2019 Legislative Session Wrap-up

IAHE began this legislative session in January by monitoring 69 bills of concern. By mid-session, we were actively monitoring twenty-one bills with the potential to impact homeschool families, three of which were very concerning. While the majority of bills were education issues that we typically monitor every year, the emergence of mental health bills unexpectedly became the hot topic of the session.


Compulsory School Age

SB 318 (Gregory Taylor, Democrat – District 33)

  • Final Status – Bill died

Once again, a Senate bill was introduced that would lower the compulsory school age from seven years of age to five years. While it died again this session, we are well aware that this is an annual battle that we expect to revisit in 2020.


Mandatory Kindergarten

HB 1408 (Tonya Pfaff, Democrat – District 43)

  • Final Status – Bill died

This bill would have made kindergarten mandatory for every student five years of age on August 1 of that school year. It is now dead for this session, but we expect to watch this every year. However, the budget bill has positioned funding for increased kindergarten enrollment, so IAHE Action will be vigilant in watching for this in upcoming sessions.


Graduation Pathways

SB 507 (Jeff Raatz, Republican – District 27)

  • Final Status – Bill died in the House

HB 1002 (Holli Sullivan, Republican – District 78)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

SB 507 would have created a graduation pathways tracking and reporting system within the public school system. Public school graduation legislation is always monitored so that we can ensure homeschoolers are not discriminated against in college admissions. While SB 507 died, HB 1002 passed and does include a study regarding career coaching and graduation pathways for public education which we will diligently monitor next session to be sure homeschoolers have an equal opportunity in higher education.


Data Mining

SB 266 (Michael Crider, Republican – District 28)

  • Final Status – Bill died in the House

SB 507 (Jeff Raatz, Republican – District 27)

  • Final Status – Bill died in the Senate

Both the bill that would have mandated mental health screenings (SB 266), as well as the bill crafting graduation pathways (SB 507), would have created a tracking and reporting system on students. SB 507 would have required the Department of Education to provide data on students to the Commission for Higher Education and the State Board. SB 266 and its cohort, HB 1004, must have also, by their very nature, included the collection and recording of students’ inmost thoughts gathered through the mental health screenings. Data mining is a computer science term that simply involves collecting and storing data and finding new information within that data. These bills would have mined data from and about students, and IAHE is always against data mining due to the school system’s lack of accountability. SB 266 died and HB 1004 had the mental health language removed.


Educational Savings Options

HB 1254 (Jim Lucas, Republican – District 69)

  • Final Status – Bill died in House

HB 1675 (Ryan Lauer, Republican – District 59)

  • Final Status – Bill died in House

These two bills addressed educational savings options, such as annual grants or deductions for education-related expenses, typically to be administered by the state. IAHE Action met with legislators, and we were successful in having our concerns heard that this would be the proverbial foot in the door for increased government regulation of homeschooling.


Bias Crimes

SB 12 (Mike Bohacek, Republican – District 8)

  • Final Status – Bill died in House

SB 198 (Mike Bohacek, Republican – District 8)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

This session began with 13 bias and/or hate crime bills. SB 12 was the first to take off and it provided that a court may consider bias in imposing a criminal sentence. While not necessarily a homeschool issue, this bill had many faces. We monitored it to be able to inform co-ops and other homeschool groups with employees as to whether this may have affected them as well as religious restrictions that may be affected. SB 12 died in the House. SB 198 was similar to SB 12 and while it did pass this year and is now law, it does not list specific groups and is a sentencing bill so it does not have a direct effect on homeschool groups with employees.


Mental Health Screenings

SB 266 (Michael Crider, Republican – District 28)

  • Final Status – Bill died in House

HB 1004 (Wendy McNamara, Republican – District 76)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

HB 1001 (Todd Huston – Republican – District 37)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

HB 1629(Robert Behning – Republican – District 91)

  • Final Status – Bill Passed

SB 325(Michael Crider – Republican – District 28)

  • Final Status – Bill passed

SB 266 emerged from revisions in the Senate as a monstrosity that would mandate local schools to become, in essence, mental health providers. This would have been a huge infringement on parental rights by instituting mental health screenings for ALL children from birth through the age of 22. SB 266 passed the Senate but homeschooling parents along with other like-minded groups were able to sound the alarm about this bill and consequently, it did not receive a hearing in the House.

HB 1004 then began to move through the Senate, where IAHE Action watched to see if it would pick up language from SB 266 which included mental health screenings from birth to age 22. IAHE Action was pleased to see Sen. Dennis Kruse add language protecting parental rights by requiring written parental consent prior to mental health screenings and surveys, even though this was still a public school issue at that point. The bill passed the Senate with those provisions intact. However, Rep. Wendy McNamara, unhappy with the addition of these parental consent language, stripped the bill of mental health language before it passed.

HB 1001 was the biennial budget bill and it did pass with language included that allowed for the Secured School Safety grant funds to be used for school-based mental health services. However, in their final day of the session, the House heard the cries of conservative groups (including YOU!) and allowed SB 1629 to nullify the allowance in HB 1001 of using those funds for mental health services in schools. In addition to this, SB 325 included some parental protections for those using public schools. These protections are not perfect and do not allow for penalties, but all in all IAHE Action is pleased to see that legislators heard the people’s voices. SB 325 may be a springboard for homeschoolers to use in future sessions if parental protections of homeschoolers are infringed upon by extending mental health screenings outside of the public school system as was attempted this session.

READ MORE: UPDATE: HB 1004
READ MORE: What About SB266?

Virtual Public School Acountability

SB 567 – (Sen. Jeff Raatz – Republican – District 27)

  • Final Status – passed

In the final weeks of the session, a bill to create additional oversight for virtual public schools harkened back to old issues when SB 567 would have removed the “homeschool exemption” for students withdrawn to homeschool from the public schools for funding calculations. This change would have lumped these new homeschool students in with dropouts when the school reported back to the state. While it was unclear if there would be any long-term consequences for the individual student, the implications of grouping these two types of students does not reflect the intentions of the parents to continue the child’s education. We worked with Rep. Behning to address our concerns and the “homeschool exemption” was reinstated.

READ MORE: SB 567: Homeschoolers as dropouts?


Thank you for making a difference!

Despite having a Republican supermajority in the legislature, parents cannot let their guards down because new issues are introduced each session, as we saw this year with the issues of mental health and bias crime bills. Your phone calls and emails were heard.

Also this session, IAHE Action had many good discussions with many legislators such as our friends Rep. Robert Behning, Rep. Timothy Wesco, Sen. Dennis Kruse, Sen. Randall Head, Rep. Mike Speedy, Sen. Greg Walker, and Sen. Jeff Raatz. Many of these legislators reached out to us when they found areas of concern. Our goal is always to keep them aware that homeschool parents are here, actively monitoring educational bills as well as parental rights concerns.

We have also been able to introduce IAHE & IAHE Action to several legislators who only had a basic understanding of homeschooling. We were able to work with them and share how IAHE stands for parental rights, homeschool freedom, and religious freedom. We are grateful to those legislators that attended the IAHE Home Educators’ Convention. Every year, we hear from new legislators how vital the convention is to their understanding of the home education community.

Thank you to all of you who stay updated and contact your legislators as needed. YOU make a difference!

DONATE NOW to IAHE Action to support ongoing efforts to protect your homeschooling and parental rights.

SB 567: Homeschoolers as dropouts?

On April 9, 2018 Chalkbeat Indiana posted an article regarding SB 567, a bill to provide oversight to Indiana’s virtual, public school programs. The article referenced Rep. Bob Behning, the Indianapolis Republican who chairs the House Education Committee as saying:

Students who leave any public school — virtual or traditional — to be homeschooled would count as dropouts under the school’s graduation rate. Behning said he thinks schools abuse this option and those students, who might be more difficult to educate, end up in virtual schools.

Homeschooled students as dropouts?

Does Rep. Behning believe that families providing a home education are dropouts? Absolutely not.

The issue is whether or not schools are misreporting the number of students withdrawn to homeschool in an effort to protect their graduation rates and funding. Labeling chronic truants and dropouts as homeschooled students is a shell game with potential implications for all involved.

IAHE Action and our sister organization IAHE have been fighting this issue for years.

In 2013, a law was put in place in an attempt to address the problem of high school dropouts being categorized by the public school as homeschoolers. When a family asks to withdraw their student from a public high school, the school is required to provide families with counseling and information about Indiana law on home education (non-accredited, private schools).

Section 10 of House Enrolled Act 1005, added I.C. 20-33-2-28.6, a new section, to law. I.C. 20-33-2-28.6 provides the following: (a) This section applies to a high school student who is transferring to a nonaccredited nonpublic school. (b) Before a student withdraws from a public school, the principal of the student’s school shall provide to the student and to the student’s parent information on a form developed by the department and approved by the state board that explains the legal requirements of attending a nonaccredited nonpublic school located in Indiana. The principal and a parent of the student shall both sign the form to acknowledge that the parent understands the content of the form. (c) If the parent of the student refuses to sign the form provided by the principal under subsection (b), the student is considered a dropout and the principal shall report the student to the bureau of motor vehicles for action under section 28.5(g) of this chapter. The student is considered a dropout for purposes of calculating a high school’s graduation rate under IC 20-26-13-10.

In 2017, IAHE Action worked with Rep Behning to stop schools from mislabeling students that were withdrawn from the public school system to homeschool as dropouts.

In an attempt to curtail this practice, HEA 1384 contains language that prohibits a school from classifying a student as a homeschooler unless the school has substantial evidence that the parent or guardian of the student initiated the student leaving the public high school or an accredited nonpublic high school. The Indiana Department of Education may require the school to produce this evidence if it is ever requested. It will be important for the school to have evidence in writing that the parent initiated a transfer to homeschooling.

SB 567: A new year and a new bill

Faced with the staggering failure of Indiana virtual schools, the legislature is once again trying to hold public schools accountable. And, one of the key metrics for evaluating a public school and granting funding is a school’s graduation rate.

Read: How lax oversight and rapid growth fueled dismal results for Indiana’s virtual charter schools

One of the things that the original language in SB 567 attempted to do was to increase school accountability by removing the distinction between dropouts and students withdrawn to homeschool.

Indiana Coalition for Public Education shared the following:

SB 567 is a bill regarding increased oversight and regulation for virtual schools (generally a good thing). Among other provisions, Amendment #14 removes the “homeschool exemption” from the list of allowable reasons for a student to be removed from a graduation cohort. This means that, if passed/enacted, any student who withdraws from your high school for reason of “homeschooling” will count as a drop out in your high school’s graduation rate. This amendment will negatively affect the accountability grade of many public high schools.

As this bill moved from the Senate through the House, IAHE Action spoke with Rep. Behning to share our concerns about the implications of grouping new homeschool students in with dropouts. Behning authored and passed a House amendment that reinstated the homeschool exemption on April 9th.

Problems Persist

Are schools mislabeling their withdrawn students in an effort to retain their school’s letter grade and funding? Are schools coaching families to complete the homeschool withdraw form… even if the family has no intention to continue their child’s education? Are families being pushed into homeschooling without any understanding of home education?

Yes.

How many families?

That answer is unclear.

In 2018, twelve public schools reported that more than 10% of their high school seniors left to homeschool. Over seventy schools reported withdrawal rates of seniors higher than 5%. The IAHE has contact with a large number of families that make the decision to homeschool in order to complete their student’s high school education, but these numbers do not reflect what we see across the state.

Today, Chalkbeat contacted the IAHE to ask if our organization receives calls from families that were pushed into homeschooling by their public school.

Absolutely.

Our team continues to field calls from parents sharing their stories about school officials “signing their child up for homeschooling” on the Indiana Department of Education’s website — even when the parent has no clear understanding of home education.

As with any parenting challenge, no one begins homeschooling knowing everything they need. It takes time, research, sacrifice, and hard work to be successful. Most importantly, it takes commitment. We believe that parents are capable of providing a quality home education if they are dedicated to the challenge. But, parents should NEVER be forced into an educational choice by someone else.

The current process of evaluating public schools is broken. The rampant mismanagement of the virtual public school programs has only put a spotlight on an issue that has been present for many years. The debate over SB 567 and the schools’ “homeschool exemption” has only made it clear that abuse of the system is still happening.

In spite of the flaws and abuses in the current process, it is balanced by the need to maintain a distinction between high school dropouts and families deciding to homeschool. IAHE Action and IAHE are in support of SB 567 as it retains the current homeschool exemption for schools without increasing oversight for families.


DONATE NOW to IAHE Action to support ongoing efforts to protect your homeschooling and parental rights.

What About SB266?

We applaud the intentions of the authors to address the concerns that public schools are facing today, but tragic situations lead to bad legislation.

IAHE Action, along with our sister organization IAHE, continues to receive questions about SB266. As we wait with so many of you to see the bill’s status, we thought it would be helpful to share a recap of recent events.

When Senate Bill 266 was originally introduced on January 7, 2019, it was only nine pages long. The original intent of the bill was to address public school issues of mental health screening, safety, privacy, and other education matters.

By mid-February, the bill passed through the Appropriations Committee and emerged as a monstrosity far beyond the scope of the original. The revised bill shifted from providing services in the public school to a mandate for local schools to in essence become mental health providers for ALL children from birth through the age of 22.

Suddenly, a bill to address public school issues became a serious threat for ALL parents.

Compare the bill’s language from the original to the latest draft:

Prior to the Senate’s third reading, IAHE Action spoke with one of the bill’s co-authors Senator Dennis Kruse. He shared that the bill no longer held the protections he had worked to include. He shared that if the protections that he had fought for were not reinstated he would vote against the bill.

In February, Freedom Project said:

The legislation, dubbed SB 266, also furthers government meddling in the lives of children from birth through age 22. All children will be routinely screened for “mental-health” issues, with schools becoming de facto mental-health institutions. Indiana activists slammed the provisions as another step toward government control from cradle to grave.

Alex Newman 

Watch the Freedom Project Media’s, Duke Pesta, discuss the impact of this bill.

Testimony before the Senate on February 26th was heartfelt on both sides. One of the bill’s authors, Sen Crider, shared that the bill was written in the face of the May 2018 shooting in Noblesville. IAHE Action agrees that the public schools need effective tools to address the challenges that they are facing, but SB 266 gives authority to the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to target and identify any child for mental health screening. It is clear that the public school system is facing a severe crisis of addressing the needs of their students but as Sen Young testified “this bill will haunt you.”

It’s clear that the intentions of the original bill have been buried beneath an outside agenda.

In spite of an outcry of concern, the bill passed the Senate 29 to 20 and Sen Kruse removed himself as a co-author after the bill passed.

How did your Senator vote?

Check the Roll Call here.

Intentions of men vs. a very bad bill

In spite of the quiet during the middle of the legislative session, SB 266 is still alive and waiting for a hearing before the House Education Committee. Earlier this month we spoke with Sen Head about our concerns. He shared that the bill as it passed through the Senate was being amended and that the concerns being expressed by IAHE, IAHE Action, and many others would be addressed before the bill reached the House.

Is it possible for the authors to revise SB 266 to a point that addresses ALL of the concerns? Not likely. We applaud the intentions of the authors to address the concerns that public schools are facing today, but tragic situations lead to bad legislation.

Advance America

What’s next?

IAHE Action is actively watching for the reemergence of SB 266 in the House. Many people have been proactive with calling their Representatives and urging them to vote no on this bill… even though it has not been filed or scheduled for a hearing yet.

How different will the bill be once it shows back up? No one knows.

Will another bill take it’s place?

Sunday, March 17th, an article in the Pharos Tribune highlighted that a similar bill from the House (HB 1004) is in place to address these same issues in a manner with the same disregard for parental rights as SB 266.

Indiana Liberty Coalition shared:

House Bill 1004 is scheduled to be heard tomorrow afternoon in the Senate Education Committee. This bill is nearly as bad as SB266. It will allow government schools to set up the same mental health services/providers in schools along with social-emotional wellness services. We’ve shared with you many dangers on social-emotional learning and what is coming. This bill also includes the Youth Risk Behavior Survey which is a survey loaded with sexual questions and drives the funding for comprehensive sex ed into Indiana.

Neither bill is targeting the homeschool community on the surface, but full-scale attacks on parental rights will impact all parents. Both bills have now crossed over to the other side of the Indiana General Assembly and are facing new hearings. Both bills are still on the table for the second half of the session and IAHE Action encourages you to stay alert.

HB 1004: Call to Action

Call the Senate Education Committee and ask them to vote “NO” on HB1004.
Senate: (800) 382-9467
Chairman: Sen. Raatz (bill sponsor)
VP Chairman: Sen. Crane
Majority Members: Sen. Buchanan, Sen. Freeman, Sen. Kruse, Sen. Leising, Sen. Rogers and Sen. Spartz
Minority Members: Sen. Melton, Sen. Mrvan and Sen. Stoops

SB 266: Call to Action

Call the House Education Committee members and ask them to vote “NO” on SB 266.
House: (317) 232-9600
Chairman: Rep. Robert Behning
Vice Chair: Rep. Anthony Cook
Majority Members: Rep. Woody Burton, Rep. Edward Clere, Rep. Dale DeVon, Rep. Chuck Goodrich, Rep. Jack Jordon, and Rep. Jim Lucas
Minority Members: Rep. Vernon Smith, Rep. Edward DeLaney, Rep. Shelia Klinker, and Rep. Tonya Pfaff

International Compulsory Attendance Age

By: Alison Slatter and Bridgette Whitlow-Spurlock

This year, the Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction has vocally led the charge to lower the compulsory attendance in the state of Indiana. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) published a nice, full-color, eight-page handout laying out the arguments including a list of all 50 States’ compulsory attendance ages. This was to highlight how “backward” Indiana’s seven-year-old compulsory age is in comparison to the rest of America. Indiana is not alone. There are twelve other states who have chosen the same or older age.

Considering the fact the United States regularly tests squarely in the middle of the International PISA exam results, is it wise to look to ourselves for education models? Does the IDOE publication use the right yardstick with which to measure our state? Perhaps it might be better to look at the top scorers of the international PISA test to judge the wisdom of a compulsory attendance age of 7 years old.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) does not follow the pattern of most exams. This test is designed to identify critical thinking, problem-solving and communications skills, not academic exercises that test memorization, teachers or curricula performance. On the PISA test, one must know how to manipulate the knowledge in their heads, not just spit out information. For example, questions regarding monetary matters require students to devise their own monetary system from which to arrive at the answer.  It is not enough to know how their country’s money system works. They must be able to mentally re-create a monetary system demonstrating a thorough knowledge of how money works in math and in society. Amanda Ripley does an excellent job walking through the PISA exam in her book, “The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got That Way”.

So, when do the “smartest kids in the world” start school? Finland, whose educational reform has recently gained renown, scored in the top ten of the PISA science and reading exam and has a compulsory attendance of age seven. Our northern neighbors, Canada, have compulsory attendance beginning at six or seven years, depending on the province. Singapore scored first on all three PISA tests (reading, science, and math) and has a compulsory attendance age of six.  Japan also ranked on all three exams and also boasts an age six start. The small eastern European country of Estonia made the list on all three exams with a seven-year-old beginning to formal education. Hong Kong children can start as young as three to six years in Kindergarten, but primary school does not begin until seven years of age.

The countries listed above have all been recognized, for many years, by academic excellence, yet none of them start primary school at age 5. Also note, the countries who scored well come from vastly different cultures and continents. It is hard to believe American children are somehow developmentally different from children in Europe, Asia, and Canada.

More and more studies are beginning to cast shadows onto just how effective lower compulsory attendance is to socio-emotional learning, physical health, college entrance, and graduation. These are all excellent questions to ponder when making sweeping public policy changes on all children, depriving 100% of parents their rights to determine the appropriate age to begin formal education.  While there is no opposition to making education available at earlier ages when ready, there should be vigorous opposition to mandatory early start ages for formal education.

Parents, not the government, remain the best authority on the readiness of their children to start full-day Kindergarten five days a week. Let’s also make sure we are measuring success by those who have proven successful.

Learn More

Social and Cognitive Impact on Children:

Physical Health:

Finland Schools: