Homeschool Freedom Threatened

Overview

HB 1263, the bill that would reinstate the annual reporting requirements of all homeschoolers has a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, January 25th at 1:00pm before the House Education Committee. The hearing is scheduled in room 207 of the Legislative Office Building (LOB), but the location could change. Please join us for this critical bill. There is on-street parking and a nearby parking garage. Children are welcome to attend, but it may be a long day.

Please join homeschoolers across the state to oppose HB 1263, a bill that would roll-back homeschooling rights to the pre-2012 annual reporting requirements. There is a Facebook event for the hearing.

Please consider testifying before the committee. Personal stories are most effective. If you are unable to attend, call committee members and indicate if you are a constituent. It is also helpful to email the entire committee; their group email is HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. Their contact information is also below along with the list of their emails for an easy copy/paste.

Specifics

HB 1263 requires home-educating families to submit their year-end assessments to their local SAU superintendent, a private school that serves as their Participating Agency, or the state Department of Education. The results could no longer be kept private by the family. It also restores the Participating Agency’s authority to place a home education program on probation if a child does not meet the performance standards — a composite score at or above the 40th percentile on a standardized test or “progress commensurate with age and ability” on a teacher evaluation. If a child does not meet these expectations a second consecutive year, the program is terminated and the child must enroll in a public, charter, or private school the following school year. This is a much higher standard and severe consequence than our public schools face.

This is an unbalanced expectation given that the New Hampshire 2017 statewide assessment scores show public-school students achieved only 59.29% proficient or above in English and a meager 48.00% proficient or above in math. Per the NH Department of Education, proficient is defined as “demonstrates minor gaps in the prerequisite knowledge and skills needed to perform successfully in instructional activities at the current grade level.” In other words, less than 60% of all NH public-school students demonstrate the knowledge and skills to perform at their current grade level in English. Fewer than half of NH public-school students can do so in math. This should be an embarrassment to districts across the state.

As determined by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the successor of No Child Left Behind, public schools and districts labeled Level 1 or Level 2 (scores below proficient) based on statewide assessment results are considered failing.

If we apply a comparable accountability standard to NH public schools, is the state closing Level 1 and Level 2 schools or districts if they have poor scores two consecutive years? Are students in failing schools required to enroll in a successful public school, charter, or private school? No. In fact, legislators and superintendents argue that they need more funding to improve these failing schools.

The reporting requirement is also a presumption of “guilty until proven innocent” which is completely counter to the values of our society. Homeschoolers would again have to prove that they provide a satisfactory education to their own children. Current home ed statute, without the reporting requirement, allows school districts to investigate suspected instances of home educational neglect. They can approach the individual family and review evidence including but not limited to the child’s year-end assessment and portfolio. Instead of approaching this on an as-needed individual basis, this bill imposes a review and approval requirement upon the entire NH homeschool community without any charges or grounds for investigation.

We are told that the bill was filed at the request of the Berlin district superintendent. There are two interesting things to note.

First, Berlin’s statewide assessment proficiency scores were well below the state averages in 2015, 2016 and 2017. They cannot meet the same standard they would impose upon all NH homeschoolers.

 

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Secondly, Berlin is a district that reportedly “pushes out” students, meaning they strong-arm parents to homeschool children the district no longer wants enrolled in their schools. This is not an unfamiliar practice and has been discussed at several Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC) meetings held in December 2011, October 2012, May 2014October 2014April 2015, and May 2015. We suggested “push outs” a possible underlying reason for some of the phantom home educational neglect instances discussed at HEAC meetings. (Note that the NH Department of Education recently removed HEAC minutes that predate September 2013. We are looking to have them restored.)

While it may not be a direct cause, HEAC’s last two annual reports – 2016 report and 2017 report — overstating home educational neglect and encouraging involvement with the NH Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to the state Board of Education exacerbates the perception of widespread problems within the NH homeschool community. We reported on it in Threat to Homeschoolers and Is HEAC Ignoring Rules.

Regardless of the reasons for this egregious bill, home educators must be prepared to defend their educational freedoms and oppose the imposition of needless and unfounded requirements.

Read more information and background on the bill in Legislator’s Response to Homeschool Bill and Hostile Homeschool Bill Confirmed. The Union Leader also covered HB 1263 in Home-schoolers the Focus of Proposed Legislation.

Contact Legislators

To contact the entire House Education Committee, you may send one email to HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. Brief phone calls are most effective, but personalized emails directed to an individual are also helpful; mention if you are a constituent. At the bottom we’ve supplied a list of the committee members’ emails for an easy copy/paste.

 

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ladd.nhhouse@charter.net

terry.wolf@leg.state.nh.us

beshaw3@comcast.net

glenn.cordelli@leg.state.nh.us

bob.elliott@leg.state.nh.us

carolyn.halstead@leg.state.nh.us

Mel.Myler@leg.state.nh.us

patricia.cornell@leg.state.nh.us

jimgreniersullivan7@gmail.com

josh.moore@leg.state.nh.us

Mary.Heath@leg.state.nh.us

David.Doherty@leg.state.nh.us

joe@joepitre.com

patchessul@comcast.net

Wayne.Burton@leg.state.nh.us

linda.tanner@leg.state.nh.us

Mary.Gile@leg.state.nh.us