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

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

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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.
IAHE Action is a 501c4 organization. Donations are not tax deductible. IAHE Action is funded by the generosity of our donors.

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. 

Are Indiana’s Proposed Graduation Pathways Problematic for Home Educators?

IAHE Action has monitored the work of the Graduation Pathways Panel. In 2015, there were efforts to update diploma requirements which were later abandoned after pushback from the special needs community. IAHE had a concern at that time about the influence of Common Core. It seemed to many the focus of state education had switched to workforce development instead of academic instruction.  Upon further inquiry from Superintendent Ritz’ Department of Education, the info they sent led IAHE to believe that in order to meet the diploma guidelines, career type classes would be required that could not be provided at home. Homeschoolers found this to be alarming, so concerns were shared with the State Board of Education and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. The Commission assured IAHE that there was no intention to undermine the ability of home educators to meet requirements via a parent at home or to provide a non-accredited, nonpublic diploma.

Currently, in November 2017, the Graduation Pathways Panel is completing work on a new public education diploma. To be clear, home educators are not bound by these requirements. We do want homeschoolers to be aware of the new requirements because colleges may decide to prefer those requirements when choosing applicants.

Here is the latest draft.  

We sought the outside opinion of Home School Legal Defense Association and their high school consultants about this issue. They concur that although we may not agree with the State that the pathway requirements are a good idea, homeschool students are able to complete the same prerequisites. Remember, Indiana allows non-accredited, non-public schools to set their own guidelines.

Colleges are different, and they usually don’t change to meet high school requirements. A college-bound student must meet the university’s guidelines. It’s a sad commentary on public education in Indiana that the State now believes in order to be prepared for college, their students are encouraged to take dual enrollment classes in high school instead of focusing on mastery of each high school level subject. These requirements for publicly educated graduates could affect competitiveness for homeschoolers as they seek college admittance if they don’t follow suit.

We continue to have a concern that the schools will push students who need extra educational assistance into home education whether or not their parents are in the position to take on the legal responsibility of home education.  Contact IAHE Action if you hear of it.

There is only so much time in the day. Counting work experience or workforce training as a graduation requirement instead of solely focusing on academics may limit a student’s future options. A well-rounded, solidly academic student is prepared for all of life and will not be limited in the same way as one that’s been pigeon-holed with specific job training.

The final meeting of the Graduation Pathways Panel is November 7, 2017 at the State Library, History Reference Room 211, 315 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202, from 9:00AM to 12:00PM (ET).

As a concerned citizen, if you’d like to leave a comment about the proposals, contact: gradpathways_comment@sboe.in.gov.

As a 501c4 organization, donations to IAHE Action are NOT tax-deductible. We are funded by the generosity of our donors. THANK YOU for partnering with us as we seek to keep Indiana homeschoolers free.

 

 

Lowering Compulsory School Age and Mandatory Kindergarten; Oh, my!

In the past week, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, has called for legislation during the 2018 session of the Indiana General Assembly to lower the compulsory school age to six and to make kindergarten mandatory. The Democrats attempted to push similar legislation in 2015 that would have lowered the compulsory school age.

Are Your Children Missing?

She states that the government via public education is “missing a big chunk of kids.” We must never forget the original purpose for Common Schools (government-run schools). According to E.G. West, the author of Education and the State, public education’s purpose is to serve those who chose not to take responsibility for educating their own children.

As our sister organization, Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE), has noted on their blog, many are frustrated by the public schools and have decided to educate their own children.  Could these be some of the “missing chunk” of children?  IAHE has noticed what appears to be a large influx into the homeschool community as noted by calls and inquiries they receive about home education. They took a survey to see why parents had decided to remove their child from a traditional school setting to home school.

At-risk Families Put All Families At Risk

The Tribune Star article about the call for mandatory kindergarten states, [Indiana] “has 7,000 children who don’t take advantage of kindergarten, and of those, 5,000 are considered at-risk, she said. When they start formal schooling, those children face many disadvantages.” In case you are wondering the type of children who are “at-risk”, they may be children who are served by the Department of Child Services, Family and Social Services, the Department of Corrections, or the juvenile justice system.  

Unfortunately, if the compulsory school age is lowered and kindergarten becomes mandatory to force these families to put their child in school at an earlier age, it will affect homeschoolers, too. Government typically paints with a broad brush. Homeschoolers will be forced to begin formal education at an earlier age.

Homeschoolers take the view that education begins at birth, although they may not begin “formal” education until years later. Currently, in Indiana, that is age seven. A number of legislators have bemoaned the fact that there is a “gap” between pre-school and age seven and have hoped to close it.

Could Delayed “Formal” Education Actually Be Beneficial?

In a review of recent ISTEP scores, it appears a number of scores dropped between grades 3-8 and grade 10. Is it true in your area? Check out the results here. Could it be many students are burnt out with formal education and have lost their love of learning?

Homeschoolers are often more relaxed in their approach to education since they have a flexibility that is not available in the public school. 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. Many parents have noticed that when the child is ready, they are able to learn the concept much more quickly. Waiting did not hurt but helped.  Our children are not “cookie cutter” kids. Some may be ready for a “formal” education earlier than others. We believe it is best to allow a fit parent to decide.

We see a more relaxed approach is used in schools of Finland.  It appears to be helpful to those students as well.  Compulsory school age is seven, and playtime is important. The love of learning for learning’s sake is fostered. There is not an emphasis on assessments. Learning is (or should be) fun for children!

In closing, IAHE keeps abreast of Indiana homeschool trends. They currently have a survey posted for those who chose to delay formal education until age seven. Check it out if this pertains to you.

 

The Suffocating Embrace of the State

During the 2017 Indiana legislative session, there were two Education Savings Account (ESA) or Education Options Account bills introduced. If you are not familiar with state ESAs, they are a type of state taxpayer-funded voucher. IAHE is concerned that home schools in Indiana, which are classified as private schools, are at risk of losing their liberty if they would receive government funding as the lines are blurred between public and private. As IAHE researched this issue, we noticed quotes that said there is a desire to build a new public school system that would include private schools, such as this one, by longtime school choice advocates:

“Any private schools that do participate will thereby become public schools, as such schools are defined under the new system.” [1]

Indiana’s 2017 House ESA bill, known as HB 1591, would have drawn home educators into the publicly funded mix of educational choices. The House author, Representative Jim Lucas, tried to reassure the homeschool community his bill would do no harm since his bill included “protective language.” IAHE compared the language in HB 1591 to the protective language used for vouchers, and it was the same. Here is the “protective language” used for vouchers:

IC 20-51-4 Chapter 4. Choice Scholarship

IC 20-51-4-1 Autonomy of nonpublic schools; curriculum

Sec. 1. (a) Except as provided under subsections (b) through (h), it is the intent of the general assembly to honor the autonomy of nonpublic schools that choose to become eligible schools under this chapter. A nonpublic eligible school is not an agent of the state or federal government, and therefore:

(1) the department or any other state agency may not in any way regulate the educational program of a nonpublic eligible school that accepts a choice scholarship under this chapter, including the regulation of curriculum content, religious instruction or activities, classroom teaching, teacher and staff hiring requirements, and other activities carried out by the eligible school;

(2) the creation of the choice scholarship program does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, the state’s officers, or a school corporation to impose additional regulation of nonpublic schools beyond those necessary to enforce the requirements of the choice scholarship program in place on July 1, 2011; and

(3) a nonpublic eligible school shall be given the freedom to provide for the educational needs of students without governmental control.

On its face, it doesn’t sound too bad, does it? IAHE Action decided to ask parents whose children were in voucher-accepting schools to learn their first-hand experience. They felt the “protective language” still has negative effects on their schools.  According to the EdChoice publication, The ABCs of School Choice, these are the requirements for Indiana voucher schools:

Indiana Code 20-51-1-4

  • Be accredited by either the state board or a national or regional accreditation agency that is recognized by the state board.
  • Comply with health and safety codes
  • Must not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin*
  • Conduct criminal background checks on employees
  • Administer the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) program and report to the state data for A-F ratings including ISTEP scores and graduation rates

To remain eligible to accept new scholarship students, a school must not be rated as D or F for two or more consecutive years

  • Must grant the state full access to its premises for observing classroom instruction and reviewing any classroom instructional materials and curriculum
  • Provide civic and character education and display related historical documents

* There has been a discussion by a Congresswoman about an Indiana Christian voucher-accepting school and a recent effort in Nevada to broaden this to include gender.

If these are the requirements for private schools to receive voucher students, homeschoolers should expect similar requirements since Indiana classifies home schools as private schools. Strangely enough, few requirements were included in the text of HB 1591. Although it was not included in the language of the bill except as “rules and regulations,” the House author of HB 1591 stated there will be “assessments to make sure the parent is giving taxpayers their money’s worth.” What happens if the State decides they are not “getting their money’s worth?” We do not know because the Code has not yet been written.  

Remember, assessments drive instruction and curriculum choices in order to do well on the high-stakes assessments. Catholic school parents have shared they have seen many changes at their school including using Common Core curriculum in order to do well on the assessments. Did the State say they must use Common Core curriculum? No, but they feel nudged in that direction in order to perform well on the state aligned tests.

The General Assembly changes the law every year. Many times they use incrementalism to accomplish unpopular agenda items. This means they pass a bill that seems good at first, and then each year, more regulations are added. This is what happened with vouchers until Indiana received an F rating on the freedom scale from the Education Freedom Watch Private School Choice Freedom Grading Scale Table because “private” voucher schools must administer the state assessment to all of its students (even those who did not receive vouchers) and collect the data.

Where are we headed? Why would anyone desire a blurring between public and private? This quote from the Hoover Institution ties the current nationalized educational landscape of Common Core and School Choice together:

 A parallel shift in state finance systems toward fully portable “weighted student funding” should be combined with strong performance incentives for schools and pupils alike.

States should also rewrite their compulsory attendance laws to define “school” more flexibly, such that students may satisfy the statute in various settings. (There is precedent for this in the exemptions already given to homeschoolers.) The state’s principal interest should shift from attendance to academic achievement.

As that policy transformation occurs, an authorizing body is needed to approve and monitor schools and other education providers (HB 1591 included parents as providers), but this responsibility need not be confined to traditional public school systems. They ought not to function as both service providers and regulators of their competitors. Instead, independent sponsorship entities—perhaps operating on a multi-state or nationwide basis—should become viable alternatives.

Also needed are independent audit-and-data units responsible for honest reporting on student, school, and district performance across multiple variables: academic, financial, and so on. These, in turn, should be accountable to governors or state auditors rather than education departments; this work, too, might be outsourced to multi state or national bodies.

A spine of national standards, tests, and core curricula is needed to hold all this together, furnishing common goals, metrics, and benchmarks against which the many diverse providers can be tracked and their performance compared across the entire nation and aligned with similar international measures.

The future, in other words, need not result from an extrapolation of present-day trends. It could—and in this realm should—be different and better. But that’s not likely to occur spontaneously.

The Hoover Institution quote should be very troubling to homeschoolers. Homeschool parents, seek to facilitate the equivalent education of their individual students instead of focusing on “achievement” as compared to other students in a traditional school; therefore, enabling the homeschool child to become a fully functioning member of society and not a burden to their family or the state. In homeschooling, “education” may look different for different children and different families at different ending times but it is the parent and not the state that is ultimately responsible for the education of the child. This is why direct government funding of a child’s education outside of the public school is hazardous to our liberty!

Homeschoolers left the public school system for many reasons such as the curriculum, the testing, or the data collection. Do you want to risk getting sucked back into the public system with state ESAs? Parents, you have been doing an excellent job of teaching your children without government assistance. Let’s continue with what we know works and not be seduced by offers of tax dollars with government strings attached. Homeschool liberty is at stake.

 [1] John E. Chubb, Terry M. Moe. Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools. Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institute, 1990: p. 219.

This article is not to be construed as legal advice.

2017 Legislative Wrap-Up

HEA 1384 Various Education Matters

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

This session, IAHE was asked to testify in the House and the Senate in regards to the “push out” problem where the public and some accredited private schools encouraged problem students to “homeschool” in order to protect the school’s A-F state accountability grade. A legislator claimed in committee meetings that 13,000 students/year had reported enrollment to homeschool in Indiana. Schools encouraged a number of these families to “homeschool,” even though the parent did not initiate it. IAHE has fielded many phone calls from these families who were classified by the school as a “homeschooler” and then given IAHE’s phone number to help them get started. As IAHE Regional Representatives counseled these families, and the parent came to understand what is involved in home education, many parents decided home education was not a good fit for their family. It is unlikely that these students were ever removed from the homeschool classification.

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.

The State Board will also consider the mobility of high school students who are credit deficient, and whether any high school should be rewarded for enrolling credit deficient students or penalized for transferring out credit deficient students. We hope this bill helps to curtail the practice of pushing out credit deficient students, so they can receive the help they need. As strong proponents of homeschooling, the IAHE knows the work and dedication it requires. We also recognize that it is not the appropriate choice for all students.

 

HEA 1003 Student Assessments

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

This bill replaces ISTEP after June 30, 2018, with a new statewide assessment to be known as Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN). The original language in the bill required all students in public, charter, state accredited nonpublic, and voucher schools to take the assessment. The original language would have required any homeschooler who was enrolled for one class in a school listed above to take the assessment. IAHE Action worked with Representative Behning and Senator Kruse to amend the language to require full-time enrolled students to take the assessment instead of all enrolled students. Note that a homeschooler enrolled in a public school class must take the end of course assessment associated with the class.

 

HEA 1004 Pre-Kindergarten Education

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

HEA 1004 is a preschool bill that expands taxpayer funding for institutional preschool. It expanded the state preschool program to an additional 15 counties and added a possible option for an in-home technology-based program for pre-k.

This bill:

  • “Requires the department of education…to approve an early learning development framework for prekindergarten.”
  • Develops a program to reimburse parents for technology-based, in-home early education services to a child. This program costs between $1,000 and $2,000/child depending if the family has internet access. (Homeschoolers informed us there is a similar preschool program that is free, and other programs that are much cheaper. Will these free/inexpensive programs continue to exist as companies see that they can instead choose to sell their software to the government for $1000 per child? How many parents will reduce their use of local libraries as they opt for an online program promoted by the state?)
  • This program uses personalized learning. The software assesses the child’s progress at key milestones to determine what type of instruction each child will receive. The program includes a parental engagement and involvement component. From the program’s website, it states, “Every family is partnered with a Personal Care Representative who monitors their child’s progress throughout the year. Families will be contacted if their child’s usage falls below guidelines.
  • Students who use the program will be required to be a part of a longitudinal study to determine achievement levels in kindergarten and later years. It must include a comparison of test and assessment results in grade 3 of the children who received in-home early education services; and a control group that consists of children who did not receive in-home early education services.

IAHE is concerned about the lack of long-term results from institutional preschool and particularly concerned about technology-based preschool. The increased use of taxpayer funding weakens communities by making it more difficult for those who take personal responsibility for teaching their own children to stay home on one income, and by replacing the use of libraries and local bookstores.

IAHE also has concerns about personalized learning via computer, especially for young children. Parents are fully capable of preparing their children for kindergarten without oversight. Families already have local libraries, which offer free books and multiple educational programs. We believe a parent who reads to his or her child on their lap will have better results than a child watching the pages of a book turning on a screen. We believe there would be long-term positive results if the State would encourage parents to prepare their young children for school without relying on institutional-based state support. Doing so would strengthen the family and strengthen our communities.

 

HEA 1005 Superintendent of Public Instruction

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R – Indianapolis)

Before January 1, 2021, the Superintendent of Public Instruction will be elected. HEA 1005 abolishes the office of the state Superintendent of Public Instruction after January 10, 2025. The governor will then appoint a Secretary of Education who will serve at the pleasure of and at a salary determined by the governor. This does not require a change to the State Constitution.

At Work For You

 

SEA 198 Career and Technical Education

Senator Ryan Mishler (R – Bremen)

IAHE and IAHE Action vigilantly watch for opportunities to prevent discrimination of homeschool graduates. SEA 198 presented an avenue to allow high school seniors or graduates of nonaccredited, nonpublic schools to have equal standing with high school seniors or graduates of other Indiana schools to apply for a high-value Workforce Ready Grant. The student must be enrolled in an eligible certificate program at Ivy Tech or Vincennes University at least half-time. They must be financially independent of their parents, not eligible for any state financial aid program, and maintain adequate academic progress. The applicant must not have previously received a baccalaureate degree, an associate degree, or an eligible certificate.

The amount of a high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant is equal to the amount of the educational costs of the institution that the applicant is attending excluding other financial assistance. An applicant may use the high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant only to pay the educational costs of courses required for the applicant’s certificate program. The duration may not exceed the lesser of two undergraduate academic years; or the number of credit hours required by the eligible certificate program in which the student is enrolled. A high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant may be renewed if the student maintains satisfactory academic progress while receiving the grant, and is enrolled in an eligible certificate program that requires more than twelve (12) credit hours or its equivalent.

 

SEA 175 Healthcare Consent

Senator Jean Leising (R – Rushville)

IAHE Action amended this bill to protect parental rights. This bill would have allowed a grandparent to sign a health care consent instead of a parent if a parent is not reasonably available. We believed the original language was not strong enough. IAHE Action included an amendment that stated one must first ascertain a parent, guardian or adult sibling is unavailable.

 

Nothing in this post shall be construed as legal advice.

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Indiana Homeschoolers Should Reject ESAs

Since homeschooling became legal in Indiana, Hoosier homeschoolers have enjoyed very limited regulation. We’ve also accepted full financial responsibility for the operating costs of our own homeschools, even though that financial burden comes in addition to the income and property taxes that we pay to support Indiana’s public schools.

Back in 2011, the Indiana state legislature voted to allow homeschooling families a $1000-per-child tax deduction. This change came with no alteration to our freedoms, and no change to our involvement with governmental oversight.

But another change may be on the horizon, with greater consequences. According to a recent IAHE blog post, Maintaining the Integrity of Home Education, our state might soon be offering Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, to homeschooling families. Read the linked article, to learn the function of ESAs and the inevitable changes to our freedom that would result from such contracts.

It’s important for all of us to ask two important questions before accepting such a sea change in how private, independent Indiana homeschools are funded! The first question is, “What is to be gained?” The second question is, “What is to be lost?” If ESAs become the norm for Indiana’s homeschooling families, I do not believe it will be a small change. Nor will it benefit us as much as it will benefit the state! I think this is potentially a very bad deal.

Look for “gift” to be accompanied by operant conditioning habits of mind altering “high-quality” assessments. BEWARE.

To use a biblical analogy, I’ve decided that ESAs may be a mess of pottage, and I don’t want to be Esau. (Genesis 25) Esau thought he couldn’t survive without a bowl of stew, so he traded his birthright, a legal contract guaranteeing his family’s inheritance, for lunch! He didn’t have to starve. He was a hunter, just home from the woods and fields. He was a man of the wild, who knew how to find food. But he failed to value what he had in the birthright. He despised it, the Scripture says, and gave it all away. Jacob, who would go on to become Israel, was still in his role as “deceiver” (which is what his name meant). He fooled his brother into trading something precious for something comparatively worthless.

If we take these ESAs, we may be making the same mistake as Esau. We think we can’t afford to homeschool, so if we can get some help with expenses for curriculum and materials, microscopes, computers, or classes, we’ll be able to afford home education. We want the free lunch because we can’t see how we’ll ever survive without it.

But here’s where the deceit comes in: Materials are not the big, insurmountable expense of homeschooling! The real reason we’re all worse off financially is that we’re all dealing with diminished income, if not the loss of an entire second income so that one parent can be home to supervise the children’s education.

No amount of government aid offered will ever make up for that. There will never be a handout large enough to level us all back up to the full-time, double-income lifestyle we chose to let go in order to prioritize our children’s education at home. The amounts offered in an ESA will cover material costs only. It is not true that ESAs will make anyone able to afford to homeschool.

So why would we take that offer? Why, when we’ll still need to live frugally and make sacrifices on less than two full-time incomes, and so much of the materials necessary for homeschooling can be cheap to free? Why would we take the money, when the money comes with strings?

The costs of an ESA are registration, data tracking, acknowledgment to the state that we don’t think we can do this alone, and worse, tacit admission that we think we benefit from (or are at least not harmed by) government oversight of our private family homeschools.

Those are very big costs.

I think if we consider the history of homeschooling, we’ll see that such a giant step backward is not a step we can afford! Indiana’s pioneering homeschoolers of the 1980s would be astounded to learn that we’d even consider giving up so much, in a single motion, for so little in return.

Homeschooling freedoms were hard-won by those parents of another generation. I believe it would be harder to win new freedoms now if we were to make a mistake and have to backtrack. A far better strategy would be to retain the freedoms we already have.

That first generation of homeschooling parents gave us another key, beyond holding the line for freedom: They showed us that we should network, and support each other. Our new style of homeschooling co-ops, with hired teachers and a school environment, do not provide the relationships and mentoring opportunities inherent in the support groups of old. Co-ops can be very expensive (costing thousands of dollars per family per year), causing homeschoolers to believe that homeschooling is an unaffordable venture.

We may need to go back to the old way, and start supporting each other for free again. Veteran homeschoolers can still teach the new homeschoolers how to find affordable materials, how to teach effectively, how to balance parenting and housework and school, how to raise families frugally…we have all of these experienced homeschoolers in Indiana, standing ready to help with friendship and advice. These relationships are a two-way street; many of our veteran homeschoolers are still going strong, teaching their youngest children at home, and we need the energy and enthusiasm of the younger families, as well.

IAHE has provided a network to help us all find each other, but it is under-utilized. Please consider contacting your IAHE regional representative to see how you can get involved with other local homeschooling families. If we need help and encouragement to take responsibility to homeschool within our budget, let us turn to one another and not to the state.

Let’s reject the bowl of pottage, and keep our birthright as Hoosier parents operating private, independent, free homeschools. We have done without ESAs and government oversight for many years, with great success. Our freedom to continue with independence is too precious to give away.

 

Amy Hopkins Raab is Mike’s wife and the mother of four sons. They’ve enjoyed homeschooling since 1999.The earlier years were more fun but the latter years have been the most rewarding, as the parents are watching the teens learn the way they wish they’d been taught: At home, surrounded by family and music and the best books, and with Christ as the center of all. Academic excellence is a primary focus of the Raab family homeschool, but true wisdom comes from God. (James 3:13-18)

The Unintended Consequences of ESAs – Inflated Costs for All, Fewer Choices for All – Part 4

This is part four of a five-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

  1. We’re going to tell ourselves that we’ll be able to maintain most of our freedom and choice.

Again, it’s important to understand that by taking government funds, even an ESA, you will no longer be schooling independently from the government. The New York Times called education savings accounts a “redefinition of public education.”[1] Once you take ESA funds, you have crossed the line between independently homeschooling your children, and putting them into government education.

Already, homeschool co-ops do not usually accept any students who are attending online public schools. Since taking ESA funds could be considered having crossed that line into public school, you could be unable to participate in a homeschool co-op.

Let’s use Nevada as an example here. Homeschooling families who take ESA funds might first have to enroll their child in public school. Nevada implemented ESA funds with requirements including the following: students must first be enrolled in public school for at least 100 days.[2] This requirement on its own would prevent many families from taking ESA funds .[3]

Then there are the required standardized tests – to remain qualified for ESA funds in Nevada, every student must be tested annually to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress. Eventually, what will happen to your child if he or she doesn’t make “satisfactory” academic progress? Remember that Nevada’s ESA program is administered by the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office, presumably someone from that office is supposed to determine whether or not your child’s progress was “satisfactory.”

You can’t just take ESA funding in Nevada and start spending it on homeschooling, either, not without registering and qualifying first. Homeschooling parents have to apply and be approved by the state as a “Participating Entity” in order to continue to teach their own children. For time immemorial parents have been assumed to be qualified to teach their children. But not if you take government funds.

Remember that funds can only be spent on certain items. Expenditures are subject to a yearly audit in Nevada. What’s a five letter word that everyone dreads? Audit.

With government funds will come an increased burden in paperwork, reporting requirements, and regulation…and it will all increase regularly. There will be quarterly reporting requirements, individual account audits, and verification checks before a purchase can be completed.[4]

Homeschooling parents might have an urgent, unforeseen reason to need to put a child back in public school. Parents who take ESA funds in Arizona also sign an agreement to release the school district from all obligations to educate the student.[5] Besides what has been discussed regarding the cost of education a special needs child, there are many other concerns in this area. What if a parent takes ESA funds, then decides that homeschooling is not working for them? Or what if a parent contracts a serious illness and can no longer homeschool? What if a parent dies? What if there is a divorce and the parents cannot agree on schooling? What would the parent do with the student for the rest of the school year when there is no option to place the child in public school?

Nevada’s ESA program has been tied in up lawsuits for about a year, and recently the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the ESA program must find an alternate funding source.[6] Consequently, families have already been waiting for close to a year to be able to actually use ESA funds, and they will continue to wait until the Nevada legislature can obtain alternate funding.[7] There have been many lawsuits over ESA programs, so there could be many issues like this that come up as states adopt ESA funds. What will happen to students who are caught in the middle, with parents having taken and perhaps used a portion of the funds, then being unable to return children to public school?

Students who take an ESA may end up ineligible for future scholarships. Parents who take ESA funds in Arizona sign an agreement to not accept a scholarship under any of Arizona’s tax-credit scholarship programs.[8]

If you take ESA funds, you might not be able to continue to buy religious curriculum such as Sonlight or My Father’s World. Sonlight has already created Bookshark, a very similar curriculum that is basically the same as Sonlight, but without most of the religious study. This has allowed Sonlight to be able to offer an option to families who may have government-imposed restrictions on what they can purchase for homeschooling. This leads us in to the next lie…

[1] Fernanda Santos and Motoko Rich, “With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families,”New York Times, March 27, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/education/states-shifting-aid-for-schools-to-the-families.html. (Emphasis added).

[2] http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/education/private-school-parents-decry-education-savings-account-rule

[3] It would also be disruptive to the education of both public and private school students, by the way, as parents pull their children from private school and put them in public just for the 100 days in order to get ESA funds. The private school would have underestimated yearly enrollment, and the public school would have overestimated yearly enrollment. The public school cannot quickly shed the extra cost that was incurred when planning for all those students. The students themselves are disrupted because of a school change mid-year.

[4] https://www.edchoice.org/blog/new-study-shows-how-arizona-parents-spend-education-savings-accounts/

[5] https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/arizona-empowerment-scholarship-accounts/

[6] https://www.edchoice.org/blog/nevada-esa-litigation-need-know/

[7] Id.

[8] https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/arizona-empowerment-scholarship-accounts/

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.

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.