March 31, 2003

House Bill 2518: Requiring Homeschools to Prove "Quality Education"

Representative John Lewellen (D-District 34)

This bill would authorize the Arkansas State Board of Education to issue rules, regulations, and guidelines to ensure that homeschool students receive a "quality education." This subjective standard would inevitably result in oppressive state oversight of homeschooling. Whatever the State Board of Education thought was good for homeschoolers would be imposed on them. The authority of the State Board would be completely unrestrained under the law.

This bill was considered by the House Education Committee on March 25, 2003, and was ordered postponed until an interim study committee can consider it further. This effectively kills the bill for this session.

HSLDA's Position:
This bill should be opposed because:

- require the State Board of Education to promulgate rules, regulations, or guidelines to the extent necessary to ensure that home school students receive a quality education;

- authorize the State Board of Education to act beyond the limits of the language of the current home school statute and thereby impose on home schools whatever additional requirements they desire; and

- change the requirements of the notice given by parents to the local superintendent each year to add a written statement of assurance by the parent-teacher stating that "a quality education will be provided to each home school student and that the proposed curriculum and schedule will be followed."

State legislatures are empowered to authorize state agencies to issue rules and regulations needed to implement or enforce laws enacted by the legislature. However, there are constitutional limits on the extent to which a legislature may do this. A legislature may not turn over to a state agency complete authority to enact laws and thereby perform the function reserved to the legislature. In our opinion, House Bill 2518 exceeds the constitutional limits of authority that the Arkansas General Assembly may grant to the State Board of Education. Article 5, Section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution states that the "legislative power of this state shall be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of the Senate and House of Representatives." The General Assembly may not transfer this legislative power to the State Board of Education or any other state agency.

Arkansas is one of the few states where both statutes enacted by its legislature and regulations promulgated by a state agency govern home schools. Most states have either statutes or regulations but not both. Arkansas home schools do not need more state oversight, especially by those who would be given a free hand to impose any requirement which in their judgment would be good for home education.

The law for home schools in Arkansas already requires parents to submit a basic core curriculum and proposed schedule of instruction to the local superintendent at the beginning of the school year. Representative Lewellen's bill would add the needless requirement that the parent state that the curriculum and schedule of instruction will be followed. Implied in the requirement that the parent submit this information as part of the written notice is that this curriculum and schedule of instruction will be followed in the home school.

Representative Lewellen's bill would also require that the notice contain a written statement of assurance from the parent that a "quality education will be provided to each home school student." This establishes an unconstitutionally vague standard for parents, because the term "quality education" is not defined anywhere in Arkansas law. What one parent considers to be a quality education may be entirely different from the standard held by another parent. Additionally, it is conceivable that every public school superintendent in Arkansas would have a different opinion about what constitutes a "quality education." Further, no educational system can guarantee that its students will receive a quality education. Teachers can only provide instruction; they cannot guarantee that a child will be educated. A child's ability, willingness to learn, and study habits determine whether an education takes place.

 Other Resources

3/31/2003 - Arkansas--Dangerous Homeschool Bill Dead for Current Session

3/14/2003 - Arkansas--Legislation Would Allow Further Regulation of Home Schools

Bill Text (pdf)

Bill History