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Legislature Improves Homeschool Law
On April 22, 2009, Governor John Hoeven signed into law House Bill 1171, making significant improvements in North Dakota’s homeschool law. Most significant is the change that a parent with a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma no longer must be monitored by a state-certified teacher during the first two years of homeschooling. Prior law required such monitoring if the parent did not have a baccalaureate degree. Unchanged is the exemption from monitoring if the parent is licensed or approved to teach by the education standards and practices board or has met or exceeded the cutoff score of the national teacher examination.
Under the new law, monitors no longer are required to notify the school district that they are monitoring a child receiving home education. Apparently, the legislators considered this requirement to be superfluous, since monitors must already report student progress to the public school superintendent twice each year.
H.B. 1171 also changes the law to permit the home education to take place in a location other than the child’s home, so long as the program of education is supervised by the child’s parent.
The new law also addresses high school diplomas issued to students completing a home education program when seeking a diploma from the child’s school district of residence, an approved nonpublic high school, or the center for distance education. Prior to the enactment of House Bill 1171, a student could seek a diploma by meeting the issuing entity’s requirements for graduation or, in the alternative, could complete 21 units of high school course work required for public and nonpublic schools. Students utilizing the second means for obtaining a diploma will be required to complete at least 22 units beginning with the 2009–2010 school year and 24 units beginning with the 2011–2012 school year.
The only cloud over the favorable provisions of the new law is that it automatically expires as of July 31, 2011, unless the Legislative Assembly repeals the expiration date during the 2011 legislative session.
The North Dakota Home School Association put in a tremendous amount of effort to bring about this improvement in the law. Homeschooling families provided testimony before the legislature and contacted their senators, representatives, and the governor urging them to support this bill. In the end, this concerted effort persuaded a majority of the government officials that homeschooling parents deserved more trust in conducting instruction for their children. In 2011 this effort will continue as homeschoolers will seek to repeal the expiration date of the new law.