City late Tuesday afternoon to voice her opposition at the hearing. She said she was there to show that a home-school education is based on experience, and that's why students excel later in life.
"The reason is that they learn from the world everyday," she said. "I just think I'm an example that homeschoolers can make it."
Skaggs said he understands where home-school families are coming from, but he doesn't see what the big fuss is all about. If the education is so successful, he said, there should be no reason not to show the world what they can do.
"They say their kids test three grades above everybody else. Well, prove it to me."