Iowa's homeschool rules part of education debate

2013-04-22T06:12:00Z Iowa's homeschool rules part of education debate Mason City Globe Gazette
April 22, 2013 6:12 am

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — While most of the education debate in the state Capitol this year has been on how to improve teachers and enhance schools, some Iowa lawmakers are focused on a very different educational goal — seeking to reduce regulations for homeschooling families.

Language added to an education bill passed in the Republican-controlled state House in February would remove oversight for some households that homeschool their children. The proposals could complicate negotiations as House Republicans try to reach a compromise with the Democratic-controlled Senate on overall school funding and an education overhaul plan from Gov. Terry Branstad.

Some House Republicans have made clear that they will not support an education policy plan without these homeschooling provisions.

"The proposal the House put out was not an easy position to get to and we would not be able to get to the offer we made, putting the money behind the education reform, without those pieces," said Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr who sponsored one of the amendments to remove reporting requirements for some families. "As a caucus we have to have them, or we don't have support for the education reform."

Democrats were noncommittal on whether they would support the homeschooling proposals.

"That's an issue that will receive a lot of discussion in our caucus," said Democratic Senate President Pam Jochum, of Dubuque. Jochum said Democrats wanted to reach a school compromise, but said members' feelings on homeschooling varied.

"In terms of homeschooling, that's kind of all over the board in terms of where people stand on that issue. I think the greatest concern is number one, making sure children are testing well and doing well, that they are homeschooled on a curriculum that is laid out. And the second piece that is just as important, is that they have the social skills that go with it," Jochum said.

Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Branstad, said the governor supported the Republican education plan with the proposed changes to the homeschool rules, noting that Branstad signed the current homeschool law in 1991 during his previous stint as governor. Albrecht said Branstad "is a strong supporter of both public schools and those who choose to educate their children at home."

The latest count shows 10,732 homeschooled students in Iowa between the ages of 6 and 16— the compulsory school age in the state, according to Education Department spokeswoman Staci Hupp. There are 508,500 K-12 students in public and private schools.

Under the existing rules, parents who homeschool their children must report their plans to their local district and the students must meet annual assessment standards. Homeschool students can enroll in a program through a school that provides supervision, or sign up to participate in some classes or activities at their local school. Some state funds are provided to schools for those students.

Neighboring states Illinois and Missouri do not have reporting requirements for homeschooled students, though Minnesota and Nebraska do.

The proposed changes in Iowa would exempt some homeschool families from filing reports with the state and doing annual educational assessments, as well as permit teaching up to four unrelated children in one household. There is also a provision to permit homeschooling parents to provide driver's education to their kids. The proposals would not change the reporting rules for families that homeschool but receive some supervision from an accredited school or take part in some school programs.

A key supporter of the effort is Republican state Rep. Matt Windschitl, of Missouri Valley, who said he was homeschooled and that he and his wife are providing the same education to his two daughters.

"There are a great deal of benefits to homeschooling," said Windschitl, who authored some of the homeschooling proposals. "The way the current Iowa code is, you have to at least notify your superintendent in your local school district that you are choosing to homeschool and you have to fill out your course plan you have to have for your student. It's not a lot of information you have to give, but it's information I don't feel should have to be given."

But the homeschool proposals drew sharp criticism from Melissa Peterson, a government affairs specialist with the Iowa State Education Association, which represents about 34,000 teachers, support staff and other educators.

"We don't think we should do anything to lessen the quality of the education or the accountability of the education (system)," Peterson said. "We think the public education is in good shape, but we are respectful of the current homeschool statute. But we don't think it should be expanded while being deregulated."

Bill Gustoff, a Des Moines attorney who homeschools his four children with his wife Sara, said the changes to Iowa law would reduce paperwork and expenses that he described as burdensome for his family and others.

"Right now, we fill out paperwork every year that really honestly doesn't get looked at. It doesn't really accomplish anything other than put more barriers up for homeschoolers," said Gustoff, who serves as a legislative liaison for Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, a group that he said had several thousand members. "There are several states that are very similar to what we're proposing."

Copyright 2015 Mason City Globe Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. Harry Johnson
    Report Abuse
    Harry Johnson - November 26, 2014 6:24 am
    I encourage your way of learning the education in home schools and it is valid our children are our next generation that make our society progress so nation should think this seriously and make new bill with reelection, I also visit site for the essay writing service that will really helpful in your case in guide you proper.
  2. lttimm
    Report Abuse
    lttimm - May 09, 2013 10:43 am
    My family has reached a point where it would be best for our daughters’ safety and psychological health for us to home schools her. My daughter has had many problems in the present school system with being bullied and threatened. The school officials will not perform impartial investigations. So our next option is to homeschool our daughter. My wife and I are both educated. I have worked in different areas with instructing students. I have read a little about the bill before the State House Legislation, I think there are valid reasons for and against the bill home school bill. I do not think that home schooling should be without some oversight. However drowning parents in paper work that is not read or used by State Officials is necessary either. We as a society need to think of our children first. This is a separate issue if schools do so well with education why my son was allowed to graduate early from High school when he did not have enough knowledge to pass a compass test to get into college. I also work with young adults who have dropped out of school or been removed from school. Many of these young people are at our facility trying to get a GED and a skill so they can be productive in our society. I see the bill pushed in the direction of the most votes for reelection not what is benefit to our children. When statements like one side has 34,000 state education staff members.
Comment Policy
Keep it clean. Avoid language that is obscene, vulgar, lewd or sexually-oriented. If you can't control yourself, don't post it.
Don't threaten to hurt or kill anyone.
Be truthful.Don't lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any other sort of -ism that degrades another person. PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK, and forgive people their spelling errors.
Let us know if it's getting out of hand. If you see offensive comments, don't quote or respond to them. Please use the "Report Abuse" button to bring it to our attention.
Share what you know, ask about what you don't. Give us your eyewitness accounts, background, observations and history. What more do you want to know about the story?
Stay focused, and ask questions. Keep on the story's topic.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Follow Us

Activate subscription button gif

Local Businesses

Deals, Offers and Events