Bulletin #27 - Nationwide Homeschool Struggles     03/02/2004

 

Did you know: With the 2004 legislative season upon us, homeschooling issues are being dealt with in various state legislatures and homeschool groups across the country are working hard to maintain their freedoms. Here is a sampling:

 

In Florida, State Rep. Sullivan has filed HB 313, entitled Scholarship Program Accountability. In Florida, homeschoolers can be filed as a "600" private school. Florida law says that, parents involved in the education of their children through a "600" private school are not home educators; rather their children are enrolled in a private school which uses a parent/tutor instructional model. The "600" type private school is allowed under current legislation to participate in taking McKay or Corporate Tax Credit Scholarships. When homeschooler participation was discovered by the Department of Education they decided that they did not want "these types of schools" to participate and wanted to pull the scholarships from those students. Some of these schools are currently under investigation by the State's Chief Financial Officer. The legislators do not want "home schoolers" participating in these programs. It looks like the plan was to hook into private schools with government dollars, and then when they become dependent on the government funds to operate, they would have to comply with the regulations that followed in order to continue getting money from the state. This has all happened to Florida private schools in two short years. The administration initially promised the private schools that the only accountability needed was parental accountability. Once the private schools openly began taking the money, talk of more accountability immediately followed. The desire of some Florida homeschoolers is to allow accountability for the scholarship program, but to not have it apply to private schools, and to make sure that private schools maintain their autonomy. Probably the best way to obtain autonomy is not to accept government funding at all. Private schools across the country should take this as a warning against taking voucher money or other government funding. As homeschoolers nationwide are in some states considered private schools, they could also be drawn into the picture. The bill is currently being considered by the Subcommittee on Education, Education K-20 Committee, and Finance and Tax Committee. Text of this bill can be seen via their search engine at the Florida Legislature website http://www.myfloridahouse.com

 

In Idaho, Idaho homeschoolers came out in full force and soundly defeated a bill that would have threatened homeschool freedom. S.B. 1233 ( bill text can be found via search at : http://www3.state.id.us/legislat/legtrack.html

) would have made any home educating parent who fails “to place the child in school . . . or to have the child comparably instructed . . .” guilty of a misdemeanor crime! Such a crime may be punished by up to six months in jail. Currently, the law (http://www3.state.id.us/cgi-bin/newidst?sctid=330020007.K ) states that if a parent is suspected of failing to provide comparable instruction, proceedings will be brought against the parent. This system has worked well all along because it gives the juvenile judge a great deal of latitude in working with the individual family to resolve any problems. Since the term "comparably instructed" is somewhat vague, under current law the family now has a better opportunity to prove they are providing an education and disprove the allegations of non compliance. Under S.B. 1233, this flexibility would have been taken away and parents whose home education was found to be inadequate would automatically be charged with a misdemeanor crime, even if the educational shortcoming was relatively minor. This bill was obviously aimed at homeschooling families. The use of all other forms of education - public schools, private schools, and parochial schools - are expressly exempt from the statute. Only homeschooling families could be convicted of failing to provide comparable instruction based on the law that this bill was going to change. Senator Joe Stegner finally withdrew Senate Bill 1233 because of the opposition that the bill received. The entire senate agreed with the motion to withdraw. Withdrawing the bill was the "simple recognition that this bill is divisive," said Senator Stegner, and he further commented that "It has generated more animosity than I ever anticipated." Credit goes to Idaho Coalition of Home Educators for spearheading the opposition. It only goes to show that homeschoolers must keep an eye on legislation, and be in a position to amass opposition (or support) of legislation. Homeschoolers are constituents who have a voice and they can be heard.

 

In Kentucky, a bill, House Bill 610 , was introduced on February 25th by House member K. Stein,. This bill is essentially a foot in the door to legislation. It is an act relating to voluntary certification of home schools. It would require the Kentucky Board of Education to establish a voluntary in-state certification process for home schools by June 30, 2005; identify the minimum organizational and instructional standards to be addressed by the administrative regulations.
The Text of House Bill 610 is as follows and can be found at (http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/RECORD/04RS/HB610/bill.doc ) :
AN ACT relating to voluntary certification of home schools.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:
SECTION 1. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 156 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
(1) The Kentucky Board of Education shall promulgate administrative
regulations to establish a voluntary in-state certification process for home school programs.
(2) The administrative regulations shall address but not be limited to the following organizational and instructional standards:
(a) The application review process;
(b) The minimum teacher qualifications;
(c) The minimum curriculum offerings;
(d) The minimum testing requirements, which may include scheduled
administration of nationally norm-referenced tests; and
(e) Other standards required to carry out the purposes of this section.
(3) The Kentucky Board of Education shall promulgate the administrative regulations required by this section no later than June 30, 2005.

 

This is an ugly bill, and certainly "voluntary" can easily become mandatory. Kentucky homeschoolers should fight this one, and other homeschoolers nationwide should also be vigilant that similar legislation doesn't pop up in their own legislatures.

 

In New Jersey, Assembly Bill A1918 (formally A4033) is a response to the Jackson case. In the eight months before the police found Bruce Jackson looking for food in his neighbor's garbage, three different state workers had visited his adoptive parents' home a total of 10 times. Yet none reported that there was a lock on the refrigerator, or that Bruce,19, and three other adopted boys, ages 9 to 14 and all under 50 pounds, were so malnourished that their bellies bulged and their teeth and gums had turned black. With this bill the state is mandating that homeschoolers take assessment tests and have a medical checkup every year and provide documentation of that exam to the state. The bill text can be viewed online at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2004/Bills/A2000/1918_I1.PDF We understand that New Jersey homeschoolers are not seeking compromise, and they will accept nothing less than the total defeat of this legislative travesty. New Jersey does not have law regulating homeschooling -- just an exception to the compulsory attendance statute and some case law. It is a setup that has worked very well for nearly four decades.

What New Jersey legislators need to know is that abuse and neglect is not a homeschool issue. The Jackson's did not comply with current law regarding the care and welfare of these children, so what makes the legislature think that additional laws like this one will prevent this from happening again, especially since this family was already under state scrutiny. Homeschoolers are being punished for the state's Department of Children and Family's failure.

 

Ohio recognizes two different ways for parents to educate their own children at home. Most families file a notice of intent pursuant to the homeschool statute. If a parent has a bachelor's degree, however, the family is free to form a non-chartered, non-tax supported, school pursuant to Ohio Administrative Code § 3301-35-08. These are generally known as "08" schools. It is almost on equal footing with homeschooling as it is has few regulations. The Ohio Department of Education recognizes that individual families may operate "08" schools. Many homeschoolers have formed their own "08" school so they can utilize the "free" post-secondary enrollment option. That is a dual enrollment program where students can attend college while doing high school. College costs are paid for by the state, and it counts toward high school and college. The Department of Education notes that each non-chartered, non-tax, supported school shall comply with state and local health, fire, and safety laws and even single family schools still have to comply with the letter of the law. For the first time, health inspectors are said to be visiting these "08" schools to check up on their compliance with health, fire, and safety laws, and homeschools are included. This may mean that homeschools would have to install panic bars or sprinkler systems to be in compliance with the law. Additionally, each family operating an "08" school needs to know that the Department of Education maintains a list of all non-chartered, non-tax supported schools which may be obtained by request from the Department. Families that desire to protect their privacy may wish to operate under the homeschool statute rather than as an "08" school. Again we have homeschoolers falling into the trap of accepting government handouts and becoming accountable for them, as well as having their privacy compromised. 

The Ohio Administrative Code regarding "08" schools can be found at Ohio Administrative Code § 3301-35-08 in the statutes:  http://onlinedocs.andersonpublishing.com/oh/lpExt.dll?f=templates&fn=main-h.htm&cp=OAC

 


In Oklahoma, Senate Bill 895 (see text: http://www2.lsb.state.ok.us/2003-04bills/sb/sb895_int.rtf ) is a bill amends current law regarding a driver license or permit application for any person under the age of 18. Current law requires that the applicant successfully demonstrate a satisfactory reading ability at the eight-grade reading level. This bill amends the law to add "and a satisfactory mathematics ability at the eighth-grade level." Students who are not in public school are required to pass an alternative mathematics proficiency test approved by the State Department of Education. This bill is a concern because there does not appear to be a logical connection between driving ability and mathematics proficiency. This bill places an additional testing requirement on home educators. This erodes the freedoms and rights to home educate in the State of Oklahoma.

An additional bill HB2718 (see text; http://www2.lsb.state.ok.us/2003-04bills/hb/hb2718_engr.rtf ), is an amendment to the Oklahoma Child Abuse Reporting and Prevention Act.
This bill has passed the House, Ayes 96, Nays 1. This will now pass to the Senate. Several of the issues addressed in the bill are:
* Requiring a child protective services worker to advise a person of the specific complaint or allegation made against the person.
* Requiring a child protective services worker to advise a person of specific rights during the investigation.
* Requiring all child protective services workers shall be trained in their legal duties to protect the constitutional and statutory rights of children and families from the initial time of contact during investigation through treatment, if required. The training curriculum shall include instruction in the Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution and parents' rights.
Homeschoolers are watching this legislation because child abuse allegations have been used against home educators and because as parents and citizens, the intent of this bill warrants consideration.

 

The current language of Virginia law 22.1-254.1 requires parents seeking to provide home instruction to either:
i. Have a baccalaureate degree
ii. Be a teacher of qualifications prescribed by the Board of Education
iii. Use an approved correspondence school program
iv. Provide a program of study or curriculum which includes the standards of learning objectives for language arts and mathematics and provides evidence that the parent is able to provide an adequate education for the child.

Virginia law currently requires home-schooling teachers to have at least a college bachelor's degree. Under options (iii) and (iv) of the Home Instruction statute of Virginia, any parent, whether they are a high school graduate or not, can homeschool. They can choose their own curriculum by enrolling their children in a state-approved correspondence course or by getting the local school superintendent to certify that their curriculum meets or exceeds the public school Standards of Learning. Virginia parents with high school diplomas have been allowed to homeschool their children for decades, but have been subject to more scrutiny in the form of portfolio reviews.
The Virginia House passed legislation HB 675 (text at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?041+ful+HB675 ) relaxing the academic qualifications required of parents who teach their children at home. Delegate Rob B. Bell III's bill amends option i of the home instruction statute (22.1-254.1) to permit parents with a high school diploma to provide home instruction. After spirited debate, the Senate passed the legislation on March 1st.  However, Gov. Mark R. Warner "strongly opposes" the bill and the 25-15 Senate vote was two shy of the two-thirds majority required to override a veto.

Although this change to Virginia law may be a good one, some homeschoolers claim that this bill may have actually made a larger number of legislators aware of how little oversight there really is of homeschoolers in Virginia. They feel that this may lead to a desire for legislators to push for more accountability next year. Homeschoolers should be proactive by educating their legislators now to let them know that homeschooling is doing quite well, and has done so in the past, without oversight, and that regulation is not needed.  You can track this legislation yourself by viewing http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=041&typ=bil&val=hb675

 

States around the country are starting to issue Certificates of Mastery instead of diplomas. This is in accordance with Goals 2000, School to Work, education reforms which link education with employment. The Certificate of Mastery is awarded based on several different "job clusters". The eventual plan is such that one may not be able to get a job unless one has the credentials to work in a particular field or "cluster". This is a very dangerous scenario and has been written about by John Taylor Gatto, Bev Eakman and others. They warn that school becomes no longer about education but about fulfilling job quotas, and kids are becoming merely "human resource material" to be doled out to various employment quotas. In Washington State, there is pending legislation, SB 6450, sponsored by Senator Stevens. The text of the legislation says (1) Private, parochial, and home-based instruction students are entitled to all the benefits of the certificate of mastery upon successfully passing the standardized test or an academic knowledge-based objective test selected by the private or parochial school or the parent of the home-based instruction student if the test meets the requirement of RCW 28A.200.010(3) in effect on July 25,1993.(2) Private, Parochial, and home-based instruction students shall not be denied equal access or opportunities to any benefit or benefits provided by the certificate of mastery obtained in the public schools of this state(3) Discrimination in equal access and opportunity against students who receive private, parochial, or home-based instruction is unlawful.

In essence what this bill does is protect home-based and private school graduates from discrimination with jobs and higher education. if they do not have a certificate of mastery. According to the law home-based and private schools are exempt from these reforms. Home Based Instruction students are not discriminated against by the Public School System as per RCW 28A.200.  Some Washington homeschoolers are opposing this bill because it supposes that home-based instructed students are discriminated against in the public venue and it poses the threat of making the certificate of mastery required, which may in turn subject homeschoolers to mandates of having to take state assessment tests (WASL).  On its face this bill may seem like a good idea, but the opposition has some very valid points. 

Washington State Legislature website can be found at http://www.leg.wa.gov/legislature

 

Senate Bill 439, in West Virginia was introduced by Marion County Senator Roman Prezioso and Harrison County Senator Joseph Minard. It requires that "each child" must have a record of compulsory immunizations, and "any parent who does not permit his or her child to be immunized" will face a criminal charge. If enacted, this bill will make West Virginia the first state to punish homeschooling parents for choosing not to vaccinate their children for religious and philosophical reasons.  Bill information can be found at the West Virginia Legislature web page http://www.legis.state.wv.us/

 

 

The bottom line here is that states are struggling with how to fit homeschools into the No Child Left Behind, and Goals 2000 plans. We must be vigilant to this legislation and the mandates that are being created. We should not be dragged into the federal mandates via the state mandates that only mirror federal requirements in order for the state to collect federal funding. If homeschools are considered private schools they may fall under the auspices of private school mandates and if privates schools are allowed to take state or federal monies then they will be accountable - and that includes homeschools. We are facing possible legislation having to do with home visits, state mandated testing, medical exams and other requirements. Also, as abuse and neglect issues get media attention, it may cause a knee-jerk reaction to regulate homeschoolers. We have to write our local papers to explain that abuse and neglect are not homeschool issues - they are social problems that already have legal remedies in place. Lastly, one has to remember that homeschoolers should NOT accept state money for anything. It only makes them susceptible to accountability through regulation. If you are going to take the money you will have to jump through the hoops that the state will require. We should also be wary of legislation that promises to "help homeschoolers".  Retain autonomy and be vigilant.

 

Thank you to those homeschoolers who have sent us information about the above legislation and issues.  If you have additional updates or information about these bills, or other bills in your own state which concern homeschoolers please let us know 

 

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