I'd like to see us not pass this law in Arkansas. Why does the state need to meddle with something that's not broken? Those of us who homeschool take on the cost to ourselves, we don't get anything back from sales, income, or property taxes that support government schools.
When you consider this quote about last year's measures of the government school system:
“The exciting point to note about this year’s scores is that at all grade levels in both literacy and math, we have more than half of our students scoring proficient and above,” from Dr. Ken James, the state Commissioner of Education, you start to see why homeschooling has more than just a foothold. The state system is excited that half! of their students are at least proficient in reading and math. (I'll give him this: many measures go to two-thirds!) That means that, all other factors being equal, of my 3 children, if they were government schools, one of them would not be functioning at the expectations for their grade level. Ah, but you'll counter that other things make a difference! Like what? Probably parental involvement. A supportive home environment, having food to eat at home, security at home. So, without a good home, a government school is inadequate. Why, then, make it harder to let home handle it? Unless the assumption is that forcing homeschool-minded people to put their kids in school will give you more supportive parents and some students that are at or above, to raise your percentages.
This bill is filed and pushed, but where is the evidence of need? I'll admit there is anecdotal evidence of homeschoolers that abuse their right. Of course, we know that there are no lazy students or uninvolved parents in government schools, right?
Leave homeschoolers alone. Fix real problems.
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HB 2144: An Act Amending the Prerequisites for Home Schooling
Sponsored By Representative David Cook of Williford (Sharp County)
Summary: This bill requires all home school parents to prove by August 15 of each year that their child took the most recent state-mandated home school test. This bill enables public school educators to prohibit students from transferring to a home school once the semester is underway.
I. This bill affects every Arkansas home school family. In addition to a home school notice of intent and waiver form, every home school parent would be required to provide the public school superintendent with proof by August 15 that their child took the most recently required home school test. Parents who want to begin home schooling at the beginning of the spring semester would be required to turn in a notice of intent, waiver form, and proof of testing by December 1st.
Concern: What kind of proof is required? Will parents have to submit test scores? What other “proof” would a parent have to demonstrate that their child took the test? What about students who are not required to take the state-mandated home school test? Under this law, home schooling in Kindergarten through third grade would be illegal since children in these grades are not required to take the state mandated home school test. Home schoolers are tested for the first time during the spring of their third grade year. These students have no proof of testing because they are not required to take the test. The State Board of Education currently requires home schoolers to test in grades 3 through 9. State law gives the State Board of Education the option of changing these grade levels at any time or eliminating testing altogether. Just a few years ago, the board required testing in only grades 5, 7, & 10. Under this law, if the State Board of Education eliminated all norm-referenced testing, home schoolers would have no proof of testing and not be able to comply with this law.
Concern: What about parents who forget to turn in their notice of intent, waiver, and proof of testing by August 15? Under this law, they could be forced to enroll their children in the public school for the entire semester. This law provides for no appeal process. Under current law, the longest they could be required to remain in public school would be 14 calendar days.
II. This bill applies to every public school student. Even after the semester is underway, current law allows public school students to transfer to a home school subject to a 14 day waiting period. Under current law, the local public school superintendent may waive this 14 day waiting period and allow parents to begin home schooling immediately. Current law allows parents of public school students to withdraw their child and begin home schooling at any time during the school year and for any reason. This law would empower public school educators to overrule the wishes of the child’s parents. They could force the child to remain in the public school even in cases of sexual harassment, bullying, threats, serious physical or emotional illness, or academic failure. This bill makes no provision for cases in which parents believe it is in the best interest of their child to withdraw them from school. This bill requires the parent to apply with the school principal, counselor, and one teacher. If this panel refuses to allow the child to leave the school, there is no appeal process. Their decision would be final.
Concern: Why should public school educators have more control over a child than the child’s parents? Families who are able to send their child to private school are free to leave the public school at any time with no questions asked. Why discriminate against parents who decide to enroll their child in a home school?
Concern: What about liability for public school educators who force a child to remain in their school against their will and against the will of the parents? What if a bullied, harassed, or threatened child is harmed while being forced to attend the school? What legal liabilities exist for the principal, counselor, and teacher who made the decision to force the child to remain in the school?
Conclusion: Arkansas has a good home school law. Neither the Department of Education nor the home school community has brought any significant legislation before the Arkansas Legislature in over 12 years. There is no need for a change.
Vote Against HB 2144: The David Cook Home School Bill
For more information contact Jerry Cox at the Education Alliance (501) 375-7000