In places like New York and Connecticut, parents who've given up on awful public schools and pricey private schools believe they have a good alternative: homeschooling.
But in Connecticut, at least, officials can't resist keeping their claws off even that. If they get their way, another refuge from lousy public schools may be destroyed.
For years, Connecticut's Department of Education has been distributing a misleading memo about the Nutmeg State's education law.
The memo, which is sent to school districts and families curious about homeschooling, is titled “Suggested Procedures,” but it contains a laundry list of actions that “must” be completed by parents — including filing a notice of intent with the local superintendent and providing information about the curriculum being used.
So which is it? Do homeschoolers have to file a notice of intent, or is it merely a suggestion? Do they or don't they have to show their curriculum to the local superintendent?
“The suggested procedures in the memo are guidelines, not law. But superintendents read this letter and think they can use it to coerce families into registering with the school district,” says Connecticut attorney and homeschool law expert Deborah Stevenson. “They do this intentionally. It's not a mistake.”
According to Darren Jones, an attorney with the nonprofit Homeschool Legal Defense Association, Connecticut law does not require parents to file a notice of intent with their local district. Nor do they have to share their curriculum.
Rather, homeschoolers must merely be able to demonstrate that their child is receiving “equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools” if asked to do so in a court proceeding. So long as they are providing “equivalent instruction,” they aren't required to notify anyone.
States have widely varying requirements when it comes to homeschooling.
The New York City Department of Education employs a full-time director of homeschooling to manage the Big Apple's roughly 4,000 homeschooling families.
In 1988, Albany added language to New York's education law requiring homeschooling parents to file quarterly progress reports and provide proof of completed standardized tests.
Local homeschoolers disagree about whether the requirements are reasonable or not — but at least they are spelled out in law.
Connecticut, on the other hand, is supposed to be more like Texas, which takes a hands-off approach to homeschooling. This bothers Democrats in Hartford, where the state's teachers unions hold sway.
Legislators have repeatedly tried to toughen the homeschooling law, but every attempt has crumbled in the face of strong grassroots opposition.
Stevenson, a homeschooling mom of two, says the Education Department started distributing the “suggested procedures” memo in the early 1990s, after one failed attempt in the Legislature.
The education bureaucracy in Connecticut couldn't change the law, so it decided to go around it. That should trouble not only folks who want to keep government away from homeschooling, but also anyone who believes in democracy.
Asked if homeschoolers must register, Education Department aide Kelly Donnelly quoted part of the statute: “Such parent or person shall personally appear at the school district office and sign a withdrawal form.” She concluded, “Shall means must.”
But that sentence only applies to 17-year-olds. It's meant to prevent teenagers from dropping out of high school without telling their parents. Why would she quote an irrelevant sentence? Maybe she doesn't understand the law — or has never read it.
Homeschooling is known to confuse public-school teachers and left-wing education bureaucrats, who see it as a hostile act against a noble system. In Connecticut, however, officials have let their confusion get the better of them and are actively misrepresenting state law.
It's a small matter with big implications.
By repeatedly going after homeschoolers, the professional education bureaucracy is telling citizens that their freedoms only go so far.
Sure, you can homeschool, but only if the local superintendent looks over your shoulder while you do. You can have all the freedom you want, so long as you check in with us. Doesn't that defeat the purpose?
If unelected education bureaucrats don't like what the law says, they should take their gripes to the people's representatives and try to have it changed.
But they might want to start by reading it.
Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/06/23/governments-attack-on-homeschooling/