The Washington Times
July 11, 2003

Editorial: Homeschoolers Seek Equality

The Washington Times
July 11, 2003
by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

There can be no doubt about it: homeschooling is a phenomenon. In just two decades homeschooling has gone in many places from practically illegal to commonplace. As late as 1994, the federal government was still proposing that all homeschoolers had to be certified teachers (the infamous H.R. 6). This year, West Virginia joined the other 49 states in recognizing that the education level of homeschooling parents is irrelevant. Moreover, this ultimate expression of educational choice is beginning to show success across the nation. A recent study demonstrated that homeschoolers score an average of 30 points above the average in standardized tests. This is an astounding result especially since the average homeschool parent spends $600 per child per annum whereas the public system spends upwards of $6,000 per child nationally, and in places like the District of Columbia, well in excess of $9,000. This result puts to rest the myth that more money equals better results. Be it victory in national geography or spelling bees, or first prizes in science fairs, the well-over 1.9 million homeschoolers are proving every day that parents can direct the education of their children without governmental involvement.

With such prominence and success, it would be reasonable to assume that the legal issues surrounding home education had been put to rest. But like a square peg in a round hole, homeschooling continues to find itself a strange fit in statutes written well before the rise of homeschooling, or laws simply drafted in ignorance of its existence. In New York, for example, homeschool graduates who are in college - in fact about to graduate - are learning that they may not receive their college diplomas, because they happen to lack a state diploma for their homeschool. Homeschoolers in New York are rightfully aggravated by this kind of a system. It is time for the State of New York to get into the 21st Century.

Fortunately, at least at the federal level, Congresswoman Musgrave (of Colorado) has recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives a bill which will put an end to many legal misfits which have their origination in Washington, DC. The Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act of 2003 (HONDA) is a clear affirmation of the right of parents to homeschool their children. In its substantive provisions, HONDA addresses numerous issues. For example, the bill sets forth finally and clearly that homeschool graduates can receive federal financial aid in college, grants privacy protection to homeschool records that are kept under state law by the public schools, allows homeschool parents to utilize education savings accounts for their homeschool expenses, and allows homeschool eligibility for Byrd scholarships. The bill also recognizes that underage homeschoolers should be allowed to work during traditional school hours, if this does not conflict with their education. Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not allow a student to work during traditional school hours. This is an unfair restriction on homeschoolers, as traditional school hours have little meaning in a homeschool. This is a significant limitation on the homeschool teen who would like to save for college by, for example, working the lunch shift at the local fast-food restaurant.

Homeschoolers often encounter strange situations as they chart their course through a legal maze designed for government schools. For example, a Missouri family is currently in court fighting whether their homeschooled child should be forced to undergo an evaluation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), even though the family does not want, nor is even eligible for, the services which could be provided under IDEA. The HONDA legislation would fix this issue as well by making it clear that IDEA does not require evaluations if a parent refuses services.

The federal government does not have the power, nor the need, to regulate homeschooling. It is a matter of state law. Nevertheless, homeschooling is a national phenomenon, and federal issues have arisen which unfairly impact homeschoolers. Congresswoman Musgrave should be commended for her strong bill in favor of homeschool freedom.

It is undeniable that homeschooling is the fastest growing education movement in America. Hundreds of thousands of parents across the country are making the decision to educate their children at home. This is a tremendous sacrifice of time and money. In a land which prides itself on its history of liberty, rights, and freedom, homeschoolers should be left alone so homeschooling can continue to flourish.

 Other Resources

House Republicans Introduce Legislation to Protect Homeschool Students from Discrimination 7/15/03

Musgrave Defends Homeschool Kids In Congress 7/15/03