SB 567: Homeschoolers as dropouts?

On April 9, 2018 Chalkbeat Indiana posted an article regarding SB 567, a bill to provide oversight to Indiana’s virtual, public school programs. The article referenced Rep. Bob Behning, the Indianapolis Republican who chairs the House Education Committee as saying:

Students who leave any public school — virtual or traditional — to be homeschooled would count as dropouts under the school’s graduation rate. Behning said he thinks schools abuse this option and those students, who might be more difficult to educate, end up in virtual schools.

Homeschooled students as dropouts?

Does Rep. Behning believe that families providing a home education are dropouts? Absolutely not.

The issue is whether or not schools are misreporting the number of students withdrawn to homeschool in an effort to protect their graduation rates and funding. Labeling chronic truants and dropouts as homeschooled students is a shell game with potential implications for all involved.

IAHE Action and our sister organization IAHE have been fighting this issue for years.

In 2013, a law was put in place in an attempt to address the problem of high school dropouts being categorized by the public school as homeschoolers. When a family asks to withdraw their student from a public high school, the school is required to provide families with counseling and information about Indiana law on home education (non-accredited, private schools).

Section 10 of House Enrolled Act 1005, added I.C. 20-33-2-28.6, a new section, to law. I.C. 20-33-2-28.6 provides the following: (a) This section applies to a high school student who is transferring to a nonaccredited nonpublic school. (b) Before a student withdraws from a public school, the principal of the student’s school shall provide to the student and to the student’s parent information on a form developed by the department and approved by the state board that explains the legal requirements of attending a nonaccredited nonpublic school located in Indiana. The principal and a parent of the student shall both sign the form to acknowledge that the parent understands the content of the form. (c) If the parent of the student refuses to sign the form provided by the principal under subsection (b), the student is considered a dropout and the principal shall report the student to the bureau of motor vehicles for action under section 28.5(g) of this chapter. The student is considered a dropout for purposes of calculating a high school’s graduation rate under IC 20-26-13-10.

In 2017, IAHE Action worked with Rep Behning to stop schools from mislabeling students that were withdrawn from the public school system to homeschool as dropouts.

In an attempt to curtail this practice, HEA 1384 contains language that prohibits a school from classifying a student as a homeschooler unless the school has substantial evidence that the parent or guardian of the student initiated the student leaving the public high school or an accredited nonpublic high school. The Indiana Department of Education may require the school to produce this evidence if it is ever requested. It will be important for the school to have evidence in writing that the parent initiated a transfer to homeschooling.

SB 567: A new year and a new bill

Faced with the staggering failure of Indiana virtual schools, the legislature is once again trying to hold public schools accountable. And, one of the key metrics for evaluating a public school and granting funding is a school’s graduation rate.

Read: How lax oversight and rapid growth fueled dismal results for Indiana’s virtual charter schools

One of the things that the original language in SB 567 attempted to do was to increase school accountability by removing the distinction between dropouts and students withdrawn to homeschool.

Indiana Coalition for Public Education shared the following:

SB 567 is a bill regarding increased oversight and regulation for virtual schools (generally a good thing). Among other provisions, Amendment #14 removes the “homeschool exemption” from the list of allowable reasons for a student to be removed from a graduation cohort. This means that, if passed/enacted, any student who withdraws from your high school for reason of “homeschooling” will count as a drop out in your high school’s graduation rate. This amendment will negatively affect the accountability grade of many public high schools.

As this bill moved from the Senate through the House, IAHE Action spoke with Rep. Behning to share our concerns about the implications of grouping new homeschool students in with dropouts. Behning authored and passed a House amendment that reinstated the homeschool exemption on April 9th.

Problems Persist

Are schools mislabeling their withdrawn students in an effort to retain their school’s letter grade and funding? Are schools coaching families to complete the homeschool withdraw form… even if the family has no intention to continue their child’s education? Are families being pushed into homeschooling without any understanding of home education?


How many families?

That answer is unclear.

In 2018, twelve public schools reported that more than 10% of their high school seniors left to homeschool. Over seventy schools reported withdrawal rates of seniors higher than 5%. The IAHE has contact with a large number of families that make the decision to homeschool in order to complete their student’s high school education, but these numbers do not reflect what we see across the state.

Today, Chalkbeat contacted the IAHE to ask if our organization receives calls from families that were pushed into homeschooling by their public school.


Our team continues to field calls from parents sharing their stories about school officials “signing their child up for homeschooling” on the Indiana Department of Education’s website — even when the parent has no clear understanding of home education.

As with any parenting challenge, no one begins homeschooling knowing everything they need. It takes time, research, sacrifice, and hard work to be successful. Most importantly, it takes commitment. We believe that parents are capable of providing a quality home education if they are dedicated to the challenge. But, parents should NEVER be forced into an educational choice by someone else.

The current process of evaluating public schools is broken. The rampant mismanagement of the virtual public school programs has only put a spotlight on an issue that has been present for many years. The debate over SB 567 and the schools’ “homeschool exemption” has only made it clear that abuse of the system is still happening.

In spite of the flaws and abuses in the current process, it is balanced by the need to maintain a distinction between high school dropouts and families deciding to homeschool. IAHE Action and IAHE are in support of SB 567 as it retains the current homeschool exemption for schools without increasing oversight for families.

DONATE NOW to IAHE Action to support ongoing efforts to protect your homeschooling and parental rights.

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, (Emphasis added).


[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.




[7] Id.


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.