Why homeschooling in 1 state in growing by 20% … a year!

from WND:

‘Stands in contrast to outraged parents who feel powerless over public schools’

South Dakota epitomizes the rapid growth of homeschooling in America. Guided by the principle that parents, not the government, have the right to determine what and how their kids are taught, homeschooling families have overturned existing rules and batted down attempts over the last decade to impose new ones in many states, including South Dakota. 

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What’s left in much of the United States today is essentially an honor system in which parents are expected to do a good job without much input or oversight. The rollback of regulations, coupled with the ill effects of remote learning during the pandemic, have boosted the number of families opting out of public schools in favor of educating their kids at home.  

Reflecting a national trend, the number of children homeschooled in South Dakota rose more than 20% in both of the last two school years. 

Homeschoolers in the Mount Rushmore state advocated for a new law that strips away key pieces of the state’s oversight and eases the way for parents leave public schools. Last year Senate Bill 177 ended the requirement that parents provide annual notice to a district of their intent to homeschool their child. More significantly, homeschool students no longer must take standardized tests, as public schoolers do, or face possible intervention by the school board if they fail.

“It was a big win for parental rights,” says Dan Beasley, then a staff attorney at the influential Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which helped craft and pass the legislation. “It cut out unnecessary regulation and streamlined the process so parents can invest their time in providing the best education they can for their children.” 

This freedom stands in contrast to outraged parents who feel powerless over how their kids are taught in public schools. In high-pitched battles at school board meetings, some take aim at the easing of admissions standards, others at what they see as the promotion of critical race theory and transgender rights, and still others at segregated classrooms and the presence of police officers on campus. And almost everyone is concerned with the sharp decline in already low reading and math scores of students in nearly every state during the pandemic, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress released in late October.  

For a growing number of parents, homeschooling is the answer to the institutional barriers to the education they believe in. Beyond requirements that homeschooling parents teach a few core subjects like math and English, they are free to pick the content.

American history, for example, can be all about the glory of the Founding Fathers and the prosperity of free markets, or the oppression of Native Americans and people of color and the struggle for equality. For many homeschoolers, history is taught through a Christian lens, while others follow a standard public school curriculum.

Parents’ Rights vs. State Control

The push to deregulate homeschooling raises difficult questions about how to balance the rights of parents to educate children as they see fit with the responsibility of the state to provide educational opportunity – and protect kids when things go wrong. While U.S. courts have stood behind parental rights, with the caveat that states have the authority to impose reasonable regulations to ensure students are educated, European countries lean the other way. To safeguard children, they have imposed much more stringent oversight of home schools.

Cases of child abuse and academic neglect in home schools are a real concern, especially as the guardrails are removed. Most cases of mistreatment are discovered and reported by teachers in public schools, a protection that doesn’t help homeschooled children. Homeschool alumni at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) and academic researchers have documented hundreds of examples of harm to children, many leading to criminal charges, ranging from fatalities and sexual abuse to poor instruction from parents who can’t or don’t teach.  

But calls by CRHE and others for more protections don’t get much traction in the United States. In March, after Maryland lawmaker Sheila Ruth introduced a bill to create a homeschool advisory council to collect information from homeschooling parents and advise state officials, she was inundated with calls and emails. A few were so nasty and threatening that her office called the police. In a Facebook post, Ruth promised the homeschool advocates that she would let the bill die and pleaded with them to stand down. 

Virginia-based HSLDA has spearheaded the opposition to regulations in court and legislative chambers, often in collaboration with local organizations. The group helped defeat many requirements, including that families provide notification of their intent to homeschool in Illinois, that students take standardized tests in South Carolina, and that home schools submit to visits to ensure the safety of children after one starved to death in Iowa, according to an Arizona Law Review article by Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard Law emeritus professor.  

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