Arizona Home Schoolers Succeed in Amending Unacceptable Law
In February the home-schooling leadership of Arizona became aware of a bill that significantly affected home education in that state. H.B. 2286 would have required the State Board of Education to adopt a designated test to be administered by the state along with three alternative tests to be available for home schoolers. Current state law requires testing annually either in a public or private school. The new law specifies that the state should pay for the designated test with the home schoolers paying for the alternate tests.
The proposed law also gives authority to the State Board to determine grade levels for testing home school children. A point of contention with the local school districts has been that some home schoolers delay formal instruction until the child reaches eight years of age (this is the compulsory attendance age in Arizona); thus, they have the first grade test administered to their eight-year-olds. Some county superintendents object to this procedure.
In addition, the law would have given authority to the State Board to set standards for academic progress. Present law provides for the county superintendent to review test scores and if he/she has a concern about whether academic progress is occurring, he/she can choose an “independent evaluator” to make that determination.
The final objectionable change in the home schoolers' perspective related to the treatment of children who are “handicapped.” While the bill provides for the county to furnish an alternative nationally standardized test for the handicapped, it does not define when a child should be considered “handicapped.”
Michael Smith, Vice President of HSLDA, went to Arizona to attend an informal meeting with school officials, home school representatives, and legislators and to testify at the committee hearing on the bill. As a result of the meeting, the legislators agreed before the committee hearing to remove all of the provisions granting authority to the State Board. The home schoolers had objected to these changes because they were not represented in the rule-making process of the State Board.
The night before the committee hearing, the home schoolers received a copy of the amended bill and noted that the objectionable provisions had been removed. However, other objectionable provisions had been added. The county school superintendents had been given authority to determine where the annual standardized tests were to be administered. This would have eliminated the private school testing site option for home schoolers because of the desire of some superintendents to see all home schoolers tested in the public school setting.
At the committee hearing on the bill, Attorney Michael Smith was able to testify and explain some of the objections of the home schoolers. The committee hearing room was packed with home schoolers, and the legislators commented on the exemplary behavior of the children.
Prior to the hearing the legislators had been provided with a summary of A Nationwide Study Of Home Education, published by HSLDA. Several commented on how well home schoolers were doing academically according to the report, and one legislator suggested that the state should be providing money to the parents for doing such a good job!
As a result of the favorable impression left by the home schoolers and because of God's supernatural intervention, the committee voted to amend the bill, placing a moratorium on testing for the school year 1991–92 in order to work toward resolving the testing problem with the home schoolers. It is imperative that H.B. 2286 continue to be monitored because the Department of Education is not happy with this amendment and has threatened to try to change the bill further down the road.