March 16, 2009 | Posted in Legislation | By

Last past week we’ve emailed you daily updates on the fight that is brewing over HB 2144, Rep. Cook’s bad home school bill. Early on we gave you a list of talking points designed to help you understand the bill as you talk to your Representative about it.

On Friday we revamped some of these talking points to make them clearer and more exhaustive. I’ve included a copy of them below. Please use them as you communicate with your Representative this week.

You can reach your Representative by calling the House Switchboard at (501) 582-6211.

HB 2144: Changing the Prerequisites for Home Schooling
Sponsored by: Rep. David Cook

Talking Points and Questions to Consider

1. Students would be unable to transfer from a public school to a home school once the semester is underway without the permission of a committee comprised of the child’s public school principal, counselor, and teacher. Current law allows public school students to transfer to a home school immediately with permission from the superintendent (or school board) or after a 14 calendar day waiting period.

2. Since current law allows public school students to transfer to a private school with no restrictions whatsoever, this law discriminates against students attempting to transfer to a home school. What justification is there for giving special treatment to students with the financial means to attend private school over students transferring to a home school?

  • This law makes no provision for public school students who need to transfer to a home school. Under this bill, the child’s parents or doctor would have no say in the matter.
  • The student’s school principal, counselor, and teacher would have sole authority over whether or not the child could transfer from public school to a home school. What about students who are suffering from a prolonged illness, those who are sexually harassed, threatened, bullied, or who are failing academically? This law would allow public school personnel to force these children to attend their school until the end of the semester.

3. In addition to a notice of intent and waiver form, this bill requires home school parents to submit “proof” of testing as a prerequisite for home schooling. Without this proof of testing, parents would lose their right to home school.

  • The bill does not address home school students who are not required to take a test. For example, home school students in grades K – 2 are not required to take any tests.
  • What about students who transfer to a home school from a private school that does not administer norm referenced tests? These students have no proof of testing because they’ve never been legally required to test.
  • What is “proof” of testing? The bill does not specify. What happens to the home schooler if a superintendent rules that their “proof” of testing is insufficient?
  • The State Board of Education decides at which grade levels home school students have to take the state-mandated test. A few years ago they required testing in grades 5, 7, & 10. Currently, testing is required in grades 3-9, but the Board can change this at any time. The board could eliminate testing altogether. In that case, no home school parent would have proof of testing. Under this law, parents who have no proof of testing would be unable to home school. It makes no provision for parents who have no proof because they were not required to test.

4. Public school personnel who force a child to remain in their school against the will of the parents can be sued. While sovereign immunity may protect school personnel who act on behalf of the school, a parent whose child is injured due to decisions made by individual members of the committee might be able to hold those individuals personally liable for their decision. Which school principal wants to personally guarantee the safety of a bullied child after that child has been denied the right to transfer out of the school?

5. What happens to parents who miss the August 15 deadline for registering to home school? Under current law, the superintendent can force the home school family to enroll their children in school, but they are free to transfer out of the school after 14 calendar days. Under this bill, the home school family who does not register by the Aug. 15 deadline could be required to enroll in the public school and remain there until the end of the semester.

6. What happens if the principal, counselor, and teacher cannot agree on whether or not a child should be allowed to transfer from the public school to a home school?

7. Under this bill, the parent could be prevented from attending the hearing on whether or not they would be allowed to withdraw their child from the school. Under this bill, parents are only allowed to submit an application.

8. Will the decision of the teacher and counselor be unbiased since both have to answer to the principal?

9. In some school districts, will the needs of the student be overshadowed by the desire of school personnel to maintain high enough enrollment numbers to keep the school district in operation?

10. Those who raise issues of child welfare should remember two things:

  • Under current Arkansas law, public school students who are under disciplinary action, including excessive unexcused absences are not allowed to transfer to a home school.
  • Public school personnel are required by law to report cases of abuse or neglect. Any abusive or neglectful parent who is attempting to withdraw their child from public school should have already been reported to the Department of Human Services. Why penalize all home school families because a superintendent failed to report abuse?

11. The Education Alliance, Family Council, and the Home School Legal Defense Association oppose this bill. For more information contact: Jerry Cox at (501) 375-7000.

The Education Alliance, 414 South Pulaski, Suite 9, Little Rock, AR 72201 (501) 978-5503

David is a former home school student. In 2007 he graduated from John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, with a bachelors degree in Business Administration. He currently works as Education Alliance's primary IT employee, webmaster, and blogger. David and his wife live in Little Rock.

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