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D.C. State Board of Education Approves New Restrictive Homeschool Regulations

LifeSiteNews.com

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 1, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The State Board of Education in the District of Columbia has approved the State Superintendent of Education’s final draft of home education regulations that significantly increase restrictions on homeschooling families.

The proposed regulations have been a controversial topic since January, when the State Superintendent’s Office created a first draft of new rules that sought to heighten restrictions and regulations on parents who choose to homeschool their children. The first draft included regulating the subjects parents must teach their children and a requirement that parents must permit home visits by D.C. school officials.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, spearheaded by HSLDA Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly and Senior Counsel Chris Klicka, launched a nation-wide campaign requesting homeschoolers across the country contact the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).

According to an HSLDA communiqué, thousands of families responded with calls and emails to the mayor, SBOE, and OSSE.

After three public sessions held to discuss the regulations, which resulted in some of the stricter proposals being removed by the OSSE, the Board passed the new regulations.

Among other things, the new regulations require annual notification of a parent’s intent to homeschool on a form to be developed by the OSSE, maintenance of a portfolio of schoolwork, and up to two annual portfolio reviews by the OSSE to determine whether a homeschool program, in OSSE’s opinion, is providing "regular, thorough instruction" in the required subjects.

“The participation of the homeschooling community was a very significant component of this process. The voice of the community helped to ensure that we approved regulations which are sound and balanced. We must make sure that our work with the community continues on this issue,” said DC State Board of Education President Robert Bobb. 

However, some homeschooling groups who were heavily involved in the process of developing the regulations, including HSLDA, say they are far from satisfactory.

According to an HSLDA report, no guidelines are provided by the Board on the regulations, giving the OSSE arbitrary discretion to implement these new provisions.

Chris Klicka of HSLDA, testified before the board against the document, stressing the fact that homeschooling has a proven track record of success and therefore does not require further government interference.

"Homeschoolers throughout D.C. and the 50 states in scores of studies and surveys have scored 20 to 30 points above the national average, on the average, on national standardized achievement tests. Also, the publishers of the SAT and ACT College Entrance Exams have tracked homeschoolers for the last 10 years and found that on average they score above the national average. Furthermore, homeschool graduates who enroll in universities also do above average as the various studies and surveys in universities of their student body have shown," Mr. Klicka said in his statement.

He also emphasized that parents should not be further burdened with arbitrary, overly intrusive, vague or restrictive rules.

Mike Donnelly, a staff attorney at HSLDA, added, "These regulations create situations where educational bureaucrats are violating the fundamental constitutional rights of parents, and are unnecessarily broad and difficult to manage. They have breached the trust between the District’s government and its citizens."

  To read Christopher Klicka’s written testimony go to: http://www.hslda.org/Legislation/State/dc/2008/NewRegs/Klicka_testimony_7-16.pdf

To read the new regulations go to: http://newsroom.dc.gov/show.aspx?agency=seo&section=2&release=14329&year=2008&file=http://www.osse.dc.gov/seo/lib/seo/notice_of_proposed_rulemaking__dc_home_schooling_062708.pdf

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