I recently completed research to examine districts’ home education policies using a sampling of 100 SAUs across New Hampshire. My goals were twofold: one, to see how many districts even have a home education policy, and two, to determine if their policies include Equal Access language.
These policies make a big impact on the ways homeschoolers interact with their resident public school districts.
Policies are not easy to find on districts’ websites, so it required some digging to find them, if they’re available at all. For those districts that have policies online, home ed policies are often titled Policy IHBG, under “instruction.”
People may recall that I did a similar spot-check of district policies in fall 2020 because a great number of SAUs failed to send acknowledgement letters as required in RSA 193-A when families file their notification with them. This was a major topic at the September 2020 Home Education Advisory Council meeting.
Because we discovered numerous districts had outdated and incorrect policies, the Department of Education issued a technical advisory in late September 2020 to remind districts of their responsibility to accurately follow the laws regarding their interactions with home education families.
In response, the New Hampshire School Board Association (NHSBA) provided their member boards with a flawed model policy that we shared in November 2020.
To help districts, we collaborated with the School District Governance Association (SDGA) to create an alternative model policy that is consistent with NH’s compulsory attendance, truancy, and home education laws.
Unfortunately, many districts still do not have a home education policy and most of them have the flawed version provided by the NHSBA. This is one of the major reasons GSHE encourages families to know the home education law for themselves and not rely on their districts for that information.
Of the 100 district policies I examined in early 2022, 30 do not have a home education policy of any kind. Of those that do have a home education policy, only 25 are accurate with NH compulsory attendance, truancy, and home education statutes. Note that this is almost 18 months after the NH DOE issued a technical advisory to remind districts that their policies must be consistent with statutes.
Further, of these 100 SAUs, 36 do not have an Equal Access policy as written in RSA 193:1-c. This law allows resident homeschoolers and students in private and chartered public schools to participate in curricular and co-curricular programs at their local public schools if their own schools do not offer these opportunities. This includes classes, sports, music, theater, dances, volunteer activities, and social events. The districts’ policies must not be more restrictive for homeschoolers than it is for the general student population. In other words, if public school students must maintain a particular GPA, provide a health certificate, or sign an honor code to participate in sports, home educated students must meet the same requirements. They also must satisfy the prerequisites if they wish to enroll in courses.
Failing to have an Equal Access policy denies taxpaying families the option to participate in programs that they subsidize. If resident home-educated students participate in classes or activities at their local district high schools, SAUs are compensated per RSA 198:38 so it is not a financial burden to districts to make programs available.
As I researched NH district policies, I found some that expressly say homeschooling families need to consult with their local SAU to use other educational providers. This is exactly why “coordinated or directed” must be added to the definition of home education as proposed in HB 1663 as passed by the House.
This bill advances to the Senate Education Committee next and will have another public hearing at a date to be determined.
Read about the House Education Committee public hearing for HB 1663 here. The article includes a link to the video recording and testimony submitted on behalf of GSHE.
Families simply want the opportunity to participate in programs at their local schools that they already financially support.
There are additional research reports relevant to HB 1663 available on the GSHE website.
By Michelle Levell