Legislative Victory in Arizona
Home schoolers in Arizona recently faced the proposal of a bill affecting home schooling. The proposed amendments to the home school law were defeated, thanks to the diligent and swift efforts of home schoolers.
House Bill 2513, proposed by Representative Hermon, suggested two significant changes to the present law governing home education. First, the bill required the home schooling parent to pay for the independent evaluation. This independent evaluation is required when, in the opinion of the county school superintendent, the home schooled child is not progressing academically, based upon results of the standardized norm-referenced achievement test.
Home school children are not enrolled in the public school, so very few of the public schools’ resources are expended on them. The evaluation procedure is required by law and the public school system derives income from home school parents through taxes. Therefore, the state should pay for the costs of such an evaluation.
To require the parents to pay for the evaluation would be contradictory to the intent of the legislature. In the home school exemption contained in Arizona Revised Statutes Sec. 15-802, the legislature provided that “[T]he governing board of a local school district may not charge for costs directly or indirectly incurred in administering the test.” The test referred to is the standardized achievement test taken by the home school child each year. To require home schoolers to pay for the evaluation is violative of the legislature’s previously indicated intent in this area. The passage of this law would have treated the home schooling families unequally and could have resulted in financial hardship to the families.
Another amendment proposed in the bill involved a suggestion to amend Sec. 15-802 of the Revised Code. Currently, the home instructor has to pass a reading, grammar and mathematics proficiency examination before or within six months of beginning the home instruction program. This proposed amendment would have eliminated the “within six months” provision. Such a provision would be unfair to children who would benefit from home education, yet whose parents have not had the opportunity to take the examination in advance.
Arizona is to be congratulated for recognizing the constitutional right of parents to teach their children at home. The proposed bill would have been a retreat from that recognition. If this new provision had become law, the state would now be saying that the state must approve in advance the “right” to start home schooling. The whole intent of the law would be changed from one of parents’ rights to parents’ privileges.
For example, a person has a privilege to drive a motor vehicle, and the state is reasonable in requiring a person to obtain a license prior to driving. However, a parent has a constitutional right to teach his or her child at home and should not be required to obtain a license prior to teaching a child at home. Rights can be subject to reasonable restrictions, and the present statutory scheme recognizes that by requiring the instructor testing to take place within six months of beginning the teaching at home. However, prior approval changes the right to a privilege.
Additionally, if the proposed bill had passed, some children could have suffered irreversible educational and emotional harm because their present school setting could not be legally changed (e.g., child enrolled in the public school who needs an immediate home school structure), until the teacher's exam could be taken. On the whole, the defeat of the amendments was an important victory for Arizona home schoolers.