Home Schooling Bill Signed into Law in South Carolina
On June 1, 1988, Governor Carroll Campbell, Jr., of South Carolina signed into law the home schooling legislation passed earlier by both houses of the legislature. South Carolina home schoolers now have a clearly defined process for obtaining the approval of their local school district, which should be virtually automatic if the family provides the required information regarding their curriculum, calendar, progress reports, and testing arrangements and results. Numerous states have enacted laws far superior to South Carolina’s, but the new one is somewhat better than the prior law, which was obviously vague.
The law calls for a complex application process, and parents must keep detailed records of their hours of instruction and their daily lesson plans. Testing is required according to the state’s public school standardized achievement testing programs, and first graders must take a readiness test. In addition, parents must agree not to hold the schools responsible for the educational failure of their home schooling. This last requirement seems to imply that the public schools can, and even should, be held responsible for the education they provide to their students, something not generally conceded by public schools.
Despite efforts to defeat it, the amendment to the law calling for parents without a bachelor’s degree to take a test designed for college students majoring in education was passed as part of the bill, but does not go into effect until 1989. For the 1988–89 school year, home schooling parents with only a high school diploma or GED may home school without any additional restrictions. The test requirement would be implemented for the 1989–90 school year only if it is validated for use on home schooling parents. The Carolina Family Schools Association (CFSA), headed by Mrs. Zan Tyler, has proposed a boycott of the test in the hope of blocking its validation. If home schoolers refuse to take the test during the validation process this year, its usefulness cannot be established, and the amendment will have been effectively defeated. The test will only be required of parents not holding a college degree.
The new law resolves the problems which prompted the filing of HSLDA’s class action suit in South Carolina, the Steyne v. Heyward case. HSLDA had succeeded in obtaining a stay order in the case which has been effective for the past two years, barring prosecutions against all HSLDA member families in South Carolina until the legislature could pass a new home schooling law. Now that such a law has been passed, the case will be withdrawn and the injunction removed.
Although some families in South Carolina have voiced concerns about the wisdom of submitting to the state’s application process, or about the cumbersome nature of the requirements, the law should remove the ability of local school boards to make arbitrary decisions to disapprove families. If the law functions in practice as its wording intends, families should no longer have to worry about arbitrary prosecution or intrusive requirements beyond those contained in the law.
SOUTH CAROLINA UPDATE
As of press time, despite the clarity of the new law, many school districts are overstepping their authority and creating applications which ask for more information from parents than they are entitled. Many school districts have been asking parents to send in a detailed lesson plan, including actual page numbers to be covered, for every week of the entire school year. The law makes no such requirement of families. Families have also been asked to sign detailed agreements, stating that they will comply with all aspects of their district’s home schooling policy and will abide by their school district’s decisions relative to their home school programs. Since the law only requires that parents agree in writing to “hold the district . . . harmless for any educational deficiencies of the student sustained as a result of home instruction,” these additional agreements do not have to be signed by parents, and should not be signed. Families who are encountering such problems with their district’s application process should contact HSLDA.