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Homeschool Drama: Bureaucrats Versus Parents

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S.C. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION GOES AFTER HOMESCHOOLING ASSOCIATIONS …

This website went on record earlier this year in support of tax credits for parents who make the difficult, time-consuming and costly decision to homeschool their children.

Any plan purporting to provide “universal parental choice” must make allowances for devoted parents who – recognizing the writing on the wall at government-run schools – opt to take responsibility for their own children’s education.

Will state leaders support tax credits for homeschooling parents?  Will they reward this selfless choice by making it a little bit easier for the parents who make it?  Don’t hold your breath …

In fact, the more we investigate this issue the more we see evidence that the uber-liberal S.C. Department of Education (SCDE) – run by former educrat lobbyist Molly Spearman – is doing its best to undermine the homeschooling movement.

Case in point?  A recent dust-up between the department and one of the Palmetto State’s many homeschooling associations.

According to the S.C. Homeschooling Connection website, the SCDE recently sent an email to Martha Freitag – director of the Piedmont Home Educators’ Association (PHEA).  In the email, Freitag was informed that her group would no longer be included on the agency’s list of approved associations.  Why not?  Because on its website, the association featured a link to a resource center “offering courses to home school students that are not taught by their parents.”

Wait … what’s the problem with that?

There is none.

Attorneys for the state’s various homeschooling associations sent Spearman’s agency a letter explaining that state law permits homeschool parents to use resource centers, co-op classes and tutors as supplemental academic tools.

The department’s response?  Rather than acknowledging the law and reinstating Freitag’s group on its list – it removed dozens of other homeschooling associations similar to hers from its online registry.

Homeschool parents across the state panicked – fearing Spearman’s agency had unilaterally revoked their authority to teach their own children (and done so at a time when most parents were preparing to kick off the 2016-17 school year).

Obviously, that’s not what happened.

“(SCDE’s decision) doesn’t change the legal status of the associations,” a lawmaker familiar with the situation told us.  “If the legal status of the associations were in jeopardy, it would be a much bigger deal.”

“It looks more like homeschoolers getting snubbed by an unfriendly establishment,” the lawmaker added.

That’s unfortunate …

As we noted in our previous post in support of homeschooling tax credits, parents who choose this option are already subject to extensive state regulation.

Not only are they required to teach a certain number of hours each day (for a specified number of days), but the work their children complete must be saved – and made available for inspection by state regulators.  Also, homeschool parents don’t get to move the goalposts the way the government-run schools do.

Moreover, one of the homeschooling options available to parents consists of state-approved curriculum.

Spearman told us her department supports homeschool parents – and isn’t doing anything to make their job harder.

“I fully respect and support the rights of parents to choose their children’s educational setting and I commend the dedication of homeschool parents,” she told us. “I have directed the staff at the Department of Education to support homeschool families and ensure that no undue burdens are placed upon them.”

That’s good … and, if true, as it should be.

Nonetheless, we would reiterate the importance of incorporating homeschooling tax credits as part of a broader parental choice agenda heading into the 2017 legislative session.

Failure to embrace such market-based accountability means perpetuating the failure of our “one size fits none” government-run system – which continues to produce diminished returns despite massive new taxpayer investments.

Bottom line: We cannot continue forcing our students into failing or under-performing government-run schools – at a growing cost to taxpayers.

That’s not fair to taxpayers, parents or our future generations.

More importantly, this story exposes one of the broadest failures of our current government-driven culture: Namely that those who put in effort – including the effort to take responsibility for their children’s future – are penalized for doing so.  And discriminated against.  Even demonized.  On the other hand those who put forth zero effort are rewarded and celebrated as advocates “for the children.”

Nothing less than a fundamental paradigm shift is required here if we ever expect to see authentic, sustained improvement in academic outcomes.

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