After laboring for over two decades under the most restrictive home school laws in the country, my home school friends in Pennsylvania celebrated a recent victory. Last year they were finally successful in getting the legislature to make some modest changes (by Texas standards) to the requirements for home schoolers in that state.
Before the change in law, home school parents had to provide student portfolios to public school superintendents every year for approval and provide student test scores to the public school as well. Now they no longer have to submit test scores and a portfolio, but are still required to have a “professional” approve each student’s work.
This additional freedom for parents to make educational decisions for their own children disturbs some people. One newspaper editorialized, “The problem with too much deregulation is that some students may not learn fundamental educational and life skills, such as foundational math and working with others, that their public or private school counterparts do. Although there are many responsible home educators in the country, there are bound to be students who fall through the cracks from inadequate instruction.”
The problem with such statements is that they provide no evidence for these assertions. In fact, the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) has published numerous studies that show when comparing states with onerous regulations like Pennsylvania to states like Texas with little regulation, there are virtually no differences in test scores of home school students. In other words, there is no evidence to show that government regulation of education results in better test scores of students.
The comment that students may fall through the cracks without government oversight conveys the assumption that government regulation ensures that students don’t “fall through the cracks,” and the evidence overwhelmingly rejects that assumption.
The editorial closes with this comment: “The government owes it to each student and citizen to ensure that every student receives a proper education, regardless of ethnic, religious or socioeconomic background. Keeping moderate homeschool regulations in place can help do so and should be the aim of every state that prioritizes the education of its citizens.” The government can’t guarantee that every child receives a proper education in its own schools, much less by regulating home schools.
My friend Dr. Brian Ray, who is the president of NHERI, recently participated in an online discussion at the Huffington Post called “Should We Regulate Home Schooling More Carefully?” He comments on that discussion in part by saying,
“Dr. Kunzman argued for more government/state control of private homeschooling in states where homeschoolers are free. Did he, however, offer any research evidence that this should be done? Did he offer any empirical evidence that government control of homeschooling will increase children’s learning? No, he did not.”
“Instead, this scholar agreed with me that a philosophical issue is at work here. He claimed that there are three ‘interests’ involved, those of the government/society, the parents, and the child. He thinks that someone other than the parents has to protect the interests of ‘our young people.’ That is, he believes the government should decide whether children are being correctly educated. Therefore, he is actually arguing there are only two stakeholders, the government versus the parents.”
The belief that parents are not qualified or cannot be trusted to do what is best for their children is often the root of the statist argument that home schooling should be regulated by the state. The evidence, however, that home schoolers as a group do a great job in educating their children is overwhelming and is great ammunition in any battle in which teacher unions or their supporters seek to pass laws to limit the freedom of parents to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children.
Here in Texas, we fought our battle for freedom and continue to stand guard and protect our freedom. As the new legislative session begins in Austin, THSC will carefully watch for any attempt to limit the rights of parents in Texas and we will also work to expand the rights and freedom of parents and home schoolers.
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