Interesting take on the homeschool bill being proposed this session. -
Bill benefits public system, not Texas home-schoolers
by Stephen Lunsford
10:01 PM CDT on Sunday, May 1, 2005
State Rep. Brian McCall's proposal to open public school classes and extracurricular activities to home-schooled students in Texas, while it looks good on the surface, could backfire in a big way on the same people it purports to help.
Mr. McCall's proposed legislation, House Bill 368, would blur the well-defined line between public schools and home schools. Under current Texas law, children taught at home are considered private school students, so their instructors, usually their parents, have much more leeway in how to teach them.
Mr. McCall's legislation would create a whole new legal definition of home-schoolers, which could put at risk the private school designation as confirmed by the Texas Supreme Court in its June 18, 1994, unanimous decision.
By taking certain classes in public schools, such as foreign language or chemistry, or participating in public school activities, such as band or a sport, home-schooled students would, of course, become part of the public school system. Currently, public schools have no authority over home-schooled students, but once the home-schooled student enrolls in even one public school class, that question of authority becomes much less clear.
Not to be alarmist, but home-school families should realize that once a public system has some authority over home-schooling families, there is a strong probability that more authority and control will follow.
While the McCall bill purports to offer benefits to home-schoolers, we at the North Texas Home Educators' Network believe that its primary purpose is, first and foremost, to benefit public school districts, which would be able to count those part-time students in their enrollment figures and claim additional state funds.
Home education is clearly a lost revenue stream for the Plano Independent School District, and it is obvious that the recouping of that lost revenue is the driving force behind this legislation.
Most home-schooling families either left the public system or never became part of it for very good reasons of their own, and this legislation would do nothing in terms of addressing those reasons.
Many home-schooling parents disdain the atmosphere of the public school system, with its greater risk of physical harm, its false sense of true socialization and its inability to use teaching methods based on the learning style that is best for the student rather than the instructor. Others want to be able to reflect their own values and religious beliefs in their teaching, which the public schools could never do.
We also doubt that a significant number of home-schooling parents see a real need to take part in specialized classes or extracurricular activities. With the large number of home-schooled students throughout North Texas, there are already home-school cooperatives and enrichment programs that share teaching responsibilities to leverage instructors' expertise, and these same groups offer many extracurricular activities as well.
Yes, a few parents might take the chance and put their child into one or two public school classes, but we don't believe many will be interested. Plano schools would be better served by focusing on other revenue enhancements and leaving the home education community alone. We're doing just fine.
Stephen Lunsford is vice president of administration for the North Texas Home Educators' Network. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.