Sargent's "payoff" scheme fails
In October 2001, Home School Legal Defense Association reported that the Colorado Board of Education was looking into a new tactic that Sargent School District had introduced. By paying home school families $600 to "enroll" their child for a few days, the district hoped to receive $1,200 extra from the state for each "temporarily" enrolled student.
HSLDA opposed Sargent's program for several reasons, including the probability that it would increase government regulation and the fact that it would waste taxpayers' money. We urged our members not to participate in such a questionable scheme. After HSLDA "blew the whistle" on Sargent in our Weekly Update email and on our website, a number of Colorado citizens and a state school board member spoke out against the district's plan--creating a chain reaction that ended with a condemnation from the state attorney general's office.
A recent Denver Post article confirmed HSLDA's concerns and described the outcome: "state education officials refused to pay the district" for the home schooled students. Now, the district is locked in a battle with the Colorado Department of Education to determine whether or not this plan was legal.
Interestingly, of the 36 home school students enticed to Sargent for three days at $600 apiece, six ended up enrolling full-time in public school and five enrolled part-time.
According to the Post, the state education department is seeking "a tightening of the rules" this legislative season. Although, assumably, this is in relation to public school funding, HSLDA will monitor and oppose any effort to restrict home schooling.
Harmful legislation defeated
While HSLDA supports the efforts of school districts to eliminate truancy, Representative Valentin Vigil's House Bill 1140 would have given school districts unlimited power to arbitrarily deny families the right to home school. Parents with a habitually truant child who wish to home school would have been required to obtain approval from the school district. School officials would have had unbridled authority to demand information regarding curriculum, schedules, achievement testing as well as numerous other things in order to "approve" the family's home school program. A school official could have arbitrarily denied a family's right to home school if he happened to be opposed to home schooling.
HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka contacted Representative Vigil, who seemed open to our suggestions and asked us to submit a memorandum explaining how we would address the issue of a habitual truant who tried to use home schooling as a disguise for continued truancy. HSLDA suggested alternative legislation that would keep habitually truant children accountable without giving unlimited authority to local school districts.
Working closely with Representative Vigil and Concerned Parents of Colorado, HSLDA drafted language to protect home schoolers from additional regulation.
H.B. 1140 was postponed indefinitely in the House Committee on Education.
- Christopher J. Klicka