Resolution to examine policies to further oversight of NE homeschools

This legislative session is set to end April 17, but the end couldn’t come quite fast enough. Senator Schimek, who introduced LB 1141 to mandate testing of all homeschools in Nebraska, has introduced a resolution. Not one of those feel-good but do-nothing resolutions like the one apologizing for the state’s role in slavery. Instead, LR 369 (pdf) seeks:

To examine policy changes that should be pursued in order to provide further guidance and oversight of Nebraska’s home schools.

Note that we have abandoned legislative action and turned to policy changes to see if we can still bring more state oversight to Nebraska homeschools. To do this, the legislature shall research a few things:

1. Current statutory framework established for the creation of all types of nonaccredited schools in Nebraska and how that relates to original legislative intent;…

The original legislative intent is clear enough. The state had arrived at a stalemate in a church-state issue which had exploded into the national discussion as officials repeatedly arrested fathers, locked the doors of small churches operating unaccredited schools and had successfully attracted national attention. Reverend Everett Sileven, the pastor of the tiny Baptist Church whose standoff attracted most of the attention, is hardly the model for educational liberty we would want to hold up in any discussion. He is currently sitting in jail in Indiana for tax evasion and his church has been bulldozed for nonpayment of taxes. Actually, it is fear of teachings like his that most people think illustrates the need for homeschool regulation.

“Other races are not gifted with the tools of nature to be industrious developers of agriculture, industry, civilizations, governments, etc. as Adam was so gifted. … Though the non-white races had inhabited the earth for many centuries before Adam, the world stayed in its non-developed stage until Adam came on the scene. … God in His sovereign grace created another race, `man’ (Adamites), white for effect, and created another section in him (Adam) beyond the body and soul of the other animals and races. Adam has a third section, called the human spirit. It was in this spirit of man that God himself would dwell” (Everett Ramsey, Multiculturalism: Racemixing–The Sin for Which God Will Kill, America Today Publishers, 1994, p. 9). Wayoflife.org

And as far as testing is concerned, I do not see where it can be argued that they did not envision some form of testing or accountability as Schimek noted in her testimony before the education committee. After all, the law seems clear enough. No matter how you read it, the legislature obviously thought testing would take place. The only thing really in our favor if we go by the law is this little phrase:

The results of such testing may be used as evidence that such schools are offering instruction in such basic skills but shall not be used to measure, compare, or evaluate the competency of students at such schools. Section 79-1601

That and the fact that the law says that the Department may adopt policies and procedures for testing and visitation rather than shall. The reason the Department never has rests on the opinion of Attorney General Robert Spire that visitation and testing must be uniform for all private schools and that it cannot be arranged without parental consent. He said that back in 1987. I don’t know how persuasive he is nowadays. Especially with a legislature which just voted to pass LB1157 which does away with our local system of accountability after a long fight with the Department of Education and the Nebraska chapter of the National Eduction Association. In fact, our Commissioner of Education, Doug Christiansen, resigned over it.

2. Potential improvements that can be made to existing statute due to the increased number of home schools, in order to reflect current trends;

I think that means that it was OK to sort of ignore the homeschoolers when we were just an annoying, but insignificant, speck on the map of state directed education. But now that there are enough of us that people are noticing, we maybe need to leash them before they get out of hand. Just in case she is talking about national trends related to the regulation of homeschools, could y’all do me a favor and keep that trend of deregulation going a little longer?

3. Any data that can be drawn from only Nebraska home schools to demonstrate how well the state’s home school students are performing;…

Yeah. We’ll get right on that. How about we all turn up at the capitol and take one of those standardized tests for you? There is no way of collecting the data desired and she knows this. And this lack of data will likely be just one more reason to cast a wider net around homeschoolers.

4. Existing case law enabling states to provide oversight to home schools; and…

Well, that is abundant. But let’s start with Nebraska, from the same case referred to above involving the Baptist pastor:

The state, having a high responsibility for the education of its citizens, has the power to impose reasonable regulations for the control and duration of basic education. Parents have a right to send their children to private schools but do not have the right to be completely unfettered by reasonable government regulations as to the quality of the education furnished and the maintenance of minimum standards. State ex rel. Douglas v. Faith Baptist Church of Louisville, 207 Neb. 802, 301 N.W.2d 571 (1981).

We homeschoolers like this little part in Pierce v. Society of Sisters,

The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

But unfortunately we tend to ignore the other part of the opinion which states,

No question is raised concerning the power of the State reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.

I would like someone to convincingly prove me wrong on this, but I think the actual opinions published by the courts generally recognize a state interest in the education of children and allow for certain provisions for oversight.

And finally, the whole point of this resolution:

5. Proposals that would enable Nebraska to provide sufficient oversight through the testing of home school students or other mechanisms in order to evaluate home school students.

I think I could summarize this little resolution another way: find a way, any way, that we can reign in these homeschoolers.

[tags]homeschool, homeschooling, home school, LB 1157, LR 369, LB 1141[/tags]

0 comments
  1. suburbancorresponden

    Confused, here –

    “Actually, it is fear of teachings like his that most people think obviates the need for homeschool regulation.”

    Are you sure you want to use the word “obviate”? Or are you looking for the term “makes evident”?

    So, are you saying that you disagree with that second portion you quoted from Pierce v Society of Sisters? Is there absolutely no oversight of homeschoolers in NE at all? In VA, we have the choice of submitting a portfolio, taking any standardized test (CAT tests are easy to obtain, administer, and take), or have a certified teacher write a letter stating student has made progress over the past school year. Very loose, workable regulations – particularly when you have certified teachers who have joined the homeschooling community! Do those strike you as too restrictive?

    Oh, and we also have a religious exemption available – in which case one is not overseen at all.

  2. Dana Hanley

    I’m good at using the wrong word now and again, particularly when I’m working late at night. 🙂 I meant “illustrate.” Thanks for the correction.

    I don’t disagree with some oversight, but the testing of homeschools I do not believe necessary, nor the direct supervision by a certified teacher. The way the current law is handled requires us to notify the state and turn in our scope and sequence to demonstrate that we have a sequential plan that will lead to proficiency in certain subjects. We also turn in a calendar.

    Yes, I think VA law is a little too restrictive. I don’t see any compelling need to add to the regulations already placed on homeschools in NE.

  3. Summer

    This makes me happy to be in Oklahoma. All we do is send in a letter stating the child will be home schooled, and that is only if the child was previously in public school. A child who has never attended has to do nothing. Freedom, and yet no outrageous numbers of families abusing their kids or teaching them that 1+1=5. Hmmm

  4. Dana Hanley

    Sounds good to me. 🙂 I don’t mind sending in some paperwork so that they don’t confuse me with those who are truant. I don’t really object to the scope and sequence…but I do wonder how it affects unschoolers or those who don’t really use a scope and sequence.

  5. Thomas

    LB 1157 has just screwed Nebraska Education, both teachers, parents and students, period;

    Why should home schoolers be exempt from such treatment from its legislature?

    Escape the state!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  6. Susan

    It is a different issue to have the state oversee an organization or school than it is to have them oversee what happens in the home.

    That is such an important point.

    Dana, I bet if you didn’t have to turn in any paperwork as the status quo (as in IL and OK), you’d adjust quickly. 🙂 We can be notified in IL by the Regional Offices of Education if truancy questions come up (even from obnoxious and/or anonymous neighbors). But sending off a letter to the ROE that we’re complying with the couple of sentences in the exemption seems to do the trick most of the time.

  7. Life On The Planet

    “…find a way, any way, that we can reign in these homeschoolers.”

    I think that was the point of the recent Mississippi Legislative shenanigans. Maybe they’re starting to figure out that we’ve grown accustom to a little freedom and they want to nip in the bud.

    Too bad for them. The bud has already bloomed.

  8. Renae

    No question is raised concerning the power of the State reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.

    The state does have an interest in education, but this statement reaches too far. Education doesn’t/shouldn’t belong to the government. However, unless people can read and write and vote our government will become an oligarchy or a dictatorship. That is not in our interest.

    I guess my question has more to do with what kind of oversight the state should have. And who determines what is reasonable?

  9. Principled Discovery » Researching homeschooling, we need a new direction

    […] Resolution 369, calling to “examine policy changes that should be pursued in order to provide further guidance and oversight of Nebraska’s home schools,” has been referred to the education committee.  Ironically, the state of Nebraska is not the only entity looking to study homeschoolers.  Homeschooling families who use standardized testing through BJU Press, Family Learning Organization, Piedmont Education Services or Seton Testing Services are being asked to participate in a little research, as well. We are conducting a new large-scale study of homeschooling across the United States and would like your family to participate.  This project is being administered cooperatively by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) and Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).  It will be the largest and most in-depth study ever conducted on homeschool families and their academic ability.   HSLDA […]

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