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Editorial: Regulation of homeschooling should not be removed

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MAY 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Republicans and Democrats in the Iowa Legislature have been creating compromises on reforms to K-12 education in recent months, but disagreements on whether to change homeschooling regulations have stalled the process.

Gov. Terry Branstad released an education-reform plan in January that would include increasing teachers’ salaries, improving teacher evaluations, and instituting various structural changes in public schools to give Iowa students a “world-class education.”

Because test scores in Iowa’s public schools were once among the best in the nation but have since shown little improvement in recent years as those in other states climb, Branstad made this initiative one of his top priorities.

The House of Representatives’ version of the education-reform bill includes changes to homeschooling. One would permit homeschooling instructors to teach up to four unrelated students. Another change would eliminate the state requirement to file paperwork with a local school district and have testing administered by an independent teacher (i.e., a teacher that is unrelated to the student).

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board feels that some of the proposed changes in homeschooling are irrelevant or present a conflict of interest, and homeschooling itself does not belong in this legislative package.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said a procedure for teaching unrelated students exists.

“[Having an instructor teach unrelated pupils] would essentially be creating a private school,” he said. “There’s already a procedure in the law for getting certification to do that.”

Aside from what appears to be a completely irrelevant proposal is also the outright demolition of an important piece of oversight: having unrelated teachers administer tests to their students.

We trust that like most public-school teachers, homeschooling teachers generally have their students’ best interests in mind, but oversight, rules, and regulations exist for a reason. Putting homeschooling instructors who are usually the students’ parents in a position where they oversee their children’s testing is asking for trouble. If the state is to increase accountability standards for public-school teachers, it makes no sense to hold homeschooling instructors to lower standards.

“There’s a public interest in making sure that every child gets a quality education,” Quirmbach said. “I don’t think we can abandon that responsibility.”

In fact, homeschools can actually be extraordinarily beneficial for some students. A study from the International Review of Education concluded, “Scientifically speaking, there is nothing to support the view that homeschooling is an academically inferior educational option … learning is possible — if not more effective — at home.”

Simply put, homeschooling in Iowa is just fine. Parents have plenty of options for enrolling their children in a variety of educational settings, including private schools that are often run by religious institutions and different school districts.

Clearly, homeschooling is a legitimate option for parents who believe their children would be better served learning at home. We do not oppose homeschooling. We oppose removing restrictions and regulations that ensure homeschooling teachers are playing by the rules and students are receiving the quality education they deserve. This is about fairness. By all means, increase teacher accountability in public schools within reason, but leave the homeschooling issue for another day.


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