Gustoff Family - Homeschooling

I’ve received some questions about the “new” rules passed by the Iowa State Board of Education concerning the Independent Private Instruction laws.  Some Iowa State Board of Education members, like Mike May, objected to the new law, but regardless had to pass rules to implement it.

In a nutshell if a homeschooling family chooses the Independent Private Instruction route they don’t have to report their intent to homeschool (as is the requirement under Competent Private Instruction) and they are not required to take assessments, complete a portfolio or have a supervisory teacher as the law under CPI required.

They are subject to truancy and attendance laws as per the rules passed by the Iowa State Board of Education.  Mike Cormack, policy liaison for the Iowa Department of Education, explained to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

Iowa’s home-schooled children won’t have to take standardized tests, but they are subject to state truancy laws, under rules approved Wednesday by the Iowa State Board of Education.

Still, there’s little school officials have power to do if they think home-schooled children are violating truancy laws.

“Basically, the law has shifted, so there’s less of a burden on the districts. The district has to make a good-faith attempt, they can ask for information,” said Mike Cormack, policy liaison for the Iowa Board of Education. “In the scenario where there’s no response, the district has done what the district can do.”

The next step, Cormack said, would be for someone who thinks a child is not getting classwork done at their home school to contact local authorities.

Cormack’s additional remarks were unnecessary and unfortunately have led to a collective “freak-out” that reached the pages of The Washington Examiner.  Let me be clear – Iowa’s homeschoolers have always been subject to truancy and attendance laws.  The only way to really be charged with violating truancy laws or educational neglect was to be reported.  Now should the Iowa State Board of Education have to spell out “rules” for a law that is actually pretty clear?  I don’t believe so, but the Iowa Legislature gave them the ability to do so – a subject for another article perhaps.

So essentially there’s nothing new here, so let’s calm down.  I don’t think Cormack’s intent was to encourage people to turn in their homeschooling neighbors.  Homeschooling families must realize they are under more scrutiny due to liberal and  The Des Moines Register’s obsession with the change in the law (two editorials so far read my rebuttal to their first one here).  So it would behoove homeschoolers to get to know their neighbors, and make sure the homeschooling you are doing is above reproach.  Don’t give the neighbors any reason to report your family, and document what you’re doing.  Sure there may be some neighbors, family and other community members who may turn families in out of spite, but the burden of proof is on the state.  If you haven’t already it may not be a bad idea to become a member of the Home School Legal Defense Association so you have someone in your corner if you do get that knock on the door.

Photo credit: via Flickr (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Update: Bill Gustoff of NICHE told me that Mike Cormack’s remarks were in response to a board member’s question.  So I’ll cut him some slack.  Bill also told me that we got 98% of “what we wanted” in the rules, and the 2% were not really tracking with the law itself.

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