Home schooling advocates flood State House in opposition of oversight bill

  • House Bill 1263 would mandate that parents of home-schooled children report progress evaluations to local public or private school authorities, who could then initiate proceedings to end the home-school program. ETHAN DeWITT / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/25/2018 6:22:32 PM

Home schooling advocates came to the State House in the hundreds Thursday to oppose a bill that would tighten oversight of home education programs.

House Bill 1263 would mandate that parents of home-schooled children report progress evaluations to local public or private school officials, who could then initiate proceedings to end individual home-school programs.

Under present law, parents of home-schooled children must perform annual evaluations of their children’s progress, either through a standardized assessment or a review by a nonpublic school teacher. Parents are also required to maintain records of their children’s curriculum.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Robert Theberge, R-Berlin, would keep those standards but add on new stipulations that parents report the results of the annual assessments to either the Department of Education, the resident district superintendent, or the principal of a nonpublic school.

That official would then review the home-schooled child’s progress; if the child “does not demonstrate educational progress for age and ability,” the authority must notify the parent of the concern. Under the bill, the parent would then have a one-year period to fix the problem. Failure to do that could result in a hearing to end the home-school program.

Supporters presented it as necessary for oversight. But hundreds of home schooling advocates flooded the State House to speak against the bill, calling it a door to state intrusion into home schooling curricula.

Sarah Shawver, a former home-school graduate speaking on behalf of Cornerstone, a conservative lobbying group, said the bill would affect those who take children out of public school and those who choose home schooling from the beginning.

“It makes very little sense to punish the parents who have actively sought a different educational path for their children,” said Shawver. “And for the families who have already chosen home education, unnecessary and punitive regulation from the state will send an unmistakable message that you ... feel that you know what is best for our children and have lack of confidence in our parents.”

The volume of opposition forced a hearing on the bill in the House Education Committee to relocate to the full House floor, continuing through the afternoon. Advocates there, many with their children in tow, filled nearly all available seats.

For Melissa Theberge, a former public school teacher who has home-schooled her daughters for 13 years, regulations regarding age-appropriate learning materials would strike at the core of home-schoolers’ objectives.

“Now that I am teaching in my own home, how is it possibly wrong to have varying levels of performance?” she said. “Individualized instruction is exactly what home-schooling is. Please don’t undermine that with needless legislation.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)
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