A bill hostile to homeschool freedoms, House Bill 1263, is expected early in the 2018 NH legislative session. It is sponsored by Representatives Robert Theberge, Yvonne Thomas, Larry Laflamme, and Edith Tucker and seeks to reinstate the pre-2012 evaluation requirements.
The proposed bill would require 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.
Several sources have informed us that the bill was initiated by Berlin School District Superintendent, Corinne E. Cascadden. Per a recent Union Leader article, Rep. Tucker said that “Dr. Cascadden has some very grave doubts about whether half of Berlin’s home-schooled students are getting educated. Half get a really fine education, she believes.”
Many homeschool families are upset about this proposed change and have already contacted the bill’s sponsors and members of the House Education Committee. Below is the response of one House Education Committee member to a homeschooling parent re HB 1263. Rep. Mary Heath is a multi-term Representative serving from Manchester (Hillsborough 14) and a former Deputy Commissioner of the NH Department of Education. Printed with permission.
Thank you for your email.
I am somewhat familiar with Home Schooling. NH has approximately 6,000 students currently being home schooled. I say approximately because the current law does not allow the NH DOE to collect any information with regard to home schoolers. There is a Home School group that meets at the DOE but only for the purposes of convening the group or to assist in bringing information to the State Board. In my 42 years as an educator, I have seen huge changes in the process. First parents had to notify their local school district, provide a curriculum and show evidence yearly of an assessment that showed the child was demonstrating progress. All that is gone. I worry about children that are kept at home to care for younger siblings, a sick parent or just to hang out and sadly, it happens all too often.
The state bears the responsibility of assuring every child receives an adequate education. To say the least, for homeschoolers, it is very difficult to determine that. Technology offers a myriad of teaching tools and online courses and it is wonderful to see HS groups that have been formed and families working together for their children. I admire the great work that I have heard about from HS parents.
Many of the parents for whom homeschooling is their choice, are doing a great job and their children are progressing at a great rate, I have no evidence to support that but that is what HS parents tell me and colleges have suggested similar comments. For many HS that is true, for others it is not. How do we safeguard children for whom their education is lacking?
Recently, I interviewed a young woman who had been home schooled (she is now 23), she had five siblings and she was the oldest. She explained how wonderful her early learning years were until she reached the equivalent of about the 8th grade at the age of 13. With five younger siblings her mother contracted a serious illness and the homeschooling fell on her to continue. This young woman tried to get her high school diploma through VLACS but she was just too busy taking care of and HS her siblings. She has yet to complete her education.
Other situations are that parents allow their children to stay home and offer to home school but it just does not work. With all that said, I have to say I worry about the lost children who just aren’t getting the education they deserve.
I realize public school is not for everyone and HS is a viable option but what about those children who get lost in the process? I understand your desire to resist any reporting requirements but I feel, as a legislator I carry a responsibility to NH children to assure their learning.
That said, I go into this with an open mind but rest assured I need some assurance that the needs of HS children are met. Help me to understand how that can happen without an extra burden to you.
Representative Mary Heath
76 Island Pond Road
Manchester, New Hampshire 03109
Manchester Ward 7
NH District 14
The bill will have a public hearing before the House Education Committee scheduled sometime early in 2018. We will continue to monitor this closely and report updates as appropriate.
To contact the entire House Education Committee, you may send one email to HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. Below is a list of the committee members’ emails for an easy copy/paste. Brief phone calls are most effective, but personalized emails directed to an individual are more likely to be read. Mention if you are a constituent. Personal stories and messages can be compelling and memorable.
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To find your Representatives, go to “Who’s My Legislator?” Brief and polite phone calls and emails are effective, especially if you mention you are a constituent. Personalized emails directed to individuals are more likely to be read. Mass emails are far less impactful, but the email for all Reps is firstname.lastname@example.org.