Before we post any more caustic emails or letters from school superintendents who oppose home schooling and support Rep. Cook’s bad home school bill, I want to address some of the common misconceptions and misinformation being espoused in these missives.
Below are some common statements that seem to recur throughout the messages superintendents are sending to legislators. Hopefully this will help you address some of the concerns your own representatives raise when you speak with them.
“The students leaving to home school mid-semester are just angry because they are under disciplinary action.” – This is by far the most common. The scenario the superintendent presents is a rather grim one: The student has excessive, unexcused absences or disciplinary problems; when the school tries to take action to rectify the situation, the parents become angry and opt to home school instead.
Fact: Arkansas law forbids students to transfer from public school to home school mid-semester if the child is under disciplinary action. In other words, if the child has excessive, unexcused absences, it is illegal for that child to begin home schooling. Under Arkansas law, disciplinary action must be dealt with before home schooling can begin, and that may take the full semester. If schools permit these families to home school mid-semester, it is only because they do not want to deal with angry parents; they could address this issue without HB 2144 if they simply upheld the current law.
“These children have neglectful or abusive parents; it’s for their own good that we want them to remain in school.” – Some superintendents are citing situations in which they believe parents who transfer their children mid-semester are, in fact, leaving their children at home while they go to work, or engaging in some similar activity. This situation, however, is easy to resolve.
Fact: If school officials have reason to believe that a child is being neglected or abused, they are required by law to report that situation to the Department of Human Services—not shrug, and let the students begin home schooling because their parents “got angry.”
“This act will not affect current home school students. There is no reason for them to get worked up about this.” – Many superintendents believe that those of us who are currently home schooling have absolutely no vested interest in this bill, and should stay out of it—or, at the very least, that lawmakers should disregard our complaints.
Fact: Some home school parents currently have children in public school AND children in home school. They might want to retain the right to begin home schooling all of their children at any point they so desire.
Furthermore, this bill isn’t simply about children who are currently in the public school system. It’s about upholding rights. Every home school family in Arkansas believes in and exercises the right to home school; we don’t just stand up for our own rights, but we stand up for the rights of others as well. HB 2144 would severely restrict that right, and that is something we cannot allow.
Additionally, this bill places heavy burdens on current home school families, because it requires they show proof of testing when they file their paperwork with the state each year. What if their child is not required to test? Are they going to be forced to attend public school until they are old enough to test? Who decides what constitutes “proof of testing”? Is it the State of Arkansas? Is it the superintendent? The Department of Education? The bill doesn’t say!
“Home schoolers are not testing, not receiving an adequate education, etc.” – This is the default argument that many superintendents fall back on: Home schooling is simply, in one way or another, inferior to public education. There are many ways they express this sentiment, but the most common are statements such as, “Home schoolers are not testing,” or “home school students do not invest the same level of energy in education, and this is reflected by their test scores.”
Fact: There are over 15,000 home school students in the state of Arkansas, and there is simply no way that one school superintendent—or all the school superintendents, for that matter—could possibly know the intricate details of every one of their situations. However, let’s look at history: Traditionally, home school students as a whole often out-perform public school students on standardized testing and in academic competitions. Even if there were a way to accurately measure every home school student’s level of education, the results would likely indicate that the vast majority of home schoolers are doing exceptionally well.
The bottom line is that these sorts of statements are based on broad generalizations and memorable incidents superintendents have had with a very small percentage of the home school families in their districts. Most home school families are doing just fine.
For more information and statistics on home schooling, check out: