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Response to Proposal to Increase Supervision of Homeschooling
Recently the Palladium-Item in Richmond, Indiana published an article online entitled “What do we do with home-schoolers?” The article was written by Mr. Tom Stein, the senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Richmond. In the article Mr. Stein complained that homeschooling in Indiana is too free and easy and that more oversight and regulation would be reasonable. Mr. Stein suggested that parents should have to submit curriculum and participate in standardized tests as well as submit to occasional visits to their home by public school officials.
While Mr. Stein’s reason for his initial concerns appears to do with his allegation that local public school officials were pushing public school dropouts into homeschool programs to lower their dropout rate, his solution for this problem was outrageous. HSLDA attorney Tj Schmidt submitted a letter in response to this article, and it is posted below:
In his letter to the Palladium-Item of October 1, 2010, Mr. Tom Stein, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Indiana made some ill-informed statements about homeschooling that don’t provide an accurate picture of the homeschooling environment in the great state of Indiana.
Rather than needing to be closely supervised by the public school bureaucracy, as Mr. Stein suggests, via “submission of a curriculum, occasional visits, and participation in the standardized tests,” homeschoolers are, in fact, excelling both academically and socially. In a study titled the Progress Report 2009, students from all 50 states were administered standardized achievement tests. Homeschoolers scored on average 37 percentile points higher than their public school counterparts. Furthermore, the level of government regulation had no impact on the results. Students from states with low regulation such as Texas, Illinois, and Indiana scored the same as students from states with high regulation such as New York and Pennsylvania. The findings of this study were consistent with every other study conducted on homeschooling since its re-emergence as an educational option in the 1980s.
But homeschoolers also excel socially. In the 2004 study Homeschooling Grows Up, homeschoolers were shown to be active members of society and even more involved with their communities than the average public school student. For example, 76% of homeschooled graduates aged 18–24 were found to have voted in a national/state election in the past 5 years compared with just 29% of the general population of 18–24-year-olds.
It seems that Mr. Stein is mistakenly targeting the wrong group. His central complaint is a concern that public school officials are purposefully trying to improve their graduation rates, not by improving the educational environment of the local public schools, but by classifying public school drop-outs as homeschoolers.
While we have also heard that public school officials across the state are encouraging drop-outs to be classified as homeschoolers, Mr.Stein’s solution to crack down on all homeschoolers is not the answer. The focus should be on the conduct of public school administrators and the failure of the public schools to provide an adequate education to those who are struggling with their schools rather than the tens of thousands of homeschooling families who are successfully teaching their children at home in Indiana.
Fortunately, the law is on the side of homeschoolers. As recognized by a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children is protected by the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Also, Indiana recognizes the right of parents to teach their children at home. Under Indiana law, a parent must provide instruction equivalent to that found in the public schools. In fact, the relevant section of Indiana Code states: “It is unlawful for a parent to: (1) fail; (2) neglect; or (3) refuse; to send his child to a public school for the full term as required under this chapter unless the child is being provided with instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools.”
Parents in Indiana who have chosen to teach their children at home are simply exercising their constitutional and statutory rights to do so. And based on the studies of student academic performance, the present level of state regulation of homeschooling in Indiana is more than sufficient.
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Read “What do we do with home-schoolers?” in the Palladium-Item.