It has been quite a few months since I have posted on this blog. Things have been quiet on the DC legislative and regulatory front for a few months now. Today, however, I received a copy of a new proposed regulation that should be of great concern to all DC home educators.
First, a little background: Before 2008 DC had no official set of regulations pertaining specifically to homeschooling. District citizens did homeschool their children, but we did it under a section of the law that said that students could receive “private instruction.” In 2008 the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) proposed a whole new chapter for the regulatory code – Chapter 52. The original proposed regulation was very problematic and we spent months working with the SBOE to improve it significantly. As difficult as that process was, this much was positive: the final regulation made it clear that homeschooling was legal, that it was to be directed by parents, and that we would have a lot of leeway to educate our children in the way we saw fit. All of these regulations were contained within one coherent and consistent chapter of the DC code.
Fast-forward to 2013 and the SBOE again tried to include homeschooling within its regulations, this time in an entirely different area of the DC code. They tried to include homeschoolers within the attendance requirements that they were developing for public, charter, and private schools. The result, as you would imagine, was preposterous. The SBOE couldn’t recognize that there was a huge difference between the institutionalized, assembly line approach that large schools have to take to education and the flexibility and freedom that we have as homeschoolers. Thankfully, many of you contacted the Board and testified at meetings, and homeschools were removed from the regulation and were no longer defined as “Educational Institutions” under DC law.
NOW, however, the SBOE has returned with a new regulation, this time on graduation requirements. The proposed regulations make several drastic changes to the DC law:
- It makes the DC State Superintendent of Education the legal “head” of all DC homeschools, not the parents. Here is how it is defined in the regulation: “‘Head of the Educational Institution’ means the legal entity or designated representative with authority to act on behalf of the educational institution in an official manner. . . . In the case of private instruction where a student is home-schooled, the ‘head of the educational institution’ would be the State Superintendent of Education.
- It requires homeschool students to take the same mandatory classes that public schoolers have to take. This includes following the same policies for determining credit hours (“Carnegie Credits”) and for determining which courses to take. This new regulation would require all students to take Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry, and three full years of lab sciences, even if you felt they weren’t the best courses for your children. This is particularly problematic for the many homeschoolers who keep their children at home who have an educational disability. Many homeschoolers do that because such children have a hard time learning in the institutional setting of a school.
- It defines homeschooling as an “Educational Institution.” Here is what the regulation says: “This chapter shall apply to an educational institution as defined in this chapter to include any elementary or secondary educational program operating in the District of Columbia.” Because the regulation goes on in several other places to mention “home schools” by name, it clearly, for the first time, brings homeschooling into a section of the law that has not applied to it before. When you search the District Municipal Regulations for the term “Educational Institution” it returns 118 hits. These include references to absenteeism, dress and grooming standards, site evaluation visits, and educational requirements. We must make sure that the District doesn’t continue to try to fit us into their institutional mold. We had to fight this less than two years ago with the attendance requirements, and now we are having to fight this again.
So what can you do?
Most importantly, go to the published proposed regulation and provide your comments about them. The page can be found here:
You’ll see a button on that page that says “Make Comment.” Click there and tell the State Board that homeschools are not institutions. Our kids do not come off of assembly lines. We need different rules to cover a very different situation. Those rules already exist in Title 5, Chapter 52 of the DC Municipal Regulations. All regulations pertaining to homeschooling should appear there, and those regulations are not in need of any changes right now.
Second, write or call your State Board of Education Member. Mary Lord is the “at-large” member for the entire District. Her e-mail is Mary.Lord@dc.gov and her phone is (202) 257-3226 Here are the other State Board members:
Patrick Mara (Ward 1)
Jack Jacobson (Ward 2)
Laura Slover (Ward 3)
Kamili Anderson (Ward 4)
Mark Jones (President, Ward 5)
Monica Warren-Jones (Ward 6)
Karen Williams (Ward 7)
Tierra Jolly (Ward 8)
Thanks so much for your efforts to keep homeschooling free and fair among all of the citizens of DC.