"Sports Bills to be Re-Introduced," Marcia Weinert, Connect New York (New York Home Educators' Network), January 1999
After similar legislation went nowhere for two years, the office of Representative Steven Sanders, D-NYC, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, confirms that he will re-introduce legislation to require local school districts to "permit homeschooled children access to public school interscholastic sports programs, among others." Additionally, a similar bill is slated to be introduced in the Senate by Senator John R. Kuhl, R-Bath. Kuhl was also recently named Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
A briefing on proposed legislation called "Homeschoolers Immunization and Screening" was shared on the American Homeschool Association networking list. Authored by Representatives Slone and Bassi, and introduced on Feb. 22, 1999, this legislation now in the House Rules Committee is intended to amend school code and require "parent or guardian of child in homeschool program to notify county health department, not later than November 15 of each year, of names, addresses, and birthdates of all children enrolled or receiving instruction in the homeschool program. . . (All children) shall be required by the parent or guardian to receive immunizations, vision and hearing screenings; provides parent or guardian shall provide proof."
[EDITOR'S NOTE: At deadline time I received word that HB2756 was passed onto the House Floor "with a straight party vote of D7-R5", with a very real possibility it will be rushed through. " . . . this bill creates a new category that never existed before in Illinois - the Home School, with NO definition. It removes [homeschooling] from the private school category we have been in since court cases in 1950."]
Two homeschooling bills have been introduced in Vermont, one in the Senate and one in the House. Both are currently referred to committee.
Senate Bill S.155, introduced by Senator John Bloomer (Rutland County), "proposes to require that the Commissioner of Education inform parents who register a child for kindergarten of home study options on or before Aug 15 of each year."
Introduced by a host of representatives, the Vermont General Assembly may consider a homeschooling tax credit. The bill reads, in part, "A taxpayer of this state shall be eligible for a credit against the tax imposed under section 5822 of this title in the amount of $800.00 for each child of the taxpayer who is a dependent for purposes of the federal income tax, and who was homeschooled for at least nine months of the taxable year." The same wording appears in Senate Bill S.124.
Dueling Legislation in Arkansas
It was only in 1997 when the Arkansas General assembly removed some restrictions on homeschooling when it saw sufficiently high standardized test scores. But since 1997, the number of homeschoolers has increased over 40%, so now superintendents have expressed concern about families abusing the freedom to homeschool, and about parents who are impulsively removing their children from public schools, without adequate forethought or preparation.
Enter House Bill 1724, sponsored by Rep. Magnus, which was drafted with help of homeschoolers (which homeschoolers are not specified). HB1724 abolishes the waiver that homeschoolers must sign each year. . . requires a 14-calendar-day waiting period before a public school student may enroll in homeschool . . . provides additional requirements on public school students under disciplinary action in local school district.
Enter Senate Bill 631, sponsored by Sen. Mahony, which is supported by public school superintendents. This bill requires homeschoolers to register with their local school district twice a year: August 15 for the fall semester and Dec. 15 for the spring semester. It prohibits public school students from enrolling in a homeschool during the semester unless they have a note from a doctor saying they are sick, or if they are failing two core subjects or if there are documented safety concerns.
Rumor has it that a hostile amendment to the Magnus bill could still come from the House Education Committee, reinstating the two-date registration.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: At deadline time, a committee meeting attendee reported what she saw: "Rep. Magnus' bill was not discussed in education committee today (March 2, 1999) as planned as Rep. Allison requested a special order of business on March 11 since there are three homeschool bills." Magnus' and Allison's bills would be discussed then, with Sen. Mahony stating he will wait until after March 11 to run his bill in the Senate Education Committee.
Rep. Allison appeared to be keeping his bill under wraps as long as possible, but from what he has said, "it will contain requirements for more testing, being part of a group of homeschoolers of 50 or more, parental GED or high school diploma, and [additional] record keeping."]
On Feb. 9, 1999, Dale Singer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that State Representative Bill Skaggs, D-Kansas City, had big plans for House Bill 540, an addition to Missouri's homeschooling law. A parent must "submit the child for assessment within the school of residence in accordance with the statewide assessment program authorized pursuant to section 160.518 RSMo. The school district of residence shall establish a reasonable fee for this testing, with the cost to the parent or guardian not to exceed the per pupil cost of the assessment for students attending the district." How kind of Rep. Skaggs to not allow the school to make money on the test, and how quickly Goals 2000's results are trickling down to affect home educators.
Homeschoolers were, as the title of the article points out, "angered." Poor Rep. Skaggs couldn't comprehend why. "For the life of me," he said, "I can't understand why a homeschooler doing a good job, a job that is allegedly superior to public education, shouldn't be proud of that and take the test that kids take in public education so they can show us they are doing a good job."
Unfortunately, he went on. "Apparently they have something to hide, and I don't know what that is. We can't afford ignorance. Every child deserves an education. If those folks are not doing it at home, we need to know that, and we need to go after them and get those kids in school."
Good grief, he went on. "Skaggs said he had experience in his district with homeschoolers doing a poor job. 'You can tell the children are not being properly educated just by the way they speak. They're just too lazy to get them up and get them to school.'"
The bill was just the beginning of Skaggs' vengeance against homeschoolers. He told the reporter "he not only wants to test homeschooled children in Missouri, who now are estimated to number 30,000, but he wants to register them to find out exactly how many there are and where they live." [I'm sure at this point there's a few homeschoolers who'd like to know where he lives, too.]
According to one source, on Feb. 9, 1999, over 600 homeschoolers attended the committee hearing on HB 540. Skaggs introduced a substitute bill, removing the provision that homeschoolers pay for the tests and adding a provision for mandatory registration. When queried by the committee as to why he was attacking homeschoolers, he again stated he knew a few families failing to do a good job. The committee asked who would monitor "bad" homeschoolers. Skaggs answered, "Division of Family Services."
At 5:01 p.m. the same evening, a homeschool message board reported that personal word from Rep. Derio Gambaro confirmed HB 540 was dead in committee. Gambaro had been receiving 400 calls per day from homeschoolers, and another representative's secretary disclosed that office received about 1000 calls. Rumor has it that Skaggs has not given up and may find a different route to further his personal vendetta. . . er, agenda.
"State Considers Changes in Homeschool Regulations," Seattle Times, Jan. 25, 1999
Alternative education programs, those Washington state programs opened by school districts to offer classes to homeschoolers, have proven themselves successful and popular, but this could be their downfall.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) now wants to increase their regulation of alternative education programs and issue a decision in April. "The legislature and the public expect a certain level of accountability for publicly funded programs," said OSPI spokesperson Allen Jones. "We want to provide that accountability, but at the same time, we want to provide flexibility where the parents work in partnership with the schools."
The "flexibility" offered to parents includes increasing one hour per week contact between homeschoolers and their center to "at least five hours per week in class, or the school district loses the standard $3,600 state funding per student it now receives."
"Secondly, parents would have to write lesson plans that fit the state's Essential Academic Learning Requirements. Many already do so. . . " Ah, but many don't. These families are objecting to government meddling, increased paperwork, and the need to write "educationese" to please the bureaucrats. One alternative education program administrator predicts the changes will decrease homeschoolers' participation.
Harrassment in Tennessee. . .
"Efforts to Quash Homeschooling Fail: A Big Victory for Activists in Tennessee," Jon E. Dougherty, WorldnetDaily, Jan. 29, 1999
Dr. Leo Crofford, director of Gateway Christian Schools, found himself, says WorldnetDaily, "in a growing controversy that is plaguing American educators - home education versus government schools."
In 1997, Tennessee legislation "established rules for the use of federal education funding. . . The Department of Education was supposed to use the money to increase public school attendance in regions of the state that had the highest levels of truancy." In this state of church-affiliated homeschools, not subject to state or county government regulation, some Lauderdale County officials appear to have decided to target students in these affiliated homeschools and force them into public schools.
"In June 1998, county officials sent out a letter telling home education families that despite their association with Gateway, they were supposed to provide regular attendance records to county truant officers." In this state's three tiers of procedures regarding attendance records, the state has anywhere from total control to no regulatory control. Gateway maintains a non-regulatory status, but even so, Crofford historically cooperated, with parental permission, any time local or county officials wanted to check on the truancy status of Gateway students.
The most intimidated parents caved in to officials' demands to remove their children from the program, probably in part because the county's Juvenile Court judge upheld the mistaken notion that Gateway was now required to submit attendance records to the local school system.
In September 1998, despite the fact truancy officials had received Andy Kirkpatrick's records from Gateway, his parents were arrested for contributing to the truancy of their son. Four days later, charges were dropped.
The harassment continued, and more Gateway families caved in. Then, on Jan. 7, 1999, six families were commanded to an appearance before the truancy board. "Officials told the families if they failed to make an appearance their cases would be remanded to the Juvenile Court and further action would be taken. . . By the time these families received their notifications to appear, the public school system in Lauderdale County had already been given records" for all the children involved.
As of the date of this article, five of the families have chosen to fight. Referred to Juvenile Court, the first family to appear before the truancy board was given four days to find a lawyer but no trial date has been set.
"Crofford was in constant contact with Gov. Sundquist's office. . . Eventually some meetings with the governor took place. . . as of now, says Crofford, "We have a pledge from Gov. Sundquist that this persecution is going to stop, and he promised us Christian schools would not be eliminated in the State of Tennessee as long as he was governor." As of this writing, the state Commissioner of Education has issued similar reassurances.
. . . And Colorado
"Threatening Our Freedom to Homeschool," The Rocky Mountain Education Connection, http://www.pcisys.net/~dstanley/shelly.htm
Rocky Mountain Education Connection's Cindy Stanley has become a one-woman powerhouse in getting the word out to the homeschooling community about Shelly Arkebauer's Colorado legal fiasco. I can't do her work justice in this small space; see the article by Shay Seaborne in this issue, and if you have any access to the Internet, please consider looking up and reading the whole story at Cindy's website.
During a divorce-related financial dispute slated for a magistrate to iron out, lawyers discovered that dad Michael's support payments hadn't increased since 1990, even as his growing daughter's expenses, which include homeschool expenses, had. Although Michael had at one time fully supported daughter Christa's homeschooling, regularly checking up on her progress, his lawyer now submitted papers saying, in part, that "the mother is no longer adept or qualified to provide proper instruction."
Shelly had the misfortune of having her case assigned to Magistrate Marilyn Leonard who, in private meetings between her and the lawyers involved, made noises about her personal disapproval of homeschooling. At the end of the two-part hearing meant to iron out support payments, Leonard issued a shocking ruling, available verbatim at the aforementioned website.
After reviewing Colorado's home-based education law, Leonard stated "...I don't find homeschooling to be in the best interest of this child" based on her personal feelings about socialization and Shelly's qualifications. She then ordered Shelly to enroll Christa in public school.
Magistrate Leonard subsequently denied a request for "A Stay of Order Pending Appeal" and a supplement to the stay. Shelly's lawyer turned up the heat with "A Motion for a Forthwith Order" to Judge Jackson, one step above Leonard in the legal hierarchy. A few homeschoolers were chosen to provide Judge Jackson, through letters, additional information on homeschooling.
In the meantime, Shelly received a "Motion for Contempt of Court" for failing to place Christa in public school in January, and was provided a March 1 court date.
Judge Jackson issued his decision on or about Feb. 28, 1999. He ordered the contempt of court hearing be vacated, he ordered Magistrate Leonard to rehear the case and include any additional findings (a rarity, according to Shelly's lawyer), and he ordered that Christa be allowed to remain home, at least while so much remains legally up in the air.
A final note: As you can imagine, Shelly is racking up large legal bills. After an Internet firestorm, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association reversed its original decision not to provide financial support to Shelly (a 7-year member), but the amount they are willing to provide remains murky at this time. Contributions to the Shelly Arkebauer Defense Fund may be sent to FAC-SWP, PO Box 75863, Colorado Springs, CO 80970. Please make checks payable to "The Family Advocacy Center" and indicate on the check it's for Shelly Arkebauer.
Homeschooling Spotlighted in Comprehensive Coverage
"Teaching the Kids at Home: Internet Swamped with Homeschool Resources," Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 29, 1999
The article credits the Internet for homeschooling's "coming of age in its second decade." I prefer to credit the countless thousands of parents who daily field phone calls, arrange meetings and field trips, and otherwise perform the "grunt work" necessary to give the movement the personal, grassroots contact that has propelled its growth. The bulk of the Internet sites referred to are labors of love for dedicated homeschooling parents who extend their reach and influence with this amazing tool.
Asimov explores homeschool history through the influence of Raymond and Dorothy Moore and John Holt, then turns her attention to resources, highlighting Home Education Magazine columnist Becky Rupp's new Complete Home Learning Source Book and Jane Williams' Home School Market Guide.
The four supporting articles, contributed by different reporters, do an excellent job of personalizing homeschooling, giving names and faces to just a few of the estimated 100,000+ homeschoolers in this state. Enough resources to get any Californian started conclude each article.
Stanford University spokesman Jon Reider recommends homeschoolers emphasize their extracurricular activities, write "terrific" essays, and score high on their SATs to make up for their lack of transcripts.
He then says that about a dozen of 15 to 20 homeschool applicants get into Stanford each year, and this year the university will begin to track its homeschoolers' applications. "He said he has a certain amount of respect for homeschoolers who buck the system and do well academically. 'It's good old-fashioned American anarchism.'"
Out In Ths World
Rebecca Latham, 18, Hastings, MN
Homeschooled since first grade, Rebecca won second place honors in the 1998 National Junior Duck Stamp Contest sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You can find more information on the annual contest by visiting http://www.fws.gov/r9dso.
MathCounts Homeschool Team, Capital District, New York
Congrats to this team that took first place and will participate in the state finals (sorry I wasn't provided with all your names!). The team is also to be honored at the annual dinner dance of the local chapter of the national Society of Professional Engineers.
Aaron Timlin, 27, Detroit, MI
Homeschooled from third to ninth grade, Aaron spent the time unschooling on his family's farm as the oldest of seven siblings, learning to read at age 13. Today he has taken the 100 year-old storefront he owns in Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood and turned it into "the city's newest - and most unusual - art gallery." The entire Timlin family is involved in artistic pursuits.
Erin Boylington, 14, Spokane, WA
Erin became one of four finalists in the Young Columbus program sponsored by The Spokesman-Review's Newspaper in Education department and React Magazine. Erin's essay responded to a Spokesman-Review article about a couple who had been trying to adopt a Guatemalan girl who disappeared, along with thousands of others, when Hurricane Mitch struck her homeland.
Rio Gabriel Bennin, Berkeley, CA
Rio became the second homeschooler to gain finalist status in Intel's Science Talent Search, "America's oldest and most highly regarded pre-college science competition," according to Excite News. Intel assumed sponsorship of this 58-year-old national contest from Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1998. Rio was one of only 40 high school seniors chosen.
Alexander Bush, 12, Hanover, PA
Alexander will be among the six walk-on munchkins in the National Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz, starring Mickey Rooney. Alexander's acting career began at age 3 in a church play. "A homeschooling schedule has allowed Bush to spend more time pursuing his non-academic interests," states an article in the Evening Sun of Hanover, PA. Alexander's dream role is to play Wicket the Ewok from Star Wars.
© 1999, Linda Dobson
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