This article originally appeared in School Choice for NH.
The Home Education Advisory Committee (HEAC) met on January 24, 2019 for their regular bi-monthly meeting. We recorded the entire meeting and it is available on our YouTube channel.
The Chairman, George D’Orazio (Catholics United for Home Education) reviewed the department’s technical advisory that was introduced this fall that clarifies the reporting requirement to and by Participating Agencies.
Mr. D’Orazio and David Parker (Nonpublic School Advisory Council) discussed the process by which families may seek special education evaluations and services through their local school districts. This was discussed in greater detail at the November meeting.
The council received updated homeschool counts from the Department of Education. The numbers are gathered in October; the department failed to collect the totals for a few years. The department requires SAUs and private schools declare the number of new homeschoolers that report to them; it does not include the continuing programs so it is not a cumulative total. This was brought up at the October 2017 meeting and contributed to many districts thinking homeschoolers were not accountable.
HEAC representatives also mentioned an upcoming speaking opportunity at a NH School Administrators Association meeting. This is a positive step for HEAC and a reminder to the public-school organizations that the council is a communication bridge and available resource. This may help address perceived problems before they escalate, as it did with the Berlin district’s fears that homeschoolers are “falling through the cracks” which produced the 2018 hostile homeschool bill. There is more information and background on the bill available here, here, and here.
The council also briefly discussed the department’s new initiative, Learn Everywhere. It empowers public high-school students to receive credit for programs outside of traditional school classrooms and hours.
The Chairman also reminded everyone about the State House Bicentennial Student Mixed Media Art Contest. It is open to all students aged 5 to 21 who are in a public, private, or home education program in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Submissions are due March 29th.
There was an extended conversation about how reports regarding educational neglect are handled for home education families. (See video #2 starting at 8:00 through video #3 mark 4:22.) There was a bill last year, HB 1650, that would have removed responsibility of educational neglect investigations from DCYF and put it in the hands of the Department of Education. Read the final update re HB 1650 (2018) here.
Review Proposed Rule Changes
In our December report, we shared that Commissioner Edelblut asked HEAC to examine the rules governing home education, Ed 315 (scroll approximately half-way down), because the department identified several inconsistencies between the rules and the home education statute, RSA 193-A. This is important because these rules have the same force as law.
At the November 2018 meeting, the department’s legal counsel, Richard Sala, indicated that the department would like to see the rules simplified and “give as much latitude as possible” to home education families. Refer to the 2018 November HEAC video #2, starting at mark 1:09.
Since then, the HEAC rules subcommittee has met a few times and gave an initial presentation to the entire council at the January meeting. Stefanie Marsh (NH Homeschooling Coalition) went through the group’s proposed changes thoroughly in video #3 beginning at mark 5:15. The document of all proposed changes from the department and subgroup is available here. We encourage the homeschool community to review these changes and provide feedback to the council.
Also, the subcommittee is addressing a long-standing unwritten guideline that says homeschooling parents must “direct a minimum of 51% of their child’s education”. It appears nowhere in statute or Ed 315, but goes back to a HEAC meeting sometime in the 2000s. Previous meeting minutes do not indicate the basis for this guideline. This is an important issue for the subcommittee because it should be confirmed or removed if it is not supported by statute or rules.
At mark 8:00 in video #4, George D’Orazio stepped down as Chairman and passed the role to Kathryn Michelotti (Granite State Home Educators) as was approved at the September 2018 meeting.
The council took up new business and voted to enter rule-making re Ed 315. There was also discussion about HEAC exploring alternatives for out-bound communication.
The Ed 315 rules subcommittee will meet on March 12th from 3:30pm to 5:00pm and, if needed, again on March 26thfrom 3:30pm to 5:00pm, at the Derry Public Library. The public is welcome to attend.
The next full HEAC meeting is Thursday, March 28th starting at 3:30pm at the Department of Education offices, 101 Pleasant Street in Concord, room 12. The public is welcome to attend. The contact information of HEAC members can be found here.
HEAC is intended to serve as a communication bridge between the homeschool and public-school communities. Historically, they have struggled with transparency, accountability, and carrying out their primary responsibilities. Despite challenges, HEAC is making recent improvements and is committed to doing its best to support the homeschool community. In turn, we encourage homeschool families to know what is happening with the council – talk to your representatives, find out what they’re doing, and use them as a resource.
Below is a list of recent articles relative to HEAC and homeschool issues.