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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.

UPDATE: HB 1004

As we’ve shared here previously, HB 1004 has provisions dealing with mental health issues of high schoolers with virtually no parental protections. And, virtually no penalties if anyone was sloppy with protecting confidential information.

Sen. Kruse led a successful effort to get HB 1004 amended to include strong parental protections and the bill passed the Senate. However, IAHE Action has learned that the original bill author, Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara is trying to gut these protections. She refused to concur with the Senate changes and is now working behind to remove these hard-fought protections.

We’ve reached out to key legislators to make them aware of our dissatisfaction. But we need your help. 

If you’re like me and you want parental rights protections, please call your House Member today and let them know that the House should “concur” to HB 1004 and not gut the parental protections Sen. Kruse placed into HB 1004. 

American Family Association of Indiana’s Director, recently shared:

It is important to call, particularly your state Rep, and ask them to keep the parental rights language that the Senate put in 1004. The House GOP caucus will vote behind closed doors on whether to accept McNamara’s gutting of the bill… and she will then go back and act accordingly at the conference committee.

Micah Clark

The number is: 800-382-9841.

Please call right away, time for the 2019 session is coming to a close so the final votes could happen at any time. 

Support Sen. Kruse’s Amendment to HB 1004

UPDATE: Amendment #25 was pulled and rewritten as amendment #27. It was approved by the committee. Thank you for your action to protect parental rights!

URGENT: Please call your State Senator to support Sen. Kruse’s Amendment #25 to HB 1004. 

As you already know, thanks to your calls and emails, Senate Bill 266, after a contentious vote in the Senate, has stalled in the House Education Committee. That bill is now radio-active, so to speak. No one wants to touch it.

However, IAHE Action has learned that proponents of SB 266 are looking to use House Bill 1004 as a vehicle to advance their agenda. Currently, HB 1004 contains language that would have mandatory mental health screenings for 9-12th graders. While this bill is not a direct attack on homeschoolers yet, we view this as an attack on parental rights.

Thankfully, our long-time ally in the Senate, Sen. Dennis Kruse (R – Auburn) has filed an amendment that would strengthen parental rights protections by prohibiting any mental health screening, assessment, evaluation or treatment to occur without prior written consent from the parents.

Please call your Senator today and ask them to vote for Amendment #25 in the Senate Education Committee. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:30pm, so they need to hear from you right away. IAHE Action has also learned there is stiff resistance building to this amendment from the entrenched bureaucracies. So there is no time to waste and every call counts.

The Senate # is: 800-382-9467. Please call them ASAP. And if you have a minute, ask your friends and family to call as well. 

Please do all you can. 

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

UPDATE SB266: Mental Health Screening

Last week, IAHE Action shared about Senate Bill 266 which allows for mental health screening for all children through the age of 22. (Read the original post here.) Based on our conversations with one of the bill’s authors Sen Dennis Kruse we asked families to call and ask for the original language of the bill to be reinstated.

What has become clear since that time is that under the guise of mental health, SB 266 will give the government wide-reaching powers beyond what it already has to test, evaluate and treat our children.

Senate Bill 266 has become a massive vehicle to cover a variety of mental health programs paid for by the State of Indiana. What we originally liked about SB 266 was the effort to give schools tools balanced by various protections and penalties that Sen. Kruse had placed into the bill.

But below the surface, the bill gives control over our children’s well being to the state. When the government decides it’s their responsibility to evaluate the mental health of all children, we know that means parents will have fewer rights recognized to raise their children as they see fit.

At this point we don’t believe the bill can even be amended to our satisfaction. 

We are encouraging you to contact your State Senator and ask them to vote no on SB 266

Find your legislator here.

Read More

Indiana Education Bill Seeks “Mental Health” Control Of
All Kids

IN Senate Bill 266 Gives State/School Parental Power Over Students’ Mental Health from Birth to Age 22 – by Jeannie Georges

What Is The Cost of a Home Visit?

SB 266: Mental Health Screening for All Children

Dear Friends,

Yesterday we saw an uprising on Facebook with a call to action over proposed legislation, SB 266. It’s the kind of bill we worry about every day the General Assembly is in session. You should know, right off the bat, we need you to contact your State Senator right away.

One of our closest allies in the State Senate, veteran home school parent and former Education Chair, Sen. Dennis Kruse, informed us that SB 266 was amended in a committee hearing last week.

And, he’s not happy about it one bit. In fact, even though he’s listed as a co-author of the bill, he told us that he plans to vote against the bill unless the bill is fixed.

You see, SB 266 is the BIG attempt this year to expand mental health services into the schools. Public, charter, private, all of them. And that means schools will be in the business of conducting psychiatric and mental health surveys and treatments on children from birth to age 22.

While the bill pays lip-service to parental consent, Sen. Kruse had wisely added into the bill a variety of protections for parents and students and also penalties for schools that didn’t follow the law.

But the public-school lobby quickly moved into action and had Sen. Kruse’s protections stripped from SB 266.

As the bill stands now, the schools could prescribe a psychological evaluation or treatment to a minor without fear of penalty of the law.

We have seen way too many instances over the years of where schools are ignoring the law and trampling the rights of parents and our kids. Having clear penalties for violations of protected health information and consent is the least we can ask for.

Right now under the guise of “mental health” Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly are moving ahead to let schools do whatever they please and spending millions to do it.

Please call your Senator today at 800-382-9467 and demand they restore Sen. Kruse’s protections and penalties in SB 266.

We can’t take any vote for granted. The next vote will be before the entire Senate.

If enough Senators hear from us right now, we can get this bill fixed so that schools will be accountable to the law.

Please do all you can.

Rob Besiwenger
rob@iaheaction.net

2019 Bill Watch – Kindergarten and Compulsory School Age

IAHE and IAHE Action continue to work with legislators to promote a parent’s right to educate their child at home and to act in the best interest of the child. We believe that all efforts to lower the Compulsory School Age should be stopped and with your help will make sure our elected officials in Indianapolis hear our voices.

Every year the IAHE and IAHE Action watch as legislators are asked once again to lower the compulsory school age. The 2019 session is no different.

Currently, in Indiana, the compulsory school age is seven. However, House Bill 1408 and Senate Bill 318 recommend lowering it to five. House Bill 1089 proposes allowing four-year-olds to attend school; however, it is not asking for mandatory enrollment at this age.

The IAHE and IAHE Action believe that parents are the best people to decide if a child is ready for formal education.

Many teachers and school administrators complain about the increase in student behavioral issues (ADD, ADHD etc.) and we can’t help but wonder if they should consider whether this is a result of formal education simply starting too early.

While this might appear to be a public school issue, experience tells us the government paves with a very broad brush, and these changes will eventually force home educators to start educating their children at an earlier age.

Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a member of the House Education Committee. He told me there was data suggesting some kids would benefit from an earlier start. But, the fact is that there is research on both sides of the issue.

A recent Harvard study highlighted many of the problems associated with early school enrollment: “researchers discovered that children who start school as among the youngest in their grade have a much greater likelihood of getting an ADHD diagnosis than older children in their grade. In fact, for the U.S. states studied with a September 1st enrollment cut-off date, children born in August were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older peers.”

The first obvious problem is that kindergarten is already available for students voluntarily. That leaves a small number, maybe 7,000 children, across the state who aren’t enrolling in kindergarten already.

Fans of lowering the compulsory school age claim that 5,000 of these children are “at risk.” Now you’re probably wondering, what does “at risk” mean? As best we can tell it means they are being serviced by the Department of Child Services, Correction Services, Family and Social Services, or the juvenile justice system.

Proponents of lowering the Compulsory School Age claim that children starting school earlier leads to improved educational outcomes. However, an analysis by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute of a study cited by many advocates of lowering the age shows it relies on data from an “unpublished draft.”

This “data” cited by proponents seems to be a mirage.

Homeschoolers are often more relaxed in their approach to early education since they have a flexibility that is not available in the public school system. If a homeschool student is not ready for a concept, a parent can wait a bit and circle back to it at a later date. Parents know that by waiting to address an issue when the child is ready, they can learn the concept much more quickly. Waiting did not hurt but helped.

Our children are not “cookie cutter” kids. Some will be ready for a “formal” education earlier than others. We also see a more relaxed approach resulting in high levels of success in Finland’s school system. (((citation))) Compulsory school age is seven, playtime is beneficial, and the love of learning for learning’s sake is emphasized over assessments. Learning is (or should be) fun for young children!

IAHE and IAHE Action continue to work with legislators to promote a parent’s right to educate their child at home and to act in the best interest of the child. We believe that all efforts to lower the Compulsory School Age should be stopped and with your help will make sure our elected officials in Indianapolis hear our voices.

How can you help?

Let your legislators know that you don’t want to see the compulsory school age lowered.

Senate: Education and Career Development Committee

House: Education Committee

Partner with us!

Your donations to IAHE and IAHE Action help maintain our homeschool freedom in Indiana.

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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.

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The heart of the conflict – The Natural Right of the Parent to Control their Children’s Upbringing vs. State Power

Currently, almost all students in Indiana go to public school kindergarten. But, parents have a choice to delay formal education until age 7.

There are people who want to take that right away from parents. If the compulsory school age is lowered, all 5 and 6-year-old children will be forced to begin formal education at age 5, even if their parents think they are not developmentally ready.

In the history of compulsory schooling, there has long been a struggle between parents and the state. Parents have a natural right to control their children’s upbringing, but the state uses the legal doctrine of “parens patriae” to “do what is necessary to protect the child’s welfare, even if such actions diminish parental control.”

We take compulsory schooling for granted, but it was not always this way. Thomas Jefferson said,

“It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the forcible asportation and education of the infant against the will of the father.”

This sounds like such a radical statement to modern ears, doesn’t it? But now we have had compulsory schooling for so long that we assume it must be kept. It’s a slippery slope to keep pushing the kids into formal school younger and younger, stripping away parental rights to raise and educate our own children. 

The time to fight against a proposed educational change is now, before the change has been declared law. Before the change has become part of our society as “the way it is.” When states have done things such as banning private schools, banning the teaching of foreign languages in public schools, forced Amish people to attend school after 8th grade (contrary to their religious beliefs), and made it compulsory to salute a flag, then parents have had to go to court to fight for their rights.

The lowest compulsory school age in Indiana is 7, and it has been 7 for a very long time. It’s not logical to link starting school at age 7 to a poorer educational outcome, when the compulsory school age has remained 7 for such a very long time. This is an expansion of government reach.

When government seeks to expand its reach, an attentive population should question whether the government has the authority to do so. Thus, the important question here becomes: What is the state authority for expanding the compulsory school age?

 “[N]o legislator should promote the expansion of state-compelled school attendance ages unless…such an expansion of compulsory school age by the state is consistent with the state’s constitution and the spirit and history of freedom of choice in his or her state.”[i]

Those advocating for lowering the compulsory school age must show that there is state authority to do so.

Compelling every 5 and 6-year-old to begin school, even if it results in what a parent considers to be harm to the child

If the state takes away the parental right to delay formal school until age 7, the state is effectively saying that every 5 and 6-year-old must be in school. They are compelling every 5 and 6-year-old to begin school, even if it results in what a parent considers to be harmful to the child.

Almost all children in Indiana begin school at age 5, and almost all of them do so in public school. The children who are not beginning school at age 5 have parents who chose not to have them begin. If the state takes away the parental right to delay school, the state is saying that it knows better than those parents do about their own 5-year-old child. 

“Just a couple of years ago, “House Education Committee Chairman Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) said the issue was not a big deal due to state data showing a high rate of kindergarten attendance.”

What would cause the state, or really anyone, to suddenly say that a government bureaucracy is in the best position to decide, over the protest of parents, what is in the educational interest of an individual 5-year-old child?

One stated reason uses the existence of the My Way Pre-K program. Now that we have public school Pre-K offered through the state, the state doesn’t want parents using Pre-K and then taking time off before starting Kindergarten.

“McCormick says lowering the compulsory school age from 7 to 6 would benefit the same at-risk children the state wants to help with its limited My Way Pre-K program. ‘So those are the very kids that we’re trying to target for pre-K that we would like to see that continuation through kindergarten,’ she says.”

First, no evidence is offered to support that it is at-risk children who are not attending kindergarten at age 5. Is it better, on average, to begin formal school at an older or younger age? There are studies that support both sides of the debate, but the consensus is that there is a small benefit to entering school at an older age.

“In sum, over and above experiences at home and in child care, the age that children entered school showed some modest relation to school achievement, especially growth in achievement, with children who entered school at an older age progressing faster than children who started school at a somewhat younger age…”

Secondly, there is no evidence offered to support that starting school at age 5 will help any children, let alone at-risk children. Public-school Pre-K is offered to low-income families. The choice to delay entrance to kindergarten (called “redshirting)” for a child is overwhelmingly a choice made by affluent households, because they are the ones who can afford an extra year of childcare, or can afford to have one parent stay home from the workforce to raise children.

“Redshirting is nearly twice as prevalent in schools serving affluent student bodies as it is among those whose mean household income was close to the poverty line. This finding is not too surprising, given that the choice to redshirt may mean sending your child to preschool or daycare one additional year before kindergarten, which could be financially prohibitive among some low-income families.”

The evidence shows that lowering the compulsory school age would overwhelmingly affect affluent families, the exact opposite of those who are targeted by Indiana’s My Way Pre-K program.

Who is in the best position to determine what kind of help a 5-year-old child needs? A blanket statute that affects every 5 and 6-year-old child in the state of Indiana, without regard to individual variation and development, or the parent of that child?

 

Forcing Educational Conformity, Regardless of Outcome

Lowering the compulsory school age in Indiana is unpopular among Hoosiers. The IndyStar reports, “Lawmakers have previously sought to lower the age at which parents are required to start educating their kids, but to no avail. Now, though, those lawmakers have an important voice on their side. ‘Indiana just doesn’t like that conversation,’ said State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. ‘But there are some legislators that do.’”

Again, if the compulsory school age is lowered, it forces an educational conformity that disregards the needs of very young children. Hoosiers have protested lowering the compulsory school age in the past. Now, we have advocates who want to force a change that is unpopular. It should give all of us pause to see anyone advocating for the trampling of dissent.

“Probably no deeper division of our people could proceed from any provocation than from finding it necessary to choose whose program public educational officials shall compel youth to unite in embracing… Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.” West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943).

Those pushing Hoosiers to lower the compulsory school age say they are doing it to “help.” I hearken back to Ronald Reagan’s old quote, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” 

It should be concerning to all Hoosiers that our Superintendent is pushing an educational agenda that Hoosiers have rejected time and again.

 

[i] Ray, Brian D. (2009). Is there any solid evidence for expanding compulsory school age? Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute.
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Lisa Yankey is a happy homeschooling mom of three, but she never expected to homeschool. Teaching runs in her blood – she is a former public school teacher, and her mother, father, and brother are all former public school teachers. During her childhood and as a teacher herself, she recognized many issues in public school. She went to law school at night in a long-term plan to help improve public schools. She used to believe that every child could receive a good and appropriate education from public school. She realized the error of this belief when she watched her own child suffering in public school. She began homeschooling shortly after her oldest child had a disastrous start to public school first grade, and she has never looked back.

Lisa serves as a member of the IAHE Action Government Affairs team. She kept her career as a part-time attorney and works for herself as a sole practitioner, with a practice area in immigration law. She is known particularly for her representation of victims of domestic abuse. She continues teaching adults as a speaker on immigration law at continuing legal education events for fellow lawyers. Lisa resides in Noblesville, Indiana (Hamilton County). with her husband, three children, two dogs, and a cat.