Inaccurate Testimony in Indiana – NHN Responds

When the Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) heard that damaging testimony about homeschool freedom in their state had been given during a meeting of the Indiana Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights on February 17, 2016, they became alarmed.  The topic for the meeting was, “Indiana School to Prison Pipeline”.  Several participants discussed the “lack” of governmental control over homeschooling in Indiana because apparently public school principals have been marking expelled students as “transferred to home schooling” when in reality they are not being homeschooled and appear to be “lost”.

IAHE obtained a copy of the hearing from the US Commission on Civil Rights to read the statements made.  They are concerned by the call of some of those participating in the meeting for the Indiana Legislature to begin “regulating” homeschooling in the state.  After reading the minutes of the meeting it became clear that most in attendance do not understand that responsible parents CHOOSE to homeschool their children.  Further, it appears that some in the Indiana public school system seem to be taking advantage of the homeschool freedom that Hoosiers enjoy and simply “dump” their burdensome public school students by “transferring them to home schooling” in their records.  IAHE has responded to the issues raised on their blog and will be attending future meetings to correct the misconceptions of home schooling in Indiana.

IAHE notified NHN that testimony was given by a committee member, Ms. Leslie Hiner (Friedman Foundation), who incorrectly stated there is a “homeschool expert” in Nevada to whom the public schools refer expelled students for counseling about homeschooling.  She also said the homeschool community and the public school system are in “partnership” on the issue of advising parents of expelled students. While it may have been Ms. Hiner’s intent to be helpful, her statements were filled with assumptions and incorrect information.  Although NV school districts may refer parents of expelled students to NHN or a homeschool group in the local community, the goal of NHN (and most homeschool groups) would be to educate parents on the responsibility that comes with CHOOSING to homeschool a child and to help these parents decide if homeschooling is a suitable option for their child.

NHN submitted a letter of response (2016. NHN response to Indiana Advisory Comm. testimony) for IAHE to use to clarify how we assist these parents in finding the best educational option for their child.  We also submitted that letter directly to the committee for the record.  IAHE Action’s School to Prison Pipeline Response – Part 5 includes Ms. Hiner’s comments and NHN’s refutation of her comments.

NHN actually dealt with many of the problems, discussed in the Indiana hearing, over 10 years ago here in Nevada. Prior to 2005, the only option available to parents of expelled students was to enroll the child in a private school or to homeschool them.  But for many of those parents, neither option was practical. So NHN worked with NV charter schools and the NV-DOE during the 2005 NV Legislative Session to find more options for these families.  SB 367 (see “As Enrolled”) opened up charter schools (both brick & mortar and virtual), as well as public school independent study and distance education options to these students under certain circumstances.

Homeschooling is an education option that is appropriate for some families and the right to homeschool without government oversight is a liberty that NHN has advocated for since 2002.  NHN is grateful for an excellent network of state homeschool associations as we work together to protect homeschool freedom in all 50 states.

ESA program considerations

SB 302 – Educational Savings Account (ESA) Bill

Considerable discussion has commenced over the summer on the new ESA Bill – SB 302. The State Treasurer has been charged by the Legislature as the “governing body” over implementation of this new “School Choice” program. To date, two workshops have been held by the Treasurer’s Office as they write regulations for the program.

NHN supports parents who choose to utilize the new ESA program. However, it must be noted that because this new school choice program is “publicly funded” it comes with “accountability measures” that make it more restrictive than some parents may want.

For parents who do not wish to receive money from the state for the education of their child, the Homeschool Law remains intact. Homeschool parents will continue to be able to take full responsibility for the education of their child FREE from government oversight.

There are many creative ways within the ESA Program for children to receive an education and this may be a viable option for some families in our state. However, as a “cost-savings measure” by the Legislature, eligibility for an ESA was limited to children “enrolled in a public school”. As a result, current private school and homeschool students are not eligible for the grant money but may become eligible by enrolling in a public/charter school “100 consecutive school days”. Once this requirement has been met parents may then apply for the ESA Grant and use a “Participating Entity” approved by the state to meet the compulsory school attendance law.

Parents considering this ESA program should be aware of the “accountability” requirements such as an annual standardized test being administered to an “Opt-in Child” by the “participating entity” providing the education. The test results must be reported to the State Treasure’s office for “review of academic progress” and the DOE for the “publishing of aggregate data” which may link these children to the State Longitudinal Data System. In addition, ESA Accounts will be audited by the State Treasurer’s office to review the “educational expenses” parents pay for with the account in an effort to prevent fraud and abuse.

To follow ongoing discussion on this topic we refer you to the NHN Facebook Page.

Parents wishing to learn more about an ESA Grant may refer to the NV State Treasurer’s website.

“HOMESCHOOLING” VS “HOME BASED EDUCATION”: IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

Editor’s Note: 06/13/2017 –  The Nevada Legislature wrapped up their work on 6/5/2017 without funding the NV-ESA program.  SB 506 modified the 2015 program but consensus could not be reached. For details see our Self-funded Education Liberty vs. Public funded Education Choice (NV-ESA) post.
For now, while the ESA program remains in statute, there are no state finances allotted to the program and it is non-operational. The issue may or may not come up during the next Legislative Session in 2019… stay tuned.
Editor’s Note:  On Sept. 29, 2016 the Nevada Supreme Court ruled on two lawsuits brought against the NV ESA law,  16-30306 NV SC.Schwartz v. Lopez 09.29.16 .   The “funding mechanism” for the program being found unconstitutional the program has a permanent injunction on it.  A solution to the problem will need to be addressed by the 2017 Legislature.  9/29/16 Nevada Appeal

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8/23/2015 – the following describes the program passed in 2015 but never became a reality.

SB 302 – Educational Savings Account (ESA) Bill 

Considerable discussion has commenced on the new ESA Bill – SB 302. The State Treasurer has been charged by the NV Legislature as the “governing body” over implementation of this new “School Choice” program. To date, public workshops were held by the Treasurer’s Office in the writing of proposed regulations for the program.  However, two lawsuits were filed against the program and awaiting final decision from the Nevada Supreme Court; decision expected mid-summer, 2016.

As always, NHN supports parents no matter the education option they choose to educate their children whether it be via public school, private school, homeschool or now the ESA Grant Program. However, it must be stressed that this new “school choice” program is “publicly funded” and as such, comes with “accountability measures” that make it more restrictive than some parents may want in comparison to homeschool freedom. There are many things to consider in choosing which education option is best for your child.

  1. There are home based education programs already available to parents in this state that may look like homeschooling but simply are not the same under the law. These programs include; virtual charter schools (state sponsored, child receives education at home via internet classrooms), distance education (offered through the local public school, child receives education at home provide by the school district), and now an ESA Opt-in Child who receives their education from a “Participating Entity” approved by the State Treasurer and chosen by the parent. But in all these examples “accountability” to the government system of education prevails in some way.
  2. In the new ESA Grant Program, a Nevada private school, college program, private online school, certified tutor/tutoring agency or a parent may apply to become a “Participating Entity” and must be approved by the State Treasurer. There are “accountability measures” the Participating Entity must meet to continue in the program. A parent who becomes a Participating Entity may purchase curriculum with grant money and provide instruction to the child themselves but they also must meet the same accountability measures required of other Participating Entities. This is where the differences between this new form of “home based education” and “homeschooling” become legally significant.
  3. “HOMESCHOOLING” is for those parents who do not wish to receive money from the state, use a state approved program, nor be “accountable” to the state for the education of their child. For these families, the Homeschool Law remains intact. Parents of a Homeschool Child will continue to take full responsibility for the education of their child FREE from government oversight. Parents choosing to homeschool simply notify the local school district that they are homeschooling, there is no “approval” process.

There are many creative ways within the ESA Program for children to receive an education and this may be a viable option for some families in our state. However, as a “cost-savings measure” by the Legislature, eligibility for an ESA was limited to children enrolled in a public school. As a result, current private school and homeschool students are not eligible for the grant money but may become eligible by enrolling in a public/charter school “100 consecutive school days”. For a child who was previously homeschooled, the NOI to Homeschool on file with the local school district becomes null and void and the child becomes a public school student. Once the 100 day requirement has been met, parents may apply for the ESA Grant on behalf of the child and use a “Participating Entity” approved by the state for the education of the child. The child’s LEGAL school status is now an “Opt-in Child”, not a Homeschool Child

Parents considering the ESA program should be aware of the “accountability” requirements for the program such as an annual standardized test being administered to an “Opt-in Child” by the “participating entity” providing the education. The test results must be reported to the State Treasure’s office for “review of academic progress” (according to testimony provided by Senator Scott Hammond, sponsor of SB 302, to the Senate and Assembly Education Committees) and to the DOE for the “publishing of aggregate data” which may link these children to the State Longitudinal Data System. In addition, Education Savings Accounts will be audited annually by the State Treasurer’s office to review the “educational expenses” parents pay for with the account in an effort to prevent fraud and abuse.

To follow ongoing discussion on this topic we refer you to the NHN Facebook Page.

Parents wishing to learn more about an ESA Grant may refer to the NV State Treasurer’s website.

WEBSITE PROBLEMS

Regrettably we have had great difficulties with our website since the beginning of 2015.

1. You will note that the links to the last 4 articles posted on our Position Papers tab do not work.
2. We haven’t been able to post updates here on this Alerts tab since our last in April.

But we were, again, VERY busy during the 2015 Legislative Session. Hopefully, those of you on Facebook have followed all that we’ve been doing there, you can click the link to our Facebook page on our Home page.

We have spent the summer trying to get our website fixed and up and running with all the latest and greatest work of NHN. Bare with us as we continue to work out the bugs.

NHN Officers