The Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) is expected to address several important issues at their upcoming meeting this Friday, December 16 starting at 2:30pm. We urge all homeschoolers to be aware and engaged with HEAC as it is the only state-level body regarding home education.
Ed 315 Home Education Rule Changes
Due to the passage of HB 1663 (2022), the homeschool freedom bill, the Ed 315 rules governing home education must be updated to reflect these changes. This new law has several achievements:
- Requires all districts to adopt an Equal Access policy.
- Simplifies termination to mirror the initial notification language.
- Removes language that could imply home-ed programs need approval by Participating Agencies.
- Removes inconsistencies regarding who to notify and when.
- Removes unequitable academic achievement requirements.
- Adds explicit protection for home-educated children with special education differences.
- Explicitly states the portfolio remains the private property of the family.
Unfortunately, HEAC has not publicly shared the proposed changes to the homeschool community for input, so we hope the representatives have a careful eye when they review it on Friday.
It is the council’s practice to not publicly post the agenda and materials ahead of meetings and only posts minutes within five business days, as required by RSA 91-A, New Hampshire’s Right to Know law.
Ed 704 HiSET Rule Changes
In spring, GSHE alerted HEAC and the NH DOE that the current Ed 704.02 rule regarding the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) is discriminatory against homeschoolers and requires students to get written permission from their participating agency in order to take the exam. This is the link to the current Ed 700 rules.
The NH Department of Education drafted a revision and distributed it to HEAC members. GSHE received a copy (see below) and has a few concerns about the language, although it is an improvement.
The proposed language still requires that under-age home-educated students complete the equivalent of high school in order to take the test, yet that is not required of others. The NH DOE website asks under-age non-homeschoolers to “consult with your school counselor and your parents to see if the HiSET Exam is an appropriate option for you.” This is especially odd given that the HiSET is often an alternative to completing high school.
Hopefully HEAC and the NH DOE will be receptive to our feedback.
Availability of Meeting Recordings
During the Covid state of emergency, all public boards moved to online meetings, and often publicly posted recordings. Even now that the emergency is lifted and Concord is meeting in-person again, the NH House of Representatives, Senate, Board of Education, and many local public bodies continue to offer online participation or viewing of their public sessions and most make recordings available online.
The NH state legislature has YouTube channels that publish public hearings, subcommittee meetings, and executive sessions as well as full assemblies of both the House of Representative and Senate. This transparency is a great asset to NH citizens who are often unable to attend in-person.
During the pandemic, HEAC also met online and made the recording links available to those organizations who requested them; GSHE published them on our YouTube channel and included links to recordings in our articles about HEAC meetings.
The availability of meeting recordings was brought up at HEAC’s September meeting under New Business. One member thought it would be “over-complying” with law to make recordings available and another stated that members might be more guarded with their remarks if meetings were part of the public record.
While HEAC continues to offer virtual participation for members and the public, they are not making the recording links available to the public currently. This is one of the issues the council is expected to discuss at their December meeting.
According to RSA 91-A, aka the Right to Know law, “governmental records” includes recordings so they must be made available to the public and cannot be withheld. If a recording is made for any purpose, whether it is for the committee secretary or other internal uses, it must also be accessible to the public.
RSA 91-A:1-a Definitions
III. "Governmental records" means any information created, accepted, or obtained by, or on behalf of, any public body, or a quorum or majority thereof, or any public agency in furtherance of its official function. Without limiting the foregoing, the term "governmental records" includes any written communication or other information, whether in paper, electronic, or other physical form, received by a quorum or majority of a public body in furtherance of its official function, whether at a meeting or outside a meeting of the body. The term "governmental records" shall also include the term "public records."
"Information" means knowledge, opinions, facts, or data of any kind and in whatever physical form kept or maintained, including, but not limited to, written, aural, visual, electronic, or other physical form."
Given that HEAC is the only state-level body specifically regarding home education and their meetings are during the day when it is difficult for families to attend, even online, these recordings must be available to the public. Even if HEAC does not post them on the DOE website or create a YouTube channel, GSHE is willing to publish them so the entire NH homeschool community has ready access to this important resource.
Prior to 2018, HEAC struggled with transparency; minutes were not posted to the NH DOE website, annual reports were missing, and because in-person meetings were the only option, it was extremely difficult for the homeschool community to be aware of or participate in any of the council’s doings.
Now that online meetings seem to be in wide use for state and local public bodies and it is easy to record and share these meetings, it is a simple and reasonable ask for HEAC to be more open, accessible, and transparent to their constituents.
We recommend participating in Friday’s HEAC meeting, if you’re available. This page on the NH Department of Education’s website has all the HEAC information, including meeting dates, location in Concord, Zoom link, and minutes of past meetings. Note that to participate in Zoom meetings, you must have at least a free account.
If you’re unable to attend either in-person or online, please consider reaching out to the council members with any concern or opinion you wish to share on these important issues. The homeschool organizations are there to represent you and should be receptive to hearing from you on these matters. The current HEAC representatives’ emails are below to make it easy to contact them.
2022-23 HEAC Members
|Althea Barton||NH Homeschooling Coalition (NHHC)||firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Isabella Edwards||NH Homeschool Older Kids Park Dayemail@example.com|
|April Villani||Catholics United for Home Education (CUHE)||avillani.HEAC@gmail.com|
|Michael Koski||Home Educator Association Representativefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jennifer Pereira||Catholics United for Home Education (CUHE)||email@example.com|
|vacant||Home Educator Association Representative|
|Rep Glenn Cordelli||NH House of Representativesfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|vacant||NH House of Representatives|
|Senator Ruth Ward||NH Senateemail@example.com|
|Sarah Cheek||Acton Academy Seacoastfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Timothy Carney||NH Department of Educationemail@example.com|
|Heather Barker||NH School Administrators Associationfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|vacant||NH School Boards Association|
|vacant||Nonpublic School Association|
Read More About HEAC
By Michelle Levell