Tag Archives: regulation

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.

Seven Reasons Why Indiana Homeschoolers Do Not Need More Regulation

This post originally appeared on the Indiana Association of Home Educators blog in October 2015.

Homeschooling has been a tradition in Indiana for over a century. Due to the longstanding legal environment regarding home education in Indiana, we have seen how less regulation facilitates the parent-directed learning experience. Below are some reasons the Indiana homeschool law works successfully.

 

1.)  We have the right to operate as a private school. 

The Indiana Appellate Court held that the Indiana compulsory attendance law must treat home school programs the same as a private school. In State v. Peterman, 70 N.E. 550 (Ind. App. 1904, the Court said 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.” Peterman, 70 N.E. at 551. The court explained further: “Under a law very similar to ours, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts has held that the object and purpose of a compulsory educational law are that all the children shall be educated, not that they shall be educated in any particular way.” Peterman, 70 N.E. at 551.

The Court concluded: “The result to be obtained, and not the means or manner of attaining it, was the goal which the lawmakers were attempting to reach. The [compulsory attendance] law was made for the parent, who does not educate his child, and not for the parent who…so places within the reach of the child the opportunity and means of acquiring an education equal to that obtainable in the public schools….” Peterman, 70 N.E. at 552.

 

2.)  Since 1983, the Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) has provided support and assistance to Indiana families interested in home education. Parents who choose to homeschool have a readily available network of resources to help them start and continue their homeschooling journey. For parents who do not understand any particular aspect of their responsibilities, there is an established network of experienced and successful homeschoolers who are available to assist and answer their questions. We recommend all home educators connect with IAHE and utilize the resources available to them. We also recommend families seek out and connect with other home educators in their community.

 

3.)  Parent-directed, privately-funded home education is successful.

Multiple studies show that homeschoolers score at/or above their public school peers on standardized tests. No matter what type of K-12 education is chosen for a child it requires the active involvement of parents to be successful. Homeschooling parents are already highly motivated to be involved in their children’s education. Very few parents take on such a huge responsibility without a commitment to education and a belief (if not a conviction) that they can do as well as the public school. Parents who are willing to take on this responsibility rarely do it without counting the cost, both in dollars and time.

 

4.) We provide a comparable education to the public schools.

Indiana law requires parents to provide instruction that is comparable to what is provided in the public school. Parents choose to homeschool for many reasons, but most also recognize the unique ways in which their children learn. Many parents who homeschool begin to investigate their options when their children are preschoolers, while others, finding their child struggling in the traditional public school setting, desire to enhance and not hinder their children’s educational experience. Homeschooling resources have exploded in the marketplace. One look at a homeschool convention will tell you there is no lack of educational materials available for homeschoolers to use. All have one thing in common, however: a comparable, if not superior, education to the public schools.

 

5.) The state has the authority and ability to investigate and prosecute if there are problems.

The state already has the ability to investigate and prosecute if there are problems. State laws already prohibit parents from neglecting or abusing their children. The fact that there may be the occasional parent who does not adequately educate his or her child doesn’t negate all of the excellent parents who homeschool any more than a few poorly-rated public schools do not negate the excellent public schools out there. A few isolated situations of parents who have been prosecuted for failing to properly educate their children have resulted in their children being placed back into the public school system.

While the state should be concerned with the abuse or neglect of all children, regardless of where they are educated, there are plenty of ways to locate and identify abusive parents without having to further regulate homeschooling in our state. While most homeschool support groups are there to provide assistance when a parent needs help in educating his or her child, there have been reports to the authorities within these groups when a parent has demonstrated a failure to ensure their child is educated. Even if more homeschool regulations were passed, it would not catch all abusive parents any more than public schools catch all of the abusive parents with children in their schools.

 

6.) Homeschoolers have a higher percentage of college graduates than public schools.

While many factors may influence why some students graduate from college and others do not, it should come as no surprise that homeschoolers find the transition to college much easier than their public school counterpart. First of all, homeschool parents tend to give more independence to their children to take charge of their education by the time they are juniors and seniors in high school. One of the goals of homeschooling is to teach children how to teach themselves. Another is to give a student a love for learning.

College is no different, and many colleges seek out homeschool students because they have seen how homeschoolers are not focused on learning only to pass a test or to get a good grade, but they learn because they love to learn.

Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society. One of their goals is to recognize students who “love to learn.” If this collegiate honor society understands that the most successful people must have a love for learning, then perhaps this also explains why so many homeschoolers successfully obtain a college diploma.

 

7.) Homeschooling parents are responsible parents.

Clearly, this doesn’t mean parents who do not homeschool are not responsible, but rarely do you find parents who are as committed to the education of their children than homeschooling parents. They take their parenting responsibilities seriously and strive to help their children, whether they are gifted or struggling learners, to become productive members of our society. Homeschoolers come from many different backgrounds and philosophies, so one cannot generalize; however, homeschooling results in as much character training for the parent as it does for the student. Parents who homeschool over many years realize the road isn’t easy, but they homeschool because they believe it is best for their family and their children. Those who try it and return their children to public or private schools do it for many reasons as well. The state or public school system will never replace a parent’s love and care for a child. We should always expect and believe that parents above anyone else are responsible, accountable, and motivated as home educators because they love their children.

For additional information on how homeschooling compares with public schooling: Click here.

 

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Camille Cantwell graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Journalism and Political Science. She worked for the Wisconsin State Assembly and Governor Tommy Thompson until 1989. She received her law degree from Regent University and was admitted to practice law in Indiana in 1993. Her license is currently on inactive status. She and her husband, David, have graduated their oldest son from their home school and are currently homeschooling their high school-age son.

30,000 “Homeschool” Dropouts?

During testimony for a School Choice bill in the House Education Committee last week, a 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 for the past three years have transferred to home school. IAHE has been told these are secondary students, but we are unable to confirm if the data that we have received from the IDOE is only secondary student transfers. IAHE was quite surprised to hear these numbers. IAHE volunteers are busy answering many phone calls each week to counsel new homeschoolers, but we certainly have not taken calls from 10,000 new homeschoolers.

For the past several years, we have had concerns about trends that we have observed. We have shared these concerns with legislators, but we had no idea of the magnitude until we saw the data this week.

We have seen an increasing number of new homeschoolers whom have told us that the public school reported their enrollment on the IDOE website because the schools insisted they had to have a homeschool number or “register” with the state in order to legally homeschool. The IDOE website is very clear that only a parent or guardian may report enrollment by completing the online form.  BLOG Featured Image_Action Logo Square BW 10.28.15 SMALL

IAHE was contacted by a family that informed us that the public school signed the student up for “something” but the parent didn’t know what it was. The parent said she was then told to call IAHE. IAHE called the IDOE only to find that the school had reported their enrollment as a homeschooler. As we counseled this family, we learned that this parent really was not at all interested in home education, but unfortunately THE SCHOOL had already added her to the IDOE database of those who report enrollment as a home educator. IAHE then referred this person to their former school or to the IDOE to learn about other educational options that would be a good fit for this family.

IAHE is deeply troubled to see some public schools “reporting enrollment” on the IDOE website on behalf of students only to discover as we counsel them over the phone that these families are in no way interested in home education.

What is the extent of the problem of public school’s mislabeling of students? It appears some of the public schools are reporting to IDOE that many or all of their students who are withdrawing from school as home school students, and we believe they are mixing legitimate homeschoolers with those who should be labeled as expelled or drop outs, but not homeschooling. We have to question if this is being done by principals so that drop-outs are not flagged and therefore it won’t affect the A-F grade that is assigned to public schools.

Our bigger concern is whether this purposeful mis-coding of dropouts as homeschoolers is going to lead to more regulation of home education in Indiana. We have already heard that lawmakers and judges have a distorted view of home education in our state due to the problems some public schools have created by this mishandling dropout students.

We need your help. If you moved your student from public school to home school high school, please fill out this simple survey* to help us validate the data we have received from the IDOE. We have not included student or family identifying information on this survey because we do not desire to keep data on specific people or families. Please feel to share this link to our survey with others who have moved a high school student to home school. Thank you!

*Please note that if you are enrolled in a charter school or any other type of school that uses vouchers, choice scholarship money, or any form of government-funding, please do not fill out this form.  Home schools in Indiana are parent-directed, home-based, and privately-funded which means home educators do not take or desire government-funding due to the associated regulations that necessarily accompany taxpayer funding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concerning Education Savings Accounts

Over the past five years there has been a shift towards Republican control of state governments. Today, there are 31 Republican governors and 22 states where Republicans also hold both houses of the legislature (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature). Indiana is a state which not only has a Republican governor and state legislature but also super-majorities in both the senate and the house. Consequently, policy ideas associated with the Republican party are being tested in many states.

For homeschoolers the area of concern are changes in education policy. It should be no surprise that Republicans are reforming education by introducing measures to enhance the concept of “school choice”. The most sweeping change recently occurred in Nevada where every student enrolled in a public school for a minimum of 100 days now has access to a voucher style Education Savings Account (ESA). These accounts allow parents to choose alternative education options with taxpayer provided education funds.

While it should be noted that historically homeschoolers have not been particularly concerned with how the state distributes taxpayer funds to provide education to children within the public system, the distinctions today are becoming muddied, often by well-intentioned people.

Nevada’s program has caused a debate among homeschoolers because a homeschool family could gain access to the $5,000 per child per year account if they rescind their Notification of Intent to Homeschool, enroll their child in a public/charter school for 100 days, apply for an ESA and then use the money to enroll the child in a private school or provide a “home-based education” themselves under the regulation of the Nevada State Treasurer. The money is used as a way to control parents’ decisions.

States are spending in excess of $10,000/student for a public school education. Are we seeing excellent results for the use of this money? The government is desperate for “school choice”, but in reality what difference is there when all schools receive taxpayer money and are subject to the same accountability? True “school choice” is giving families the option of choosing their own curriculum and doing what is best for their children without government involvement. Homeschoolers have proved how well it has worked for decades!

ESAs are the carrot, but the stick will follow every home educator as the state political climate changes and those who seek to control every aspect of education a child receives (from cradle to college) convince parents and voters it is in the “best interest of the child”. SMALL 300 Join Action E-List

It is important to note that in reality the new Nevada law actually created a 4th “education option” for parents to meet the compulsory attendance law. Now Nevada children between the ages of 7 and 18 will be classified as a “public school, private school, homeschool, or ESA Opt-in” child. Each of these four education options have their own statutes under which they operate. However, the media continues to falsely call a government controlled “Opt-in Child” the same as homeschooling. While the two may use similar methods for educating the child, they are NOT the same in that one receives tax-payer funding and  therefore accountable to the government for the education of the child (Opt-in) and the other is not (homeschooling). This is clearly a freedom issue for parents to carefully consider before signing up for “free” money.

As with every program providing taxpayer funds to K-12 education there are inevitably strings attached. To use Nevada as an example, to utilize the ESA Grant Program the child is required to take an annual standardized test beginning the first year he/she applies for the grant. For many families, this may appear to be a small burden in return for the financial assistance but it is important to remember that laws and requirements can change over time and the burden placed on students utilizing ESA’s could become increasingly heavy as the government seeks to impose more accountability. For example, Nevada’s new law requires that all ESA recipients take either common core-aligned tests given to public school students OR “any norm-referenced achievement examinations in mathematics and English language arts”. However, in one legislative session that option could be struck from the law.  Nevada’s ESA law was carefully amended to distinguish a “homeschool child” from an “ESA opt-in child” to protect parents who choose NOT to utilize the ESA grant program and educate their children through the homeschool option. Depending on how an ESA program is structured in other states, it could be used to regulate all homeschoolers.

As we look ahead to the upcoming legislative session in Indiana we should be aware that a voucher-style ESA reform measure is likely to be introduced. It will most likely be focused on public school students with special needs similar to the Arizona ESA Program which is not as “broad” as Nevada’s program. We need to watch for bills that other states have seen that “DIVIDE” homeschoolers since it will pit home educators against each other – one group that has a no-government involvement policy and those who take taxpayer money with strings attached. It weakens and divides our community.

IAHE will be closely monitoring the progress of this potential legislation to make sure the rights of parents who choose not to participate are protected.

*In some states these are known as education scholarship accounts.

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