Thursday, February 05, 2009

Homeschool Legislation Round Up

I've come across several news items of interest to homeschoolers, and probably educators in general, in the last several days. Keeping an eye on how things are looking in my home state, as well as across the rest of the country, is of vital interest to me. Even though my oldest is only first-grade-aged, the laws being put into action today and over the next few years could have a real impact on our lives.

In Georgia

Joint Enrollment

It appears that the Board of Regents (a group comprised of governor appointees charged with overseeing the University System of Georgia) has relented somewhat on the Joint Enrollment issue. JE is a program that allows High School Juniors and Seniors to enroll in college classes, while maintaining their status as a high school student and getting college credit.

Until very recently, homeschooled students were able to take advantage of this program, until the BoR decided to hold homeschoolers to the language in the regulation which stated that the high school student must be in an "accredited" program. So now that provision has been removed:

Students attending non-accredited home school programs or non-accredited high schools may also be eligible to participate in the joint enrollment program if they meet all regular System and institutional joint enrollment requirements and can validate their on-track, Required High School Curriculum (RHSC) units in accordance with the policy of the institution to which they are applying.

Many homeschoolers choose not to pursue accreditation for a number of reasons. The result of the old regulation meant that many capable students, who would have otherwise been admitted in the JE program at their local University, were denied even the ability to apply. Thanks to the efforts of grassroots organization HA2C-GA, the BoR has changed the policy. (The group will continue to gather information about how this rule is applied, since the wording of the new policy is somewhat vague on how such things as "policy of the institution" and "institutional joint enrollment requirements" are defined.)

Ideally, admittance to a University would be based on an individual student's demonstration of his ability to handle the work. In the absence of official accreditation, there are many ways a student can demonstrate his capabilities--through testing, personal interviews, portfolio reviews, etc. Making accreditation the norm creates many problems, not the least of which is an impression that accreditation is some kind of automatic guarantee of the level of a student's education and readiness for college. I believe that it's very common for students to emerge from accredited high schools and land right in remedial college classes because they are not adequately prepared for college-level work.

It's also interesting to me that the BoR is willing to dismiss accreditation as important in a slightly different context. Last spring, an entire county school system here in Georgia lost its accreditation--those kids are being admitted to Georgia Universities:

Admission to any University System of Georgia college or university will not be negatively impacted despite the SACS [the accrediting agency] determination that the accreditation of the Clayton County School System must be revoked. [emphasis added]

So I'm very happy that this accreditation requirement has been dropped for homeschooled students interested in JE.

GA SB 60

I mentioned this briefly the other day. There is a bill before our State Senate which would effectively increase the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18. The wording is as follows:

Mandatory attendance in a public school, private school, or home school program shall be required for children between their sixth and sixteenth birthdays their sixteenth, seventeenth, or eighteenth birthdays, as determined for each local school system by the local board of education; provided, however, that a parent or guardian may sign a waiver for his or her child to opt out of a traditional public school setting between the age of 16 and the maximum age set by the local board of education pursuant to this subsection so long as the child enrolls in and attends a community college or technical school, which for purposes of this subsection shall be considered attendance in a public school until such child reaches such maximum age. Such mandatory attendance shall not be required where the child has successfully completed all requirements for a high school diploma."

The underlined passage is the proposed new wording of the statute.

So now, instead of making the maximum age of compulsory attendance (not education!) uniform across all schools (private and homeschools, too) in the state, someone has decided that this decision ought to be left up to--not the students, not their parents--but the local School Board.

Logistically, this would be a nightmare to manage. What happens when a student who is old enough NOT to be a butt-in-a-chair at the age of 17 in Cobb County moves with his parents to Bartow County--right next door--where the age happens to be 18? Is the kid truant? What happens to a 17 year old who takes a job in the next county where the maximum age is 18? Is crossing county lines during school hours an act of truancy?

Honestly, this is what I suspect the sponsors of the bill are hoping--IF the bill passes, and WHEN tracking all of these 16, 17, and 18 year old students becomes a problem for truancy officers, THEN why not just increase the age to 18 across the state?

I think the language about allowing the student to pursue studies in a community college or technical school is just silly. What if the student just wants to get a job or study a trade in an apprenticeship situation? Nope. That's not okay with our government. What if the kid is super smart and super rich and wants to travel Europe for a year before college? Not seeing how that could happen.

Personally, if this really came to pass, I can think of an easy out--take your 16 year old dropout, send in your DOI to homeschool, declare that your homeschool has a maximum age of 16, graduate him, and then make him get a job and pay you rent. Or something like that.

All joking aside--this is yet another way that our government inhibits freedom instead of protecting it. Making an unwilling student into a butt-in-a-seat for two extra years won't educate him any further. It won't motivate him or provide him with job skills or job experience. But I have to wonder--will it garner more federal education dollars?

Across the Nation

Federal Homeschooling Legislation Re-introduced

I learned (via The Informed Parent, thanks!) that Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has introduced three separate bills into the US Senate, all pertaining to securing federal tax credits for home educators across the country. The Bills are:

  • S. 83, which would allow homeschooling expenses to be included in the Coverdell Education Savings Accounts;
  • S. 100, which would allow tax deductions for homeschooling expenses; and
  • S. 101, which also has to do with homeschool expenses and Coverdell accounts.

(By the way, if the above links do not work, click here and search by Senator Vitter's name.)

I still oppose any federal meddling in home education, for tax or other purposes. As I wrote last year:

This is one small but very important area in which We The Parents are not beholden to the federal government. A very precious, unique opportunity. We are free. We owe the Feds nothing.

If we advocate for tax credits--beneficial as that money would be, as much of a right to that money as we have--we will essentially be inviting the federal government to notice us. To define us. To monitor us. To calculate us. To nickel and dime us. To determine us. This is an invitation that we cannot rescind. It's a way into our lives--a door, if you will. And once it is opened, it will never be closed--not by us and certainly not by them. It will only open wider and wider and our freedom will shrink ever smaller. And we will have invited this.

Yes, I want my money, but not at that price. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, we homeschooling parents have freedom from the federal government--if we can keep it.

Nope. I haven't changed my mind. It is a terrible shame that we are in a position to have to choose between our hard-earned money and the freedom to educate our children according to our values and standards, but given the nature of government these days, I'll take freedom, thanks.

I don't know if this Senator thinks he is trying to help us, or if there is a lobby in Louisiana for this legislation. No matter the reason, I'll be writing my own Senators to oppose this legislation.

Only Two More!

Wow--this is much longer than I intended, so I'll just link to these excellent posts and call it a night.

A is A Academy has a great post called Education and the People's State of California, chock full of eyebrow-raising quotes from such education experts as the Association of California School Administrators and John Dewey. Definitely check this one out.

Tito provides a detailed review of C. Bradley Thompson's lecture The Separation of School and State: The Case for Abolishing America's Government Schools. From the Ayn Rand Bookstore website, where this lecture is available:

Why do so many Americans—liberal and conservative—support a compulsory system of government-run education? What role should the State play in educating America’s children? Are government schools compatible with a free society? Is it possible to have a free market in education?

I'd love to listen to this lecture myself.

Okay, I hope you made it to the end of this tome! Thanks for sticking with it, if you did!

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