More discussion needed on state oversight of home schooling
As the founder and president of the Hawaii Homeschool Network, I am deeply concerned about three recently proposed bills that have been introduced regarding home schooling in Hawaii. In particular, I would like to discuss Senate Bill 2323.
First, let me establish my position in the home-schooling community. I completed my MA in applied educational anthropology in 2014 after years of research with our local homeschooling population. My thesis was titled “Homeschool Networking on the Big Island of Hawaii,” and the applied piece of my research resulted in the creation of the Hawaii Homeschool Network, now a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization serving home-schoolers statewide. At the time, I was (and still currently am), a certified teacher employed by the DOE, with concerns about the current practices in public education. I love teaching, and schools — in fact, I was voted “Person of the Year” in 2013 at Honokaa High and Intermediate School. However, from my MA research, I deduced that teaching my own children was the best way to ensure that they were given a quality education.
Current law requires that families who intend to homeschool inform their local school via letter or 4140 form, submit yearly progress reports, and participate in yearly testing. It is my understanding that the new proposed law would require background checks, potential home visits and approval from a superintendent to homeschool. Requiring criminal background checks of current home-schooling families who are law abiding is both costly and unnecessary, as those aren’t the families that this law intends to wrangle. Home visits are a clear invasion of privacy. Finally, approval of a local principal would be a burden on the school that takes away the valuable time and focus needed for all the keiki who are enrolled at their school.
As a DOE and charter school employee in an alternative program, I understand the already present challenges with chasing families down for paperwork when they don’t follow through with required documents to follow home school law. The simple fact is that the current law is suitable, and the problem is that the families don’t abide by it. The two children who are referenced in the law were likely not even home-schoolers — did they submit formal letters and/or 4140 forms, along with yearly reports and testing? If so, I would like to see the documented proof of their homeschooling declarations.
My recommendation would be to require this new law (SB 2323) be enacted to only provide consequences for those who do not abide by the current home-schooling law, as opposed to all home-schoolers.
SB2323 is an obvious financial burden on both schools and CWS for oversight that would likely require many tax dollars to be rerouted from a highly needed public education budget. Why waste taxpayer dollars to investigate law-abiding homeschooling families who have the best interest of their child at heart? This sounds quite frivolous and unfair to public schools that could use the funds.
If the goal is to improve oversight of home-schoolers, I have several suggestions that would be much more inclusive, financially viable, and logical:
Suggestion 1: Invite homeschoolers to participate with public education opportunities such as sports, part-time enrollment, or after school activities. This would allow more for oversight of homeschoolers and integration into an education system, as well as more opportunities for contact with other adults who are school staff.
Suggestion 2: Support and develop more home school support programs, including virtual and blended charter schools that encourage families to formally enroll in a public-funded educational program. This would allow for families who search for alternatives to public education an opportunity to find a program that is right for them.
Finally, as a Big Island resident and leader in the home-schooling community, I must mention that I am perplexed as to how bills of this nature can be composed without any attempt to reach out to our current homeschooling community, who is at the very heart of who is affected by these potential measures. As an open and inclusive community, and a formally organized local 501(c)3, the Hawaii Homeschool Network would have been more than happy to provide information about home-schooling in Hawaii to legislators. It is very concerning that the population who is directly affected by this potential law has been excluded from the development of this proposal. The lack of community input is quite alarming.
I am happy to work with our representatives to consult about what would be a positive and inclusive direction for all of our Hawaii homeschooled keiki. I would hope that our Legislature could develop laws that unite as opposed to divide our Hawaii ohana, which is why I strongly oppose SB 2323.
Nicole Ryan is the president and founder Hawaii Homeschool Network in Waimea.