As we shared in our update last week, we are continuing to monitor HB16-1164 and its ramifications for homeschool families. This week we have a helpful overview of the bill written by Senator Kevin Lundberg. We urge you to:
- Read the original bill here and then read Senator Lundberg’s overview below
- Plan to attend the hearing on February 25th
- Submit your comments to the House Health, Insurance & Environment committee where the bill will be heard (contact information is here gathered from here)
Overview of HB16-1164
By Senator Kevin Lundberg; also available on his Facebook page.
There is a bill in the House which should be of concern to all parents who have chosen to exercise their statutory authority to determine what vaccinations are appropriate for their children.
HB-1164 will require the parents of children attending school to directly register with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment when seeking any immunization exemptions. Currently completed immunization exemption forms are stored at individual schools, or for some homeschool situations, the parents themselves. The centralized data collection required in HB-1164 is deeply troubling for many parents who have exercised their statutory authority to determine what immunizations are appropriate for their children. This is sensitive information that many believe should not be held by the state in a centralized database which is available to all interested government agencies.
The bill does not change reporting requirements for other immunization records, so the parents would still be responsible to provide their school with all other immunization information.
The term “school” includes essentially all public and private schools in the state (some daycare facilities and colleges are exempt). Part-time students are not exempted from the reporting mandate, so all students in part-time public and private school enrichment programs would presumably be included in this registration mandate. Parents teaching their children at home under the authority of a private school would also be subject to the reporting requirements in HB-1164. The only educational format that might not be included in this direct reporting to the state health department would be those who teach under the home-based education format (CRS 22-33-104.5), but that is only inferred because that educational category is not included in the referenced definition of a “school.”
The proponents of the bill say that this system will eliminate some record keeping for the schools, but that is hard to imagine since the schools still have to verify the immunization records and/or exemptions for all students when they enroll in the school. To require schools to go through the health department for this information is to insert one more step into the process. It is also not a very functional information source, for if a child has been opted out of the state immunization tracking system (which parents have the authority to do), the school will still have to go back to the parents for immunization information and then keep track of that data outside of the immunization tracking system.
Another argument for the bill is that it will streamline a new regulation the health department is already implementing. Starting on December 1, and annually thereafter, all schools must give the department the aggregated immunization and exemption rates for their school population. However, because of the opt-out provision in the immunization tracking system, this new reporting mandate will still fall on the shoulders of individual schools to compile the data. It should be noted that if the school has students who are not taught on their campus (either at home or on another school campus, such as a community college) then the published immunization rates for that school will not be an accurate metric of the immunization rates for the student population at that school’s campus.
If this bill is to move forward at all it should specifically exempt all students who receive their education in a home setting and allow all classroom style schools (private, charter and traditional public) to opt out if that particular school determines this centralized data system does not fit their situation and therefore will be for that school one more meaningless, unfunded mandate.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Health, Insurance, & Environment Committee on February 25 at 1:30 PM in room 0107. Public testimony will be accepted. All interested citizens are welcome to attend.
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