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. 

What Do You Mean Kindergarten Isn’t Mandatory in Indiana?

Kindergarten isn’t mandatory in Indiana, but almost all children in Indiana already begin kindergarten at age 5. It is so common to start school at age 5 that most people assume that kindergarten is mandatory when a child is eligible.

Indiana educators are now pushing to lower the compulsory school age to 5. (It’s also being called “mandatory kindergarten,” but that’s a bit of a misnomer because most children who do not enter school at age 5 do not skip kindergarten; they just start kindergarten at a later age).

Currently, children in Indiana must begin school at age 7. The compulsory school age was set at age 7 for a reason, and lowering it now will not result in any educational improvement. Right now, parents can decide if their under-age-7 children are ready for school. If the compulsory school age is lowered, parents will no longer have that right.

“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” – Mark Twain

You’ve probably heard variations of the above quote. I was reminded of it again and again during the years I was a public-school teacher. The quote refers to something that’s also called the law of the instrument. This truism states that there is a natural human tendency to be over-dependent on their narrow skill-sets and resources. In other words, if you’re used to using a particular tool, you’ll use it to solve any problem, even if another solution would be much better. That’s what happens in education time after time. 

The hammer of the public-school system is wielded as the sole tool of education.

That hammer has been in use for a hundred years, and for a while the people even largely forgot that there was any other way to become educated.

Comments and Actions Reflect a Strong Bias Against Parents and Parental Rights

Proponents of lowering the compulsory school age have a tool – the public-school system – and they view it as the only correct way to educate a child. They act shocked (“appalled”) that children are not already required to attend a brick-and-mortar school at age 5. Some of the comments made by those pushing this bill are disturbingly anti-parent.

“McCormick said the state needs to send a strong message that kids need to be in some sort of structured educational environment by the time they’re 5 years old.”

No evidence is offered for placing a child in a structured educational environment by the time they’re 5. As I will detail later, on the balance studies do not show a need for structured, formal education at age 5, and in fact there are many studies showing that structure can be harmful in early childhood development.

Exactly what do proponents of lowering the compulsory school age view as a “structured educational environment?” I doubt most home school kindergarten environments would qualify in the eyes of those who wield the hammer of the institution of public school. Many homeschooling parents make a distinction between “homeschool” and “school at home,” and intentionally avoid the latter.

Despite thousands of years of homeschool tradition, and hundreds in our nation, parents are no longer trusted with their natural ability to educate their own child – even parents of 4-to-5-year-old children. Comments from proponents of lowering the compulsory school age reveal their ignorance, dismissal, or contempt for the parent’s right and ability to educate their child.

It turns out that the evidence supports thousands of years of tradition – children who are with their parents and caregivers are better off.

“[C]ontrolled for child functioning prior to school entry, child gender, and measures of family and child care experiences through the first 4.5 years of life before we assessed the impact of entry age on child development….greater maternal sensitivity and greater child care quality predict better social and academic functioning in the early elementary school years;”

Who is in the best position to decide their child’s educational pathway? The parent.

But, against best evidence and tradition, the proponents of lowering the compulsory school age are ready to step in and force parents to put their child in school at a lower age. If your child’s educational model doesn’t fit into their view of what is correct, they’re willing to hammer your child down into place by forcing earlier compulsory schooling.

First pre-K was pushed. Proponents of lowering the compulsory school age use pre-K as an excuse to push for structured kindergarten, mandatory at age 5.

How long will it be until they are also forcing your children into whatever it is they deem a “structured environment?”

Shouldn’t we all be asking what’s really best for the child?

Are proponents of lowering the compulsory school age operating with your child’s best interest in mind, or are they pushing their own preconceived agenda? Who do you think is an in a better place to decide what a 5-year-old child is ready for – the child’s own parent, or a state law that applies universally to all children?

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…”

This large, well-designed study is contrary to the agenda being pushed by proponents of lowering the compulsory school age. 

Proponents of lowering the compulsory school age should have a responsibility to properly demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship between a lowered compulsory school age and long-term benefits for children into adulthood.[i]

They have not shown this evidence. So far, as stated above, the sum of the research shows the opposite: A lowered compulsory school age does not result in long-term benefits.

Why are educators so keen to force this on the people of Indiana without evidence to show that it will improve education?

The Problem is Vastly Overstated

There are parents who decide that it’s best to delay a child’s entry into public school. This happens for many reasons.

It’s wrong to automatically assume that a child who doesn’t attend public-school kindergarten when eligible will be “behind” if the child is subsequently placed into public school. There are many reasons why a concerned parent might choose alternative education, or to delay education altogether for a young child.

Some parents simply place the child in kindergarten a year later than the child is eligible. Most of those children would be placed in kindergarten, not first grade, as the idea behind delaying kindergarten was to allow a child to catch up to peers.

Some children attend private school for kindergarten. Private school tuition costs could be manageable for kindergarten, but once the price increases steeply for first grade, it becomes unaffordable for more families.

Some children are homeschooled for kindergarten.

Parents choose these options for many reasons, but part of it is in response to the changing nature of kindergarten. Parents are doing what they can do fix the problems that the education system is creating by forcing longer days and tougher curriculum on five-year-old children who are not all developmentally ready.

“It’s not just a question of when do you start kindergarten, but what do you do in those kindergarten classes? If you make kindergarten the new first grade, then parents may sensibly decide to delay entry. If kindergarten is not the new first grade, then parents may not delay children’s entries as much.”

No one knows how many parents are choosing the above options, or which options they’re choosing. Those who want to lower the compulsory school age have tossed out numbers from 118 to 7000. What is the real number? Common sense, history, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of Hoosiers (even lawmakers!) are surprised to hear that the compulsory school age isn’t already 5 tell us that the number of children is probably very small.

What to Do?

First, lawmakers need to understand that miracles do not accompany increased schooling.

I don’t think anyone is arguing against the fact that public schools are in decline. We’re all watching it happen.

Do we want more of a bad thing?

No, and it shows. Parents are increasingly demanding alternatives. We don’t want to use the hammer. We have better tools.

Our state has public schools to educate those children whose parents are unwilling or unable to do so. The state’s primary concern should be providing the education it is authorized to provide, and doing it well.

“Having expected miracles from increased schooling, the public has no choice but to live with the limitations of education. … [I]n seeking to free rather than imprison the child, promote growth rather than stunt it, and foster individual welfare rather than harm it, not only the quality of schools but also the quality of the society in which young people are growing up must be improved.”[ii]

Lowering the compulsory school age is a mistake. The state should focus its efforts on doing what it can to fix our public schools.

 

 

[i] Ray, Brian D. (2009). Is there any solid evidence for expanding compulsory school age? Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute.

[ii] https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED119389.pdf Katz, Michael S., A History of Compulsory Education Laws. Fastback Series, No. 75. Bicentennial Series. Phi Delta Kappa, Bloomington, Ind. 1976. Available at https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED119389.pdf, last accessed December 10, 2017.

 

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. 

IAHE ACTION is a 501c4 organization. Donations are not tax deductible. It is funded by our generous donors.

A Brief History of Indiana Homeschool Freedom

Here’s a timeline of some issues that have affected Indiana home educators through the years. It’s a reminder that our liberty to educate our children at home is precious and must be continually guarded. Thank you for standing with IAHE and IAHE Action.

1904 – Indiana has the nation’s earliest homeschool court ruling in State v. Peterman. Essentially, the court said that a school at home is a private school. The court defined a school as “a place where instruction is imparted to the young. . . . We do not think that the number of persons, whether one or many, make a place where instruction is imparted any less or any more a school.”

1980’s –  Most Hoosiers thought that either, 1.) Home education was illegal, or 2.) Home education required approval from the State of Indiana, or at least the local school superintendent. Local school districts, truancy officers, and county prosecutors harassed homeschool families.

1983Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) was founded by a Marion County judge, his wife, and two other couples to encourage and support homeschool families, maintain visibility as home educators with civil government leaders, influence the legislative process to protect our freedom to home educate, publish information of interest for home educators, and sponsor seminars and events to encourage families. It’s one of the earliest state homeschool organizations in the nation.  

1985 – In Mazanec v. North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation a federal district court recognized that parents have the constitutional right to educate their children in a home environment. The court wrote concerning the qualifi­cations of homeschool parents that, “it is now doubtful that the requirements of a formally licensed or certified teacher . . . would pass constitu­tional muster.

1989 – A statewide meeting of superintendents was held with the goal of curtailment of home education. Local superintendents required an intrusive several page questionnaire to determine if homeschool families would “be allowed to homeschool.” A federal civil rights lawsuit was threatened which slowly ended the practice after 3 or 4 years.

1994HR 6 required all teachers in America to be certified in each and every course they teach. IAHE joined HSLDA and other state homeschool organizations to defeat it with over 20,000 phone calls from angry homeschoolers.

1995 – President Clinton signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the ChildIt is still waiting to be ratified by the Senate, and it will give a parent’s rights to the government.

1996 – There was an unsuccessful attempt to add to law the following sentence, “Parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children.” It was met with great resistance and sent to an interim study committee where an IAHE Board member testified.

1998 – A federal law opened doors for homeschoolers to enter military service.

1998 – A day-time curfew was proposed in Columbus, IN. Homeschoolers and others fought it because it violated the 4th & 5th amendments to the US Constitution.

2003 – The Indiana “Education Roundtable” had a draft plan with the potential to dramatically undercut the ability of private school students, including homeschoolers, to choose their own curriculum, be admitted to college and get scholarships and financial aid. Homeschoolers’ calls helped make satisfactory changes.

2003 –  The City of Mishawaka gave a homeschool parent these unlawful guidelines:   “Guidelines For Home Study,” parents must:

1) Substantiate that they will provide equivalent instruction;
2) Initiate contact with the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE);
3) Obtain a “school number” from the Department of Education;
4) File a “notice of intent;”
5) Acknowledge that the notice of intent is binding for one year;
6) Disclose each subject the child will be taught;
7) Disclose the “performance objectives” for each subject;
8) Disclose the name, qualifications, and experience, of every
teacher; and
9) Submit a daily instructional schedule indicating how many minutes
are taught each day in each subject.
10) In case parents are not sure how much time they should spend
teaching their own children, Mishawaka thoughtfully provides
recommended time allotments. According to the collective wisdom of
their school officials, for example, a third grader should receive
precisely 105 minutes per week in “motor skills development and
health/safety education.”

Homeschoolers refused to submit to the unauthorized requirements, and the city apologized for the distribution of obsolete guidelines.  

2004 – a Senate bill allowed the principal to refuse to consent to the withdrawal even if the parent intends to provide equivalent instruction.  “It would have given a principal the authority to refer the
family to a prosecuting attorney who will conduct an investigation against the family merely for the principal’s “disbelief” that the family is providing their children with “equivalent” instruction to that given in the public schools. The family must prove to the
satisfaction of the prosecuting attorney that they are providing
instruction that is “equivalent” to the instruction provided in the
public schools. If not, the parent may be prosecuted for truancy.

Not only would this bill limit homeschooler’s freedom to construe the term
“equivalent instruction,” but it also gives a principal the power to
question a home education program’s “equivalency” on his or her
impulse.”

2005 – House Bill 1530 would increase the compulsory school attendance age from 18 to 19. This bill creates one more year of state “monitoring” of children. IAHE worked to helped remove harmful provisions in the bill.

2006 – House Bill 1347 made it a crime for your children to be out in public or drive a car during public school hours. Homeschool calls helped remove curfew provisions.

2006 – A Terre Haute Senator in a thinly-veiled attack on homeschooling asked the Indiana Senate to create a committee to “examine the need for establishing homeschool guidelines.”

2007 – A bill required all private schools to report whether girls between the ages of 11 to 12 have been immunized against four types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that are mainly transmitted by sexual contact. The bill was amended to exempt “homeschools”.  It is a slippery slope to use the word “homeschool”.

2011 – Indiana Supreme Court held in Barnes v. State that an individual has no right to reasonably resist by force the unlawful entry into his home by a police officer.

2012 – IN SB 384 House Amendment 3 required homeschool parents to
submit an educational plan before withdrawing their children from high school. Massive pushback from homeschoolers defeated the amendment.

2012 – A forum was hosted by the Indiana School Board
Association and the Indiana Association of Public School
Superintendents. Glenda Ritz, a candidate for the
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, was asked, “Do you think 
policy needs to be changed on homeschooling?” 

Her response, “We don’t have any policy on homeschooling in Indiana. We need some policy on homeschooling. It’s actually being abused in many cases. I have heard of students being withdrawn by their parents to take care of an aging grandparent and getting absolutely no schooling at home. There are no regulations at all regarding it. So, yeah, we need some policy on homeschooling.” The crowd erupted in cheers.

Although Indiana does not have a homeschool statute, home schools are classified as non-accredited, non-public schools due to case law as they are in many other states. Homeschoolers must provide an equivalent education taught in the English language, keep attendance records, and teach for the same number of days as their local public school which is generally 180 days.  If a parent does not provide this education, Indiana Code has educational neglect and truancy laws that should be enforced. All Hoosiers are mandatory reporters. If someone is aware of a parent that is not providing an education according to state law, he or she should report it instead of demanding increased regulations for law-abiding homeschoolers.

2012-2013“751,366 or 4.5 million. That is the number of instructional days and hours 102,030 students in Indiana lost during the 2012-2013 school year due to suspension and expulsion. Almost 1 in 10 students were suspended or expelled that year.”*

2013 – Governor Pence mentions home education as an equal alternative to other forms of education in his State of the State address. “We have to put kids first and ensure that every child in Indiana has access to a world-class education at public school, public charter school, private school or home.” Gov. Pence January 22, 2013

2013 – IN SB 171 was a grandparent/great-grandparent rights bill that allowed the courts to intervene in an INTACT family to determine who may have access to your children for visitation rights. IAHE testified against it, and the bill did not become law. Unfortunately, IAHE Action must continue to testify against it in future years.

2013 – IC 20-33-2-28.5 requires a high school dropout to lose his driver’s license. The General Assembly told IAHE some families claim to “homeschool” in order to keep the student’s license but actually do not provide an education. IAHE worked with the General Assembly to develop a form to be used only for those currently in a high school which the parent must sign that states he or she understands the legal requirements to provide a home education. The State will prosecute parents who falsely claim to homeschool instead of regulating all homeschoolers.

2013 – IAHE was invited to the Governor’s office for a bill signing ceremony for efforts related to repealing Common Core in Indiana. Unfortunately, the new Indiana standards are remarkably similar to Common Core.  

2014 – An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Southwest Taskforce Newsletter stated, “Please report children that you think should be in school. Call 911 and ask for an officer to check on the children. Truancy is a growing concern to all of us. We need to find these children and determine which school they should be attending.” Needless to say, this advice alarmed many homeschool families. IAHE and HSLDA visited the IMPD Southwest, and our attorney spoke to the task force members about home education.

2014 – A bill was caught in third reading. The source of the language was frustrated public school administrators who struggle to fulfill their responsibilities in a declining market. The bill originated in a Local Government Committee and called for the “oversight of homeschooling.” Rapid “behind the scenes” action stopped the bill in its tracks.  

2014 – The Interim Study Committee on Education met to discuss a federally funded preschool grant. IAHE was the only one to publicly testify against it and submitted a detailed report about early childhood education concerns with a particular emphasis related to accepting federal dollars for preschool. Governor Pence surprised everyone after the hearing when he decided not to apply for the funds. 

2015Fishers Adolescent Catholic Enrichment Society, Inc. (FACES) homeschool group received a final ruling from a discrimination case that began in 2008. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that FACES did not violate Indiana Civil Rights Code.

2015 – Families across Indiana received a letter from the state Department of Health informing them that their children had not been vaccinated against the Human papillomavirus (HPV). IAHE worked with the Governor’s office to determine a parent may opt-out of the vaccination registry.

2015 – IAHE was invited to the Governor’s bill signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but the law was amended a week later. Religious liberty is one pillar of home education liberty. Parental rights are the second pillar. Both are under attack.

 

 

2015 – In addition to its focus on education to help Indiana home educators have a solidly academic home school, IAHE as a 501c3 organization may do limited advocacy work. Over the past few years, IAHE noticed an uptick in threats to Indiana homeschool liberty, so IAHE Action, as a 501c4 sister organization, was formed to be able to do unlimited lobbying and a limited amount of political work to better protect home education liberty and parental rights.  

2015 – December 15, 2015 – IAHE contacted the Indiana Department of Education for homeschool numbers for the past five years: 2010 – 8318; 2011 – 8530; 2012 – 6983; 2013 – 5691; 2014 – 4257   Note: Due to voluntary and infrequent reporting the numbers of homeschools students are not 100% accurate.

2013-2016 – IAHE received a considerable amount of calls from parents who claimed the school reported their child as enrolled as a homeschooler and gave them IAHE’s phone number.  After IAHE Regional Representatives explained homeschooling requirements to the parent, the parent decided home education was not a good fit for their particular situation. The parent was referred back to their school or the IDOE for other options. Were they ever removed from the Indiana Department of Education homeschool roster? We doubt it. 

Additionally, parents called IAHE and said the school signed them up for something, and they did not know what it was, but they were given IAHE’s number to call.  Teens who wanted to homeschool but had no parental support called IAHE as well. Some had been expelled, and others told IAHE there is “too much drama at school to learn.” IAHE referred them to their school or the IDOE for more appropriate options since home education is parent-directed.

2016 – During testimony for a School Choice bill in the House Education Committee, the principal of an alternative school in northern Indiana was there to testify and claimed that they are serving many needy students including “homeschool dropouts”. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has data that reports 10,000 students a year or 30,000 public school students for the past three years have transferred to homeschool.

2016 – An individual who testified at the School to Prison Pipeline hearing told the IAHE Director of Government Affairs: “If we can make homeschoolers register, teach them how to homeschool, monitor their homeschool, buy their curriculum and test them, homeschooling will work for the dropouts.” 

Of course, that would be a total redefinition of home education here in Indiana where an engaged parent chooses to take complete responsibility for their child’s education to avoid the government’s involvement, so they can provide a superior education.

2016 – IAHE, IAHE Action, and HSLDA defended Indiana homeschoolers before the Indiana Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights after testimony claimed the School to Prison Pipeline supposedly included “homeschoolers”. Instead of expulsion or suspension that would harm a school’s A-F grade, some principals encouraged students to “homeschool.” In fact, we have since learned that each student who exits a public school is informed about every educational option including home education even though they may not be a good candidate due to lack of parental support. We are told a number of “homeschoolers” have ended up in correctional facilities.

2016 – IAHE Action was told a bill was drafted to require homeschool registration. Fortunately, it was not introduced.

2017 – In the House Education Committee, it is claimed that 13,000 students have exited the public schools to “homeschool” each year for the past three years.

The Indiana House and Senate Education Committees attempted to curtail the practice of schools pushing “problem” students into “homeschooling”IAHE testified about the phone calls their Regional Representatives received from parents who were inappropriately referred to IAHE to begin home education. They defended legitimate law-abiding homeschoolers.  

Schools now must provide proof, if requested by the IDOE, that the parent initiated homeschooling. For decades in order to avoid truancy charges, IAHE recommended a parent write a letter to the school when they transfer their child to home education. Since schools reported students’ enrollment as a homeschooler without a parent truly comprehending the required legal responsibilities, it is now recommended the letter be sent certified and a copy kept in the permanent records at home as proof a parent actually sent it.

2017 – IN HB 1591 was an Education Savings Account voucher type bill which included homeschoolers. It was the “carrot to control”. The concern was that it would encourage the practice of pushing problem students into home education since they would be “government-funded”, and it would be the beginning of two classes of homeschoolers: state-approved and non-state approved. Indiana already had 50 cases of homeschool discrimination in 2016 and 37 in 2017. 

Parents could be “approved” providers. Although only vague additional rules and regulations were mentioned in the bill, it did not specifically mention assessments. The author of the bill posted on his Facebook page that there would be assessments to “make sure parents are giving taxpayers their monies worth.” The bill did not receive a hearing due to the response of homeschoolers.

2017 – The IAHE Director of Government Affairs was offered a seat on the Commission for Improving the Status of Children in Indiana’s Educational Outcomes Task Force because home education is often discussed particularly due to the School to Prison Pipeline issue. We are grateful the State has given home educators an opportunity to contribute our perspective as state agencies attempt to work through difficult issues.

Protecting homeschool liberty is a continual effort.

“If homeschoolers do not remain active, we will not remain free. It’s that simple.” ~ Michael Farris.

 

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*Flier from the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana. Other information for this post was retrieved from eyewitnesses, The IAHE Informer magazine, the IAHE, HSLDA, and IAHE Action websites.