You may recall the common playground game of Monkey In the Middle. When among good-natured friends, it is an amusing pastime at recess. However, even among friends, it becomes tedious and frustrating when one individual is constantly tasked as the “monkey.” This is the current situation of homeschooling in Indiana.
Two years ago, before the pandemic, Chalkbeat published an article about public and public charter schools mislabeling dropouts as homeschoolers. Presumably, the motivation for such actions was to protect the interests of the schools by inflating graduation rates and suppressing dropout numbers. Incredulously, the schools and Chalkbeat pointed the finger at the lack of homeschool regulation, despite the fact that the schools were the only ones who knew the students involved.
For the duration of the last two legislative sessions, legislators have been working to discourage the “push-out” problem within the schools. Simple logic makes it clear where the abuse of the system lay, and it was not with homeschool families. Kudos to the General Assembly for recognizing it.
Today, there is an entirely new segment of the population who wish to use our homeschool freedom for political advantage while never intending to homeschool.
The pandemic has revealed serious problems within the education system to parents. Quite rightly, those parents are angry and wish to effect change for their children. Unfortunately, sclerotic administrations and recalcitrant elected officials are shutting down the rising voices of parents and taxpayers.
School board tone-deafness is leading some parents to contemplate other ways to get administrators’ attentions. Across the state, a recurring theme crops up. Frustrated parents are discussing the idea of withdrawing their children from public school to “homeschool” them for one week in September in an effort to impact their school’s enrollment count for the fall semester. If a child is not enrolled in the public school on September 17, 2021, the school cannot claim the students for the purposes of funding. These same parents would “homeschool” their child(ren) for a week or two and then re-enroll the child(ren) into the same school system.
This is a problematic plan on a number of fronts.
IAHE Action encourages any family who earnestly seeks to pursue homeschooling to do so. Our sister organization, IAHE, has been supporting families as they begin their homeschool journey since 1983. Volunteers are standing by to assist you.
For those looking to provoke change in the public school system through decreased funding, take a moment to contemplate the lasting impact and what that might mean for families who genuinely decide to homeschool because their children need a different environment.
If playing fast and loose with the education of children is not incentive enough, consider what will happen to the students reentering a public school system that has suddenly lost millions of dollars to fund teachers and programs. The schools will be forced to make cuts to extracurriculars, Fine Arts, P.E., librarians, etc. and these will all come at the expense of the students. This impact will hit especially hard on the students with special education needs.
Stripped of funding, publicly-funded schools will be forced to make changes, but there is no reason to think it will be the changes desired. In an attempt to quell such behavior in the future, increased regulation may be hoisted upon the homeschoolers. The pressure to require heavier regulation and jump through more hoops with government oversight will intensify dramatically thereby depriving families in legitimate need of homeschooling the liberty to do so with the current system.
Change can happen, but it will not happen overnight.
The Framers of our Constitution gave us the ability to hold our government accountable. This leveling agent is called Election Day. Frustrated parents should aim their efforts toward meaningful change by finding candidates who share their concerns, work for those candidates, or even consider running for School Board yourself.
Consider the kid on the playground continually forced into being the monkey in the middle. It’s not their choice. The bigger kids on either side create the situation. If just one of the bigger kids walked away, there would be no monkey in the middle.
In an attempt to enforce secular values, on July 21, 2021, France instituted severe restrictions on home education.
“Homeschooling (IEF) will only be authorized for reasons of health, disability, artistic or sports practice, family homelessness, remoteness. of an establishment, and also in the event of a “situation specific to the child motivating the educational project”. A transition period is planned until the 2024-2025 school year.”
The specifics of “authorized reasons” have yet to be determined.
Parents who do apply to homeschool must submit documentation to their local town hall and the academic director of the national education services are subject to investigation by local Social Services. Those that are declined or found to be homeschooling without approval are subject to jail time of up to 6 months.
Unlike the American Constitution, the current French Constitution was crafted to be a secular document. Since the time our country adopted the United States Constitution, France has had fifteen different Constitutions with the most recent iteration being adopted in 1958. This 1958 Constitution states, “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic, guaranteeing that all citizens regardless of their origin, race or religion are treated as equals before the law and respecting all religious beliefs.” Many individuals may prefer the secular language found within the French governing documents; however, if the government is secular, all people derive their rights from the government. In fact, there are legal theorists who argue the law confers parenthood upon people, not God. A government big enough to give parental rights is big enough to take them away.
In contrast, the American Constitution is built around the framework that God grants individual rights the government cannot, under any circumstances, deprive of a person. Since the writing of the Magna Carta in 1215, children have legally been considered given unto parents, not the State or government. In the Christian worldview, children belong to God and as such cannot be considered “property” in a legal sense. God has appointed parents with the duty to raise, protect, and educate children in trust to Him. It was upon this philosophy that American parental rights have rested for the majority of our Nation’s history. So long as parenthood is understood to be granted from an entity that predates the civil contract of the People, parental rights are secure.
Unfortunately, courts have been eroding this security for decades. Among the first limitations on parents’ rights was compulsory education. Prior to the introduction of this concept, education was strictly left to the parents to determine. However, once public schools, which were not free to families, began, there have always been advocates for requiring all children to be educated under the government umbrella. In fact, the famous Pierce v. Society of Sisters dashed progressive dreams of all American pupils in government school desks when it ruled parents had a right to place children in private schools.
This decision rested on the legal philosophy of a parent’s natural right given by God to direct their children. Once natural rights are abandoned, so too are our rights to raise and educate our children as we see fit. Regrettably, recent legal theory is not necessarily parent-friendly as is evidenced by the misguided article, “Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education and Protection” by Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program, Elizabeth Bartholet.
By declaring its government as secular, France has divorced parental rights from natural law. As the new arbiter of rights, the French government can quite easily remove a parent’s right to direct a child’s education as is evidenced by this recent decree.
While these steps by the French government seem foreign to us, it is an excellent reminder that homeschooling freedom is not guaranteed. French homeschoolers are appalled to watch their freedoms vanish. In Indiana, IAHE Action, along with our sister organization IAHE, is on the front lines of protecting your parental rights and homeschool freedom. You can help keep Indiana families free from potential regulation and government overreach when you donate to support our work.
Our friends who lobby for Nevada Homeschool Network share their story about ESAs and the confusion that it has brought to their state.
During the 2015 Nevada Legislative Session, the Friedman Foundation assisted State Senator Scott Hammond in the writing of SB 302. Senator Hammond had requested a Bill Draft Resolution (BDR) for a government funded alternative education option for parents of public school students. An Education Savings Account (ESA) program is different from a “voucher system” they say, since money from the state general fund is not going directly from the state to a religious private school (Blaine Amendments in many state constitutions prohibit the use of public funding for sectarian purposes). Rather, the money (between $5,100 to $5,700 in NV) goes from the state’s general fund into an account in the name of the child, whose parents then choose where to spend the money so that the child receives an education as compelled by state compulsory attendance laws. This supporters say, means that the parent, not the state, is choosing the education modality for the child and the parent is therefore free to choose a private religious school or use religious materials in the education of their child. This new program passed the 2015 NV Legislature along strict party lines (all Republicans in support, all Democrats opposing). What makes Nevada’s ESA unique is that it is “universal”, meaning it is not “means” or “needs” tested and is available to all NV public school students. Two lawsuits were filed in NV District Court in late 2015 against the new ESA program with a decision in at least one of the cases due out in April from the Nevada Supreme Court (Governor Brian Sandoval requested an expedited decision).
The ESA law has muddied the waters for homeschoolers in Nevada! Many are saying that the new ESA program is “a different way of homeschooling”, it is not! Let me explain.
Nevada parents, who choose to use the ESA program, will NOT be “homeschooling” under NV statute. NRS 392.070 and 392.700 allow NV parents, who receive NO MONEY from the state, to educate their children free from government control, although educational abuse and neglect statutes do apply as safeguards. While imitation is the best form of flattery, Nevada Homeschool Network (NHN) became alarmed when Senator Hammond introduced an amended version of his original ESA bill that no one had been able to read prior to the hearing in the NV Senate Education Committee. NHN opposed the bill as introduced due to the Senator’s constant reference to homeschooling in his verbal introduction of the bill. The Senator’s amended version attempted to use the NV homeschool law as the vehicle for this new program. However, Senator Hammond agreed to work with NHN to address homeschooler’s concerns. As a result, NHN offered an amendment to SB 302 that protected the NV homeschool statute and created a new statute to establish the ESA program.
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 styleEducation 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 tocontrol 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”.
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.