In a time when many families have turned to homeschooling, micro-schools, and other forms of private education, Congress wants to make doing so more difficult.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize, or PRO, Act. It now awaits action in the Senate, and HSLDA Action is closely monitoring its status. If passed, the bill will have a major impact on the way thousands of homeschoolers are currently educated.
While some families choose to go the route of traditional, private homeschooling—where mom and dad are the teachers—many others do not. They utilize homeschool co-ops, where families will hire part-time educators or tutors to teach specific topics. If the PRO Act were passed, these co-ops would have to significantly change the way they operate.
Most of these part-time educators are currently classified as “independent contractors” and not “employees” under labor laws. Other examples of independent contractors would be Uber drivers, freelance writers, commissioned artists, wedding planners, and personal trainers. These people essentially work for themselves; they don’t receive the benefits that come from full-time employment, but they have the flexibility of creating their own hours and pay rates and are not subject to the same labor regulations as employees.
But the PRO Act would change that. In most cases, under the new law, independent contractors would be redefined as employees. Suddenly, the hundreds of homeschool co-ops in the country would be forced to provide full benefits to their part-time instructors or not hire them at all.
The PRO Act would implement what is known as the ABC Test, a test that determines if someone is an employee or an independent contractor. To be considered an independent contractor, a worker must meet three specific requirements (H.R. 842, § 101[b]):
- the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact;
- the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and
- the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.
Anyone who doesn’t meet all three requirements would be considered an employee and not allowed to operate as an independent contractor.
In addition, The PRO Act would abolish right-to-work laws nationwide, laws that allow employees to work without joining a union. It would also no longer exempt independent contractors from union representation. So even those few who are able to maintain their independent contractor status under the PRO Act could be subject to all the ties that come with being a union member. They may be forced to pay union fees and they would be bound by all of the wages and working conditions negotiated under union contracts, which could affect their flexible hours and pay rates.
Advocates of the PRO Act argue that this will lead to more employees being provided with the benefits that come with having a full-time job. But in reality, many who hire independent contractors, such as homeschool co-ops, often can’t afford to hire a full-time employee. And many independent contractors simply don’t want to be full-time employees. The result is that many people who work for themselves in gig-type jobs will no longer be able to, and families that rely on part-time instructors will have to find alternatives.
This negative forecast isn’t mere speculation. We’ve already seen the consequences of this bill at the state level. In 2019, California passed Assembly Bill 5, which was essentially a state-level version of the PRO Act. A.B. 5 first implemented the ABC test, and the PRO Act includes the same ABC test as A.B. 5, word-for-word.
Aside from the potential negative consequences this would have on America’s workforce and homeschool families, the PRO Act is also an attack on our country’s federalist system. Many states have decided that right-to-work laws suit their own, individual economies best, while other states have decided the opposite. California was within its right to pass A.B. 5 for its state. But even if A.B. 5 had turned out to be a successful and popular policy (which it did not), that would not have granted the federal government the authority to implement these labor policies nationwide. The PRO Act is an example of Washington thinking that it knows what is best for all 50 states.
While the PRO Act successfully passed out of the House of Representatives, its future in the Senate is unknown. It is a radical bill with supporters and detractors on both sides of the aisle. Because of the threat it poses to homeschool freedom, HSLDA Action is following its progress closely, and we will provide you with updates as they come.