Oklahoma Homeschool Bills Insult Families

Published March 1, 2009

Homeschooling advocates throughout [Oklahoma] are rightfully alarmed about a pair of legislative proposals to place more restrictions on families who opt out of traditional public and private schools. The ideas are overreaching and an overreaction to the few families who abuse Oklahoma’s generous homeschool laws.

One bill would require parents to alert local school districts of their homeschool plans and offer academic progress reports. Another would appear to presume homeschool students as guilty of truancy if out and about during the school day until they have proven otherwise.

State Sen. Jim Wilson (D-Tahlequah) said one grandmother told him her daughter wasn’t taking the granddaughter to school, and only claimed she was homeschooling to keep authorities at bay. Such “milking” of the system amounts to child abuse and must be fixed so children receive an education, Wilson said.

We agree with his point, just not his method. Parents summoned to truancy court to answer for a child’s school absences have been known to plead homeschooling, and there might need to be more latitude for judges to address that problem. But creating a mandated registry and academic reporting won’t help. Those gaming the system aren’t being honest to begin with. New rules are unlikely to change that.

It would be one thing to ask for a voluntary headcount of children being homeschooled. Instead, the proposals insult the thousands of Oklahoma families who for myriad reasons choose to homeschool.

And as for Wilson’s statement that homeschooled children are generally two academic years behind public school students? That’s hogwash and a ridiculous scare tactic based on the comments of a few teachers.

Copyright January 22, 2009, The Oklahoman. Reprinted with permission.