gustoff-family
The Gustoff family

The Des Moines Register in their Sunday editorial decided to take aim at the homeschooling community because of the new independent private instruction law that went into effect this school year.

The subheading was that “lawmakers disregarded decades of standards when they modified the home-schooling rules.”

Disregarded?

More like knowingly jettisoned.  The editorial board of The Des Moines Register writes:

The education reform law created what state education officials are referring to as a new category of home-schooling called Independent Private Instruction. Parents and guardians have been granted unprecedented permission by this little-noticed change. They can keep their children home for school without notifying anyone in government. They do not have to follow any specific educational curriculum, and they answer to no one about what they are doing. Their kids will not take assessment tests or dual enroll with a local school district for academics, special education and extracurricular activities.

What is especially troubling: In addition to their own children, parents can provide this new type of education to four unrelated children.

Just a reminder to Caffeinated Thoughts readers.  This law came into being as a compromise with Democrats during a conference committee on the education reform bill.  You want 4% allowable growth?  How about giving something back in return like educational liberty measures like independent private instruction and independent private accreditation for non-public schools?  Fortunately the House Republicans stuck to their guns and made it happen and Governor Branstad was happy to sign it into law.

I know it comes to a shock to the Register that many believe parents, not the government, are ultimately responsible for the education of their children.

Some corrections to the above article…

  1. Homeschooling parents never had to follow specific educational curriculum.
  2. Homeschooling parents never needed to dual enroll their children, even children with special needs.  I seem to remember a Des Moines Register article that bemoaned the Home School Assistance Program almost 3 1/2 years ago.  Based on their editorial yesterday they should love this program.
  3. Homeschooling parents were not required to give annual assessments every year.  There are benchmark years where assessments are required, but most years parents are able to provide a portfolio or meet with a supervisory teacher of their choosing.   Some parents did opted to have their student take assessments and some opted not to.

So the three big changes are: parents do not have to turn in a competent private instruction form, but some probably still will.  If a homeschooling family wants to teach drivers’ education they have to file a CPI form.  Parents do not have to give assessments, do a portfolio and/or meet with a supervisory teacher, but some still may – even if they don’t turn over results.

The third change is that parents can provide this new type of education to four unrelated children, and the Register calls this “troubling.”

Why?

If a parent would like to have their kids homeschooled, but feel like they lack the ability to do it themselves they can have someone else do it for them.  How is this different than tutoring?  I seem to recall many historical figures educated this way.  The change in the law also allows parents to pool resources and knowledge.  It also makes it easier for single parents to have their children homeschooled if they so desire.

It can improve home education.  It’s only troubling to statists because it will expand this option to families who may not have considered homeschooling before.  That is what is really troubling the Register.  They continue:

Though Iowa has long imposed some minimal requirements on home-schooling families to protect children and ensure they are making academic progress, this new option will allow some children to fall off the education grid. It undermines the long-standing Iowa law that requires all Iowa children, with rare exceptions, to attend a public or private school. The legislative change gives a bad name to home-schooling parents who work with their school districts to track the progress of their children and get help if needed.

Again, the long standing Iowa law since 1990 (maybe 1989 I don’t remember exactly) is that parents can homeschool if they provided a competent private instruction form and do the reporting that was required up to this year.  The Des Moines Register makes it sound as if parents had to ask the school district or the state permission to homeschool (in the case of special needs children already enrolled in a program they did).  Parents didn’t have to give permission.  They just had to notify.  While the Des Moines Register considered the previous requirements under Iowa law “minimal;” the fact is until this year Iowa was one of the worst states to homeschool in.  Now they are one of the best.

They go on:

Families opting to participate in IPI do not need to notify the school district or state. Local school superintendents or the Iowa Department of Education’s director may inquire with a family about a missing student, but they are not required to. They may not even know to ask about the whereabouts of a 6-year-old when the parents have never notified any school official that the child exists. Even if officials do contact parents, the parents only have to report such basic information as the kid’s name and the location of the “school.”

How can an Iowa youth simply disappear into an unmonitored and unaccountable home-schooling situation when the state requires children to attend school? Interestingly, the law exempts Independent Private Instruction from all state education laws and rules except those pertaining to attendance and truancy. A family participating in IPI automatically meets state requirements for attendance, according to the Department of Education.

An IPI instructor is supposed to teach math, reading, language arts, science and social studies. Yet there are no standards for the content of these courses. Having a 16-year-old count the freckles on his brother’s arm could meet the math requirement. Watching a cow give birth could meet the science requirement. Students are also exempt from state-required immunizations, dental screenings and vision checks.

What? Does the Register want homeschooling families to adopt the Iowa Core, along with the Common Core math and ELA standards (now there’s data less reform they should be concerned about)?  I want to be abundantly clear – it’s a statist position to think that parents have to “report” to the government.  Their editorial also presupposes that parents will teach kids garbage.  Most parents choose to homeschool their children because they are concerned about the lack of quality of education in the public school.  The Register uses unfortunate hyperbole and is frankly engaging in fear mongering.  Could there be some families that would do this?  Sure.  Are there kids in the public schools who are failing (but have been socially promoted) and/or are abused?  Have you read the news?

Homeschooling is an educational choice that is growing in favor.  Top colleges and universities recognize, by and large, the quality students it produces (even from states that didn’t restrict it like Iowa did for so many years).  It’s a shame the editorial board of The Des Moines Register can’t see this as well.

With the education reform package that was passed the education liberty items included are the reforms that are actually most likely to help raise student achievement.  I give a thistle to The Des Moines Register for taking aim at homeschoolers; especially when there are so many failing public schools in the state.

Photo credit: IowaPolitics.com (CC-By-NC 2.0)

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