The Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) had its final meeting of the 2018-2019 school year on May 23rd, and moved several important issues forward, including the annual report to the state Board of Education and proposed changes to Ed 315 rules that govern homeschooling. The videos of the meeting are available here:
HEAC Chairman, Kitty Michelotti (Granite State Home Educators), prepared a draft annual report to the state Board of Education, that received unanimous support. It is a summary of the council’s activity and notes a few areas they want to address in the coming year. The report will be presented to the BOE at one of their summer meetings, to be announced.
Three members have terms expiring: Cara Barlow (Unschooling NH), David Parker (Nonpublic School Advisory Council), and Helen Rist (NH School Administrators Association). It is unknown if Ms. Barlow or Mr. Parker intend to continue on HEAC, but Ms. Michelotti will follow up with them. Ms. Rist said that she has additional work responsibilities that preclude her from continuing on HEAC, but will stay until a replacement is found. It also was mentioned that the homeschool representatives’ terms are out of synch, not spaced out correctly over the three-year term periods. This occurred when replacements were named to fill vacancies; the Chairman will suggest to the Commissioner to make appropriate adjustments with the next appointments.
For months we requested copies of past annual reports. These are critical for institutional memory, especially as the council addresses unresolved reoccurring issues such as “push-outs” and Equal Access. Thanks to George D’Orazio (Catholics United for Home Education), several past issues were found, but a handful are still missing. Ellie Riel (NH Department of Education) will continue efforts to locate them.
Equal Access as defined in RSA 193:1-c, is a reoccurring issue, especially regarding year-end dances and field trips. The statute references “curricular courses and cocurricular programs.” Cocurricular is defined as “those activities which are designed to supplement and enrich regular academic programs of study, provide opportunities for social development, and encourage participation in clubs, athletics, performing groups, and service to school and community.” Some districts put additional restrictions on or prohibit local homeschoolers from participating in dances and field trips although the statute specifies that students in private or charter schools or local homeschoolers “shall have access.” School boards may have policies regarding Equal Access, but statute specifies it “shall not be more restrictive for nonpublic, public chartered school, or home educated pupils than the policy governing the school district’s resident pupils.” HEAC intends to seek guidance from the NH School Board Association (position on HEAC is vacant) and the Department of Education.
We also have a questionnaire about Equal Access and would value hearing about your experiences.
Other reoccurring topics involve the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS). They require new students to take one class before committing to more. Unless this is completed over the summer when school is not in session, the family must file as homeschoolers to comply with NH’s compulsory attendance law, RSA 193:1. This is confusing because typically these families have no intention to homeschool. HEAC intends to work with the DOE to clear up this ongoing problem.
VLACS also allows part-time enrollment. This is considered homeschooling, but many VLACS families are unfamiliar with this. Part-time VLACS families are obligated to follow home education requirements including performing a year-end assessment and maintaining a portfolio. These students are also not eligible for VLACS-issued diplomas. HEAC plans to reach out to VLACS and work with the DOE to get clarification out to families so they can make informed decisions.
HEAC next reviewed and approved the proposed changes to Ed 315 (blue text are suggestions from the DOE attorney and red text are the HEAC suggestions) so rules are simplified and current with existing statutes. The proposal now advances to the Commissioner and DOE for their review and input. This is just the beginning of the process and will continue into the fall.
Helen Rist (NH School Administrators Association) spoke briefly about the proposed Learn Everywhere that impacts public high-schools.
The DOE representative, Ellie Riel, then mentioned she received calls regarding bullying concerns from families that need help and alternatives. The council discussed the Manifest Educational Hardship law that is supposed to help families in these situations, but it is stacked against them and very difficult to obtain. The legislature had chances to address MEH the last two years, but failed to do so. We’ve covered MEH extensively the past two years and various articles are available here.
HEAC is on summer break and will meet again on September 26th starting at 3:30pm at the Department of Education offices, 101 Pleasant Street in Concord, room 12 (basement). This is the regular bi-monthly meeting of the Home Education Advisory Council. The public is welcome to attend. We closely follow the council and regularly report on their meetings. Below is a list of recent articles relative to HEAC and homeschool issues.
Reprinted with permission from School Choice for NH.