March 31, 2009

Montgomery County Imposes New 80–20 Rule?

Home School Legal Defense Association received a report that Montgomery County Public Schools is telling some homeschool families that parents who are not under umbrellas must personally do at least 80% of the instruction.

In response, HSLDA of-counsel attorney Scott Somerville sent a letter to the student services specialist reportedly trying to implement the new “rule” asking if this really is their new policy.

He also explained that the statute under which homeschool families operate in Maryland, 7-301(a), requires “regular, thorough” instruction, but leaves it completely up to parents as to whether they personally do the instructing, or someone else does, or a combination.

Somerville’s letter also pointed out that the homeschool regulations place five mandates on parents, but—like the statute—do not mandate any amount of instructing parents must personally do.

Finally, when the regulations specifically address the issue of content and instruction, three requirements are imposed:

  • Regular, thorough instruction in the studies usually taught in the public schools to children of the same age;
  • Including instruction in English, math, science, social studies, art, music, health, and PE;
  • Instruction on a “regular” basis of sufficient duration to implement the instructional program.

But none of these place requirements on who must personally do the instructing.

Through other sources, we believe that the County’s reported policy may have been prompted by portfolio reviews during which parents could not provide follow-up information the reviewer requested. Reportedly, a parent said they could not provide the requested information because someone else was teaching their child in that subject.

While parents have the freedom to choose their children’s instructors, they have a corresponding duty under the regulations to provide suitable evidence that regular, thorough instruction in the required subjects is being provided. If a required subject is being taught through someone other than the parent, the parent should still be prepared to provide suitable evidence.

We are waiting for a response from Montgomery County. Regulation 13A.10.01.01.F says, “A local school system may not impose additional requirements for home instruction programs other than those in these regulations.” If Montgomery County has really adopted the reported 80-20 policy, it constitutes the imposition of a new requirement and violates Regulation 13A.10.01.01.F.