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Wyoming

January 24, 2007

House Bill 129: Raising Compulsory Attendance Requirements

Author:
Representatives Debbie Hammons (D) and Del McOmie (R), Senator Henry H.R. Coe

Summary:
If passed, House Bill 129 would raise the compulsory attendance requirements from age 16 to age 18 and from 10th grade to 12th grade, effective September 15, 2009. While a child may be exempted from the new requirement if the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian notifies the school district before September 15th that the child will not be attending a public or private school during that school year, the parent or guardian must certify that he or she understands that the child will not receive a diploma that year. The parent or guardian must also document through required and state-approved testing or assessment that the student has demonstrated proficiency or equivalent competency in reading, writing, and math at the 11th grade level.

Status:

1/6/2007(House) Prefiled
1/11/2007(House) Introduced and referred to Education Committee
1/22/2007(House) Hearing
1/22/2007(House) Bill defeated in Education Committee; Vote 8-1

HSLDA's Position:
Oppose.

This is another attempt to impose increasing government control over children and to further restrict parents’ rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children. These are rights that have been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as fundamental constitutional rights.

This approach is also used by professional teacher unions to guarantee more funding for public schools and higher levels of teacher employment.

In Wyoming specifically, House Bill 129, in addition to increasing the compulsory attendance age, raises reporting requirements for homeschoolers and other parents and requires state approved testing.

Increased reporting Requirements
This bill, if passed, would require homeschooling parents to report two years more than the current law requires. Many homeschool families graduate their children from homeschool programs to enroll them in college or apprenticeship programs. Today, parents have the authority to determine whether their children continue in formal secondary education after the age of 16—this right must be preserved.

Furthermore, parents or guardians of homeschooled students who completed their high school graduation at age 16 would have to certify and document that the student had achieved 11th grade competency in reading, writing, and math. While this is no great difficulty for homeschooled students, who in most cases far surpass public school standards for the 11th grade in these subjects, parents should not be required to submit further documentation to the government in order to graduate their children from their home education program.

Required State Approved Testing
To qualify for an exemption, the parent or guardian would have to document that the child demonstrated proficiency in reading, writing, and math at the 11th grade level as measured by “the statewide assessment, by other assessments or measures accepted or used by the district, or through alternative assessments or the child’s individual education plan.” Such a scheme would require homeschooled families to submit to government-directed testing, or to approval of an alternate testing plan.

Background

1. House Bill 231 was an attempt made in the 2005 session of the Wyoming Legislature to raise the compulsory attendance age. This bill was defeated in committee by a vote of 8 to 1. Since then, the Education Committee has changed dramatically. You can read the old bill online at the Wyoming legislature website (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). House Bill 231 was a simple attempt to raise the compulsory age. The current bill contains a lot more language as well as this “exception” language.

2. Statistics show that raising the compulsory attendance age will not reduce the dropout rate. In fact, the two states with the highest high school completion rates, Maryland at 94.5% and North Dakota at 94.7%, compel attendance only to age 16. The state with the lowest completion rate (Oregon: 75.4%) compels attendance to age 18. (Figures are three year averages, 1996 through 1998.)

3. Twenty-nine states require attendance only to age 16. Older children unwilling to learn can cause classroom disruptions and even violence, making learning harder for their classmates who truly want to learn.

4. Even with the exemption language, passing this bill would restrict parents’ freedom to decide if their 16-year-old is ready for college or the workforce. (Some 16-year-olds who are not academically inclined benefit more from valuable work experience than from being forced to sit in a classroom.)

5. Another significant impact of expanding the compulsory attendance age is an inevitable tax burden to pay for more classroom space and teachers to accommodate the additional students compelled to attend public schools. When California raised the age of compulsory attendance, unwilling students were so disruptive that new schools had to be built just to handle them and their behavior problems, all at the expense of the taxpayer.

6. A study by Cornell University on raising the age of compulsory attendance found that there was no correlation between passing a law to raise the age of compulsory attendance and high school completion rates. The study shows that specific programs targeted at at risk youth can help improve completion rates, but a law raising the age of attendance does not. To read the report click here.

Action Requested:

None required. Your calls and emails made the difference! On January 22, 2007, the Education Committee voted 8 to 1 against this legislation, defeating it for this session. Thank you for your vigilance on behalf of all Wyoming families!

 Other Resources

January-24-2007–Wyoming—Compulsory Attendance Bill Defeated 8-1

January-19-2007–Wyoming—Calls Needed to Oppose Expansion of State Control Over Children

January-16-2007–Wyoming—Calls Needed to Oppose Compulsory Attendance Bill

Bill Text    (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)