I have recently been made aware of House Bill H3478, currently before the House Committee on Education and Public Works. My husband and I will begin homeschooling my kindergarten daughter in the fall of 2013, and I would like to briefly share why I am so firmly opposed to every facet of this bill.
As I understand it, this bill would change three important things for home educated students in South Carolina:
(1) Require participation in state standardized testing;
According to the South Carolina Department of Education website, the purpose of both PASS and HSAP is to meet school, district, state, and federal accountability requirements. They are designed to measure student performance on the SC Academic Standards. It is patently unfair and unnecessary to require home schooled students to participate in these because (a) my home school does not receive state or federal funds and therefore is not required to meet the accountability requirements that the public schools are subject to; and (b) I will be teaching “basic instructional areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies” as required by both Sections 59-65-45 and 59-65-47 of South Carolina law (Options 2 and 3), but I am not bound to the SC Academic Standards and may vary from them quite a bit, depending on the educational needs of my children. The SC standardized testing instruments are not a valid measurement tool for home schools that teach children on a different schedule than that of the public schools or who cover different topics and are especially unfair to home schooled students with special needs.
(2) Require homeschooling accountability organizations to report student names to the South Carolina State Department of Education
This is a gross violation of my privacy and that of other home schooling families. Private and parochial schools are not required to submit the names of their students to the state and neither should home schooling associations. My understanding is that some lawmakers believe that creating a state registry of home school students will help identify possible victims of child abuse. While I understand that many cases of child abuse are discovered and reported by school officials, the reason for this is because they are in regular contact with that child. There is no way that having a state registry of home school students will help identify abused children unless someone is going to each home and interviewing children on a regular basis – which would be completely unconstitutional.
(3) Eliminate “Option 3” by July 2014
As I am sure you are aware, “Option 3” allows parents to legally educate their children at home by joining an accountability group to whom they report attendance and individualized documentation of their students’ progress. These associations are less expensive than the annual fees for SCAIHS (Option 2) and offer more flexibility in terms of curriculum than either of the other two options. For sixteen years, “Option 3” has been working. Eliminating it would place a financial burden on parents, it would create a monopoly in SCAIHS (the leaders of which also oppose this bill), would flood both SCHAIS (Option 2) and the public school system (Option 1) with an influx of students that they are not likely prepared to absorb, and would shuttle families into a “one-size-fits-all” approach to curriculum instead of the ability to provide instruction according to their children’s strengths and weaknesses.
Even more important than these details, though, is the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children – a right that every part of this bill not only ignores, but blatantly violates.
My father used to tell us when we were growing up, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” South Carolina’s home school system is working, and my husband and I have been excited to begin this journey in a state with such fair homeschooling laws. Please stand in opposition to H3478, a bill that fixes nothing and can only add hardship to conscientious families who are educating their children at home.
Kristi Bothur, M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction