Updates at the end.
Our nation’s capitol has some of the most lenient homeschool laws in the country, requiring only notification with a form that is now available online. In the wake of the Banita Jacks case, however, Mayor Fenty vowed to institute a tracking system to keep track of all homeschooled or transfer students. Now the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the State Board of Education have submitted a proposal to establish procedural rules to establish a Homeschooling Program in the District of Columbia which goes a little beyond just tracking children. It also will place significantly more restrictions on homeschooling in the District. The proposal was posted February 29, the public hearing took place March fifth and the public comment period is thirty days (I assume from February 29). Some of what homeschoolers in the D.C. area may have to look forward to:
- The Office of the State Superintendent of Education will establish a Homeschooling Office within the District of Columbia to administer and implement the District of Columbia’s Home Schooling Program.
- Written notification will be required, which indicates consent with all the policies in the regulation and must be turned in 15 days prior to beginning homeschooling.
- Documentation including attendance, hours of instruction, materials used and student work must be kept and submitted for review up to three times per year.
- Parents must also prove their children are vaccinated.
- The OSSE will notify the parent of any deficiencies and the family will develop a plan for remediation, correcting all deficiencies within thirty days. (This is more forgiving than the text of Senator Schimek’s bill here in Nebraska.) If the plan is not met, the parent will receive a letter and have 14 days to prove attendance in a public or private school.
- Children may participate in standardized testing in their home district at the parent’s request. (I actually don’t object to this, except that I doubt it will be long before that “may” becomes a “shall.”)
The purpose of all this is to “assist school authorities in fulfilling their responsibility under the District of Columbia’s school attendance and reporting requirements.” Oh yes. And to determine “that a child participating in a home schooling program is receiving regular, thorough instruction during the school year in the studies usually taught in the public schools to children of the same age.”
I wonder now how many states are granting homeschool liberties through this sort of gray area of what rules and procedures the respective State Boards of Education choose to adopt. Would specific legislation have been better? That obviously also has drawbacks, because legislation rarely passes in the same form it is introduced. Still, with the case in California, these abuse cases and the legislation that has been introduced in a number of states, the public debate has begun. It likely will die down after a few months, as America’s attention span is historically short. Besides, we have a presidency to fill. In the meantime, however, how can we best engage in the debate? After all, our ability to homeschool free from unnecessary limitations and monitoring of the state really rests in public opinion.
Home Education Magazine also has collected quite a lot of information.
Update: According to an HSLDA alert, homeschoolers broke attendance records for the public meeting on March fifth. The board is debating a time frame and a vote could happen as early as March 19.
The Texas Homeschool Coalition writes:
In a hearing on March 5, dozens of home school families testified against the proposed rules, and officials agreed to scrap the proposal and start over, this time including home school leaders in the process of adopting regulations.
I’m looking for more information on what actually happened in this meeting and will update when I find it.
[tags]homeschool, homeschooling, Banita Jacks[/tags]