An education bill containing language affecting Iowa homeschoolers has some push/pull between the two political parties controlling the final result. Iowa’s HF 215 passed the House with 52 ayes and 44 nays on February 19. April 3, the Iowa Senate passed the bill with a 26-24 vote. Republicans control the Iowa House and Democrats have the Senate’s majority. The bill has been sent to a Joint Conference Committee.
Below is a synopsis of the homeschool language in HF 215 from today’s Associated Press article.
The proposed changes in Iowa would exempt some homeschool families from filing reports with the state and doing annual educational assessments, as well as permit teaching up to four unrelated children in one household. There is also a provision to permit homeschooling parents to provide driver’s education to their kids. The proposals would not change the reporting rules for families that homeschool but receive some supervision from an accredited school or take part in some school programs.
Des Moines’ WHO TV offers last month’s video of two state senators debating the homeschool language:
Iowa senators expect to debate changes for the state’s school system Tuesday. One point of contention is homeschooling.
Some senators want people to be able to homeschool up to four kids besides their own children. Others question whether that hurts the children by giving them a lesser education.
State Senator Bill Dotzler agrees with the latter opinion, “We’re going to remove the language that allows homeschoolers, teachers to homeschool unrelated kids – up to 4 – in a home school environment with no type of testing or anything, so we think that’s pretty crazy.”
On The Insiders, State Senator Brad Zaun disagreed, “I was taught by my dad how to drive and the state says we trust them to educate our children and I fully support that plan and I think it’s a good thing to do.”
AP‘s Catherine Lucey reports the negotiation process with this bill:
While most of the education debate in the state Capitol this year has been on how to improve teachers and enhance schools, some Iowa lawmakers are focused on a very different educational goal — seeking to reduce regulations for homeschooling families.
Language added to an education bill passed in the Republican-controlled state House in February would remove oversight for some households that homeschool their children. The proposals could complicate negotiations as House Republicans try to reach a compromise with the Democratic-controlled Senate on overall school funding and an education overhaul plan from Gov. Terry Branstad.
It’s reported the “Democrats were noncommittal on whether they would support the homeschooling proposals“, while some Republicans said the more broad-based education proposal won’t be supported if language is deleted that removes oversight for some homeschoolers. From the AP article:
“That’s an issue that will receive a lot of discussion in our caucus,” said Democratic Senate President Pam Jochum, of Dubuque. Jochum said Democrats wanted to reach a school compromise, but said members’ feelings on homeschooling varied.
“In terms of homeschooling, that’s kind of all over the board in terms of where people stand on that issue. I think the greatest concern is number one, making sure children are testing well and doing well, that they are homeschooled on a curriculum that is laid out. And the second piece that is just as important, is that they have the social skills that go with it,” Jochum said.
The article also reported the governor supports the homeschool language piece of this plan.
Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Branstad, said the governor supported the Republican education plan with the proposed changes to the homeschool rules, noting that Branstad signed the current homeschool law in 1991 during his previous stint as governor. Albrecht said Branstad “is a strong supporter of both public schools and those who choose to educate their children at home.”
More here from another AP article regarding political positions with the homeschool piece of this legislation.
In Iowa, a GOP governor charts a different course By Catherine Lucey Associated Press March 27
A.J. Spiker, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, declined to speak about the specifics of Branstad’s proposal but praised a Republican amendment to the House version of the bill, which would remove state oversight of homeschooling and would allow private schools to be accredited by agencies other than the state.
“Home schooling and private schooling have been proven time and time again to be a very superior form of schooling,” Spiker said.
A typical response from the state teachers union was posted in today’s AP article:
But the homeschool proposals drew sharp criticism from Melissa Peterson, a government affairs specialist with the Iowa State Education Association, which represents about 34,000 teachers, support staff and other educators.
“We don’t think we should do anything to lessen the quality of the education or the accountability of the education (system),” Peterson said. “We think the public education is in good shape, but we are respectful of the current homeschool statute. But we don’t think it should be expanded while being deregulated.”
Iowa homeschoolers say this paperwork is burdensome, expensive and unnecessary.
“Right now, we fill out paperwork every year that really honestly doesn’t get looked at. It doesn’t really accomplish anything other than put more barriers up for homeschoolers,” said Gustoff, who serves as a legislative liaison for Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators [NICHE], a group that he said had several thousand members. “There are several states that are very similar to what we’re proposing.”
Quite a few states don’t require homeschoolers report to the state or school system and the educational successes are documented. NICHE offers a sample letter to send to the Conference Committee legislators here.