The following is a message from Education Alliance Director Jerry Cox about a legislative meeting concerning changes to Arkansas’ home school law.

Dear Home School Friends,

Home School Meeting Held At the State Capitol

A meeting regarding home schooling was held at 10 a.m. on Monday, February 22, in Room 131 of the State Capitol in Little Rock. Representatives of the Arkansas School Administrator’s Association, the School Board Association, the Arkansas Activities Association, the Arkansas Department of Education, the Bureau of Legislative Research, and three members of the Arkansas Legislature were there. Jerry Cox and Martha Adcock were there as representatives of home schoolers and the Education Alliance.

The question before the group was whether concerns on the part of some school administrators and some lawmakers about home schoolers warranted any changes in the law. Rep. Les Carnine (R) Fayetteville chaired the meeting. He and Commissioner of Education, Dr. Tom W. Kimbrell, indicated that, when compared with other public school issues they must address, they did not see enough problems with home schooling to warrant any changes in the current law. Representatives from the School Administrator’s Association expressed concern that some home school parents were withdrawing their children from school and not educating them. They expressed interest in possibly changing the law to restrict the transferring of students from public school to home schooling once the semester is underway.

What Was Decided

The group decided to gather more home school enrollment and testing data and to have another meeting for further discussion. They agreed to establish a small working group to deal with two areas:

1. Under current law, what should be done when students fail to take the state-mandated test? Special attention would be given to determining who should be responsible for reporting testing violations, and what specific procedures should be followed in reporting parents who refuse to have their child tested.
2. What, if anything, can be done to allow home school students to participate in public school extracurricular activities that are sanctioned by the Arkansas Activities Association?

The Role of the Education Alliance

Since the public school representatives seemed to be uncertain as to what, if anything, should be done to change the home school law, we (Jerry and Martha) didn’t say as much as we could have said in the meeting. In future meetings, there will be ample opportunities for us to offer suggestions and bring up points that support home schooling. As long as we are allowed to participate in the meetings, we are optimistic that they will result in no harm to you and your family.

Our Conclusion:

The Commissioner of Education and Rep. Les Carnine would rather focus on public school issues, but the Administrator’s Association is not ready to let go of the home schooling issue. As a compromise, it was agreed that the group would continue to meet, leaving open the possibility of recommending changes in the law when the legislature convenes in January 2011. Home school participation in public school extracurricular activities sanctioned by AAA will likely be dealt with after issues over testing are ironed out. The Education Alliance will need to continue to be involved in these meetings to ensure that the state does not infringe on home school rights.

Input From Home Schoolers Welcome

Last fall, when it appeared that these meetings might be somewhat adversarial, we thought it might be necessary to involve attorneys from HSLDA, members of our home school steering committee and other home school leaders. Today’s meeting was in no way adversarial or contentious. Rep. Carnine asked that we keep the number of people around the table at today’s meeting to a manageable number and it went well. I do not know if future meetings of this “working group” will be open to the general public. If they are, it would be appropriate for any interested home schoolers to attend and listen to the discussion.

Either way, I want to hear any concerns, comments, or suggestions you or any other home schoolers have. Martha and I want to do a good job representing you and other home schoolers in these meetings.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jerry Cox

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