December 12, 2003

Arizona Wants State Control of Public Textbooks

Homeschoolers are justifiably proud of their scores on standardized tests. Study after study shows that homeschooled students, on average, outscore their public school counterparts by 20 to 30 percentile points! Since homeschoolers are so good at standardized tests some critics claim that homeschoolers ought to be in favor of state laws requiring them. Instead, virtually every homeschooler agrees that standardized testing should not be imposed on home educators. A proposed public school law in Arizona helps explain why.

Republican State Senator Robert Blendu and the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, are calling for a new law that would take away the power of local school districts to choose their own textbooks. Instead, the State Board of Education would have the responsibility for selecting textbooks for children. The reason a Republican would want to take away local control is simple: to improve Arizona scores on standardized tests. According to the Arizona Republic, in a December 9, 2003 article, Senator Blendu says, "United States history…should be the same for everyone." He goes on to say, "It's crazy to have different versions of the same thing. No wonder they can't pass the test."

Homeschoolers have a different attitude towards education. Families that choose to educate their own children in their own homes are not trying to "pass the test." Families choose home education so they can emphasize those aspects of history (and science, civics, literature, and so on) that best reflect their own family's values. Instead of saying that United States history should be the same for everyone, most homeschoolers would agree that United States history should be different for each child. Each family gets to weave its own heritage into the great story of liberty in America.

Senator Blendu's proposal makes perfect sense, however, for a government controlled education system, which is funded by taxpayers. "He who pays the paper calls the tune," so taxpayers have every right to insist that public schools demonstrate their performance through higher test scores. Once the state chooses a standardized test, it effectively dictates the curriculum that will be chosen. Homeschoolers that want the freedom to choose their own curriculum fight standardized testing to preserve this fundamental liberty.

HSLDA takes no position on Senator Blendu's proposed legislation; as long as it only affects public schools, we can remain neutral. But legislators of both parties should be aware that homeschoolers will work together to defeat any legislation that would start to take away our educational liberties.