- Mike Weisgram
Legislative Update #9 (Week 8, Day 32)
The legislative session brings a multitude of topics to the forefront. This week, one of the hot issues was home schooling. SB177 updates existing homeschool legislation by allowing homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular activities without local school board restrictions. It also removes the standardized testing requirements in effect for fourth, eighth, and eleventh graders, leaving the children’s proficiency reporting as a responsibility of the parents. Another reporting issue is that the new legislation allows parents to directly notify the Department of Education that their child will receive alternate education rather than requiring that they inform their school districts.
When it came down to it, SB177 passed, and I was in the minority vote. I never had a doubt that the vast majority of homeschool parents and children experience a very positive education. In fact, I would venture to guess that 95 percent of children are succeeding with the current legislation due to dedicated parents. The reason I voted against the legislation was because I worry it increases the chance of education neglect. I also questioned the lack of proficiency testing. That said, I do appreciate the increased opportunity for extracurricular access that the bill assures.
I was the benefactor of very positive conversations with homeschool parents, and I appreciated that they could respect my hesitancy and conclusion. The perspectives of many school teachers and administration professionals were of much value as well. One thing an administrator shared with me resonated throughout my deliberations. It centered on the fact that there are a few scenarios where children are deprived of an adequate homeschool environment. They are not common, but they are present. This administrator explained that they saw the majority of homeschool situations as best-case scenarios with children excelling and thriving in their homeschool environments.
Yet the concern about this legislation making it easier to withdraw from public schools because of less accountability was real. In regard to those children who will undoubtedly face education neglect, this administrator said, “We see too many of the worst-case scenarios to afford to turn our backs on them.” I never got over the concern for those future at-risk children and because of that could not vote for SB177. The legislation passed, and I am hopeful for the positives to be realized and watchful for how undesirable consequences can be lessened.
Next week is the final week of this legislative session. Setting the final budget process will be the main focus. The joint Senate and House Appropriations committee, the Governor’s office, and the Legislature will play a role in ultimately deciding how state funds are spent. The goal, as it is every year, will be to provide a high level of services and investments to the citizens of the state while keeping taxes low.