As always, CHEA is supportive of education liberty and 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 home education freedom we currently enjoy, we must oppose any legislation that would threaten, now or in the future, to regulate home education 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 home educated students and possibly some private school students. Oklahoma has a totally unique situation in that it currently has little regulation on home educating families, whereas ALL the other states where this has worked had invasive regulation already in place. These types of laws (Tebow Law for example) may work in those states, but for those participating, one more regulation really doesn't mean anything. 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 again.
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. No one knows what the rules and policies would be or how they would be implemented.
For example, with the quickly expanding popularity of public school at home (aka. virtual charters or virtual school), a precedence is being set like never before. When these types of public schools began several years ago, they were virtually (no pun intended) unregulated. However, in the past two years, I have seen over 20 pieces of legislation aimed at regulating, investigating, policing, and overseing the non brick-and-mortar public schools. In just a few short years, the spotlight has been turned onto virtual schools and the more popular they become, the more attention they draw and that attention calls for oversight.
That is great, be good stewards of what you are responsible for, but the oversight will eventually spill over into not just the virtual charters, but the home education community as well. Why? Because a large number of those who are doing the public school at home call themselves "homeschoolers." The teachers consider and often tell them they are "homeschoolers", and as a result, many legislators also consider them "homeschoolers."
On October 4th, 2011 there was an Interim Study on Home School Students Involvement in Public Schools (IS-072). Throughout that meeting, it was evident that while some public school coaches might be in favor of homeschool participation, most administrators and faculty felt a need for oversight, regulation, eligibility, and validation of the homeschool community. They are not going to stop at a voluntary verification. Bottom line is, if they regulate one, they will eventually find a way to regulate all.
"Besides the possible regulation issues, equal access legislation raises many more questions than it has answers."
While the author of any equal access bill can make it as benign as possible now, there are no guarantees that it won't evolve into something invasive and burdensome in years to come. Besides the possible regulation issues, equal access legislation raises many more questions than it has answers. For example, when including a virtual school student, is it possible for that student to be enrolled in one school district and play sports for another? Whose eligibility rules would apply there? What about insurance? Who is responsible for that?
At the onset of equal access types of legislation, participation was offered as free. The question then was, "If it is free, who is going to pay for it?" We all knew that nothing is ever truly free and the school doesn't get any money for my child unless he/she is enrolled in their school district. Free always has strings attached. Now, the new legislation (SB958) states that the non-public student will enroll in the public school and pay all fees associated with the extra-curricular activity in which they choose to participate. My question is, what other costs may be associated with participation and when will they be taken into consideration. Will additional teachers be required? Will additional transportation be required? With current budget shortfalls, how will these items be funded?
"The vast majority of families in Oklahoma who have chosen to educate their children by other means have done so with the knowledge and understanding that sacrifices may be necessary."
In addition to the funding, anyone who participates must also adhere to the same testing - (both academic and drug), mandatory vaccinations, behavior expectations, physical exams, academic standards, and enrollment into the national database system - as the public school students . Furthermore, the new legislation gives the state board of education the responsibility to decide what subjects/students they want tested and then gives the local school district the option of being able to include that student's test scores into their evaluation in order to raise the public school's overall grade.
The vast majority of families in Oklahoma who have chosen to educate their children by other means have done so with the knowledge and understanding that sacrifices may be necessary. However, extracurricular activities are not one of those sacrifices. The home education community has a plethora of high quality opportunities available in sports, music, debate, theater, robotics, and many other areas available to any who choose to participate.
We cannot and will not live in fear of the what-ifs. However, there is a difference in living in fear and walking in wisdom or being wise as serpents in avoiding any possible threat to our home education freedom and we will continue to oppose any type of legislation that would infringe upon that.
Learn more about SB958 on our Alerts page and join us in protecting home education in Oklahoma.
JOIN US for our second annual Legislative Impact Day on March 6th!