Irony in Iowa
Confusion over the interpretation of Iowa’s homeschool law resulted in charges against two HSLDA families, but the two homeschools remain in operation due to action by HSLDA lawyers.
The Paulsruds and the Truckes, who live in the same school district but different counties, were contacted by the authorities, although both families use certified teachers.
HSLDA hired attorney Dave Siegrist to defend both families. The Trucke family faced a complaint with multiple charges. He was able to all charges dropped, except those that charged that a certified teacher did not teach all classes. The judge admitted on the record that he had doubts about the correctness of his decision on the certified teacher issue against the Truckes.
The Truckes continue to homeschool, because Siegrist appealed the decision and obtained a stay on the Truckes’ sentence. This means the Truckes can continue to teach their children at home while their case is argued in the next court.
“What the superintendent wants is a certified teacher to teach all the time,” Karen Trucke said. But that is against their religious beliefs. “God told us in the Bible we are responsible to our children,” she said. She and her husband provide 95 percent of the instruction. A certified teacher spends about four hours a week with the Trucke children.
Superintendent Dennis Webner said he filed charges against the Truckes originally because they did not report using a certified teacher at all on the forms they submitted to the school district. At the magistrate’s hearing, Webner and the county attorney finally learned of the certified teacher.
“The reason we didn’t include the certified teacher on the form is that we feel we don’t need permission from the state to do what God commanded us to do. We wanted to spare our certified teacher. We knew a battle with the superintendent was coming,” Karen Trucke said.
The Paulsrud family also has a certified teacher teaching four hours a week. They taught their children at home during the 1984–85 school year and were not bothered. But this year, they were denied approval by the school board even thought “we are doing exactly the same thing as a year ago, Bob Paulsrud said.
Siegrist, however, was able to persuade the prosecuting attorney to drop the charges in the Paulsruds’ case. The prosecutor felt that Iowa law regarding homeschooling was uncertain because, in the Fellowship Baptist Church case, the federal district court recently ruled that the requirements for “equivalent instruction” are unconstitutionally void for vagueness.
The Governor’s Task Force on Compulsory Education issued a report in December recommending elimination of the certified teacher requirement for private and homeschools. Supported with extensive documentation, the task force argued that a high school diploma is sufficient for a parent to teach her child at home. Governor Terry Branstad has endorsed the recommendation.
On Thursday, January 30, about 100 home study advocates rallied on the steps of the state capitol in Des Moines in support of legislation that would reduce the confusion over interpreting the compulsory education law. Attorney John Eidsmoe represented HSLDA at the rally and spoke to the advocates in support of their proposed homeschool bill.
Eidsmoe also was able to speak with Representative Groth, chairman of the education committee in the House, in order to encourage him to adopt the commission’s recommendation.
Meanwhile, homeschoolers in Iowa continue to be investigated by their local school districts and forced to acquire the services of a certified teacher to instruct their children. The Iowa legislature should be urged to adopt the recommendation of the governor’s task force in order to provide Iowa homeschoolers with much needed relief. Only Iowa, Michigan, and North Dakota still require homeschoolers to use certified teachers.