Why We Don't Support Equal Access
We fully support Education Liberty or a parent having the right to choose the method or venue in which they educate their children, but we do not support equal access for homeschoolers to utilize the public school activities for reasons listed below.
Why Are Constitutional Home Educators NOT For Equal Access?
Why Constitutional Home Educators Alliance is in opposition of an equal access bill. As always, CHEA is supportive of parental choice and does not deny anyone the choice to enroll their children in or participate with the public school. However, as a state organization designed to protect the homeschool freedom we currently enjoy, we must oppose any legislation that would threaten, now or in the future, to regulate homeschooling statewide.
While equal access may seem to innocently blanket every child in the state, we all know that the main population that it would affect would be homeschool students and some private school students. Oklahoma has a totally unique situation in that it currently has NO regulation on homeschool families whereas ALL the other states where this has worked have invasive regulation already in place. These types of laws (Tebow Law for example) may work well in other states, but those states already have invasive regulations on homeschools and one more regulation really doesn't mean anything to those participating. The question we need to ask is do we in Oklahoma want to open the door to any type of regulation for any reason? Once a door is opened, it cannot be closed back.
It is not the seemingly innocence of this type bill that concerns us, it is the underlying current and interpretation that will cause the problems. Nothing is ever as it seems. The problem with this bill is that it leaves too many questions unanswered. No one, even the author knows what those rules and policies (highlighted below) will be and how they will be implemented.
On October 4th, 2012 there was an Interim Study on Home School Students Involvement in Public Schools (IS-072). An home education representative attended the meeting on short notice but did not participate. However, he did meet with Ed Sheakley, Executive Secretary of OSSAA, in the hallway before the meeting. They agreed that there was no middle ground to be found and that we may well find ourselves in the unusual position of both opposing a bill although for different reason. Here's a recap of the meeting.
Rep. Blackwell, two homeschool families, the Fishers of Hooker and the Arthoughts of Keys had multiple children talk about how great homeschooling is. Roger Fisher stated he would be willing to turn in a weekly pass/fail report. He reported that 22 other states allow participation (and they are all regulated where Oklahoma is not). Sited Tim Tebow and Alabama. Scott Arthought stated that other states have conquered this issue and would he be open to verification.
Rep. Blackwell opened with a commitment to work with both sides and that he would not push any legislation at the embarrassment of either side. He then introduced Ed Sheackley of the OSSAA. He stated that there needs to be a level playing field, high standard applied to both public and homeschool students. He questioned how the district could address that the homeschool student is a legal student, comply with 1080 hours of attendance, weekly grade checks, student conduct rules, residency and transfers, the age and grade rules, the need for oversight and accountability. He also questioned how it would be funded. He believes there is very little oversight in homeschooling and there would be a need to validate that oversight.
Randy Holley, Superintendent, Shaddack, questioned how to prove eligibility, brought up bad homeschoolers that would take advantage of the system, would need enforceable regulations. He believes the state needs to regulate first, then provide eligibility.
Steve Cochran, Athletic Director, Lawton, said that allowing homeschoolers would disrupt the sense of family and community of a team, there would be no school pride, questioned attendance issues, says geography - transfer issues are already a nightmare,concerned about dishonest parents and that this would be an opening to discriminate against homeschoolers.
Rep. Blackwell, regained the floor and used Alabama and Florida (again, states that already have invasive regulations) as examples of how parents contract to voluntary verification. He would be in favor of not allowing public school students that begin homeschooling to be eligible. Floated the idea that maybe only rural student be allowed.
The following were questions from the committee members: Would private schools be forced to accept homeschoolers for activities? Stated virtual students are not eligible because they must be on sight. Questioned how to define compliance. Questioned liability insurance as only available to enrolled students.
Bottom line is, if they regulate one, they will find a way to regulate all. You can see in the highlighted comments above how the public school administration and faculty feel about oversight, regulation, eligibility, and validation. They are not going to stop at a voluntary verification.
This bill from the 2020 regular session is just one example of the many equal access bills we have fought over the past 13 years, and probably will not be the last. Well-meaning legislators who sincerely believe they have our best interest at heart will continue to file these and many other types of bills. This is why it is vitally important that we continue our vigilance in educating our legislators about true, parent-led, parent-funded constitutional home education.