Bulletin #57    House Joint Resolution 29                            10/18/06



Did you know that among the many things Congress is considering, it is considering changing the United States Constitution so that the federal government will constitutionally have the power to regulate education and compel an “equal” public education for all persons?


That’s the gist of House Joint Resolution 29.


That resolution was proposed on March 2, 2005 by Representative Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. of Illinois and thirty-five co-sponsors.


That resolution specifies the following:





1st Session

H. J. RES. 29

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States regarding the right of all citizens of the United States to a public education of equal high quality.


March 2, 2005

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois (for himself, Ms. CARSON, Mrs. CHRISTENSEN, Mr. CLAY, Mr. CLYBURN, Mr. CONYERS, Mr. CUMMINGS, Mr. FATTAH, Mr. FORD, Mr. GUTIERREZ, Mr. JEFFERSON, Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas, Mrs. JONES of Ohio, Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island, Ms. KILPATRICK of Michigan, Mr. KUCINICH, Mr. LEWIS of Georgia, Mr. MEEK of Florida, Mr. OWENS, Mr. RUSH, Mr. SCOTT of Georgia, Mr. SERRANO, Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi, Ms. VELAZQUEZ, Ms. WATERS, Ms. WATSON, Mr. WATT, Ms. MCKINNEY, Mr. CLEAVER, Mr. RYAN of Ohio, Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD, and Mr. AL GREEN of Texas) introduced the following joint resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States regarding the right of all citizens of the United States to a public education of equal high quality.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:

`Article --

`SECTION 1. All persons shall enjoy the right to a public education of equal high quality.

`SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.’



So what’s the difference between a resolution and a bill?

You can find out by reading the articles written by Charles W. Johnson, Parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives. http://thomas.loc.gov/home/lawsmade.bysec/formsofaction.html


But basically, it’s like this:


“The work of Congress is initiated by the introduction of a proposal in one of four forms: the bill, the joint resolution, the concurrent resolution, and the simple resolution. The most customary form used in both Houses is the bill…

Joint resolutions may originate either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate…

There is little practical difference between a bill and a joint resolution and the two forms are often used interchangeably. One difference in form is that a joint resolution may include a preamble preceding the resolving clause. Statutes that have been initiated as bills have later been amended by a joint resolution and vice versa. Both are subject to the same procedure except for a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution. When a joint resolution amending the Constitution is approved by two-thirds of both Houses, it is not presented to the President for approval. Following congressional approval, a joint resolution to amend the Constitution is sent directly to the Archivist of the United States for submission to the several states where ratification by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states within the period of time prescribed in the joint resolution is necessary for the amendment to become part of the Constitution.”


In other words, a resolution is pretty much the same thing as a bill.  It must be acted upon in committee and on the floor. 


H.J. Res. 29 is a resolution that proposes to amend the United States Constitution.  As such, if approved by Congress, it would not be presented to the President for approval.  It would be sent to the Archivist for submission to the states for ratification.  Only if ratified by three-fourths of the states within a specific time period would the resolution then become law as part of the Constitution.


This is a formidable task.  The Constitution is not easily amended.


H.J. Res. 29, if adopted, essentially would amend the Constitution in a way the framers never imagined.  It would allow the federal government, by yet to be adopted legislation, to compel that everyone receive identically equal education. 


H.J. Res. 29 effectively would eliminate the right of states under the tenth amendment to maintain regulate or control the education of children.


H.J. Res. 29 effectively would eliminate the right of parents to control the education of their children.


H.J. Res. 29 would grant the authority to the federal government to regulate and control the education of children and to compel that the education of all children is equal.


What does “equal” mean under this resolution?


That’s left up to Congress to figure out after the resolution is adopted and the Constitution is amended. It could mean identical.  It could mean substantially equivalent.  It could mean anything that Congress wants.


It will mean that state laws regarding education are meaningless and void, unless those state laws mirror the federal laws or implement the federal laws.


That is a huge change from existing constitutional law.


As the Tenth Amendment of the constitution reads now, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” 


The Constitution does not specifically delegate to the United States (the federal government) the power of education.  The power of education is reserved to the States or to the people.


The federal government has the constitutional authority to spend money and so it spends money for education by granting the money to the states if the states, in turn, adopt state laws that mirror the federal laws.  That’s how all of our current federal “education” laws are adopted constitutionally.


Right now, the states are not required to adopt any law that mirrors a federal law.  The states can refuse the money and educate children in any way they so choose.  Most states have accepted the money and therefore, become required to do as the federal government desires.  The point is, now our individual states still have the right to say no to the federal government.


That right could cease to exist if H.J. Res. 29 is adopted and ratified.


H.J. Res. 29 amends the Constitution to say: “. All persons shall enjoy the right to a public education of equal high quality.”


While it sounds laudable, the problems are many.


First and foremost, by stating that “all persons shall enjoy the right”, the Constitution would grant a constitutional right to all persons regarding education.

The Constitution would delegate the power of education to the federal government.

How would it do that?  It would do that because the second part of the resolution says: “The Congress shall have power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.” 


This is a huge change.


Congress would have the delegated power to adopt, to implement, and to enforce laws ensuring that “all persons” “enjoy the right” to a “public education” of “high quality.”


In addition, there is the problem of the term “equal high quality”.  What exactly does that mean?


It’s pretty clear what the proponents mean by “equal”.  One would presume they are endeavoring to achieve “identical” education. The question remains, “equal” to what?  What is the standard to which they strive to achieve?  What does “high quality” mean?  Is it high quality according to the subjective opinion of a particular Board of Education?  Is it high quality according to the subjective opinion of a testing company?  Is it high quality according to the parents of the children in the school?  Is it high quality according to the teachers in the school?  What exactly is the standard to be met and who decides what that standard is?  Apparently, all of that is left up to Congress to decide as well.


What if a child did not want an identically equal education?  What if a child wanted to pursue his own ideas?  What if a child was totally fascinated by science, but could care less about literature?  Would those children be compelled to receive an education identical to their peers, in spite of their interests, desires, and their own way of pursuing happiness?


What role will your state’s legislature or executive branch have in this?  Absolutely none.


What happens to your existing state laws regarding education?  Well, the United States Supreme Court, in 1824 in a case called Gibbons v. Ogden, already decided that when it interpreted the “supremacy clause” of Article VI of the Constitution to mean that when a federal and a state law are in conflict, the federal law is supreme.  Your state laws, essentially, will become null and void.


What does that do to your right to homeschool?


That depends on what laws the federal government adopts, or already has adopted.

It also depends on what your state’s laws say.  If your state’s laws are in conflict with the federal laws, your state’s laws may become null and void.

If the federal laws say that “all persons” shall “enjoy the right” to a “public education” of “high quality”, and that homeschoolers are to “enjoy” the right to an education “equal” to that of a “public education”, then homeschoolers may have to instruct their children using an “education of high quality” “equal” to that in the public school. 


Suffice it to say that a constitutional amendment delegating the power of education to the federal government would eviscerate the tenth amendment protection under state law that parents and state legislatures currently enjoy.  They could no longer say “no” to the federal government. 


There remains another question:  Do the co-sponsors of this resolution understand the implications of this legislation?


If they do, and they still want to propose it, that’s considerably worrisome.

If they do not, and they think they are trying to be helpful to parents, there is room for hope that they can be “educated” as to the error of their ways.


It is doubtful that many truly understand the implications this will have for state legislatures regarding their right to do anything about public education.


What should be done about this?


The good news is that this resolution was introduced on March 2, 2005, was referred to the Judiciary Committee, and no action has taken place on it to date.


Should we remain complacent?


No.  A resolution, like any bill, could be acted upon at any time; or, it could be reintroduced in the next session of Congress.


What is the solution?


As always, it is important to get to know your Congressmen, Senators, and their staff.  Call, write, and email them periodically to discuss your opinion about these pieces of legislation as they are proposed.  Explain the unintended consequences and how your life will be affected by them.  Even if you only speak to staff, they can and will express your sentiment to your Congressman and Senator.  They will remember there are constituents who care about these issues and the Congressmen and Senators may have second thoughts about co-sponsoring and voting for this type of legislation. Contact the staff periodically even when no legislation threatens you, just to ask if anything is new, or just to thank them for being there to listen to your concerns. Also, go online and watch what bills are being proposed.  The more eyes we have watching these government officials and what they do, the more empowered we will become to act when, and if, necessary.


Attorney Deborah Stevenson - Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense. – www.nheld.com or email : info@nheld.com

Judy Aron - Director of Research, NHELD – imjfaron@sbcglobal.net