I’m upset, enraged, perplexed, and alarmed at the latest attack on NJ home educators by certain government officials who have recently proposed a NJ Homeschool Bailout Plan (otherwise known as the very egregious NJ Bill A3123). This plan proposes to take NJ homeschool regulation from it’s present day of virtual freedom to one of virtually NO freedoms at a significant cost to tax payers, home educators and the homeschooled children. Unlike our country’s recent mortgage bailout plan, this plan is proposing to “fix” problems in a program that is NOT BROKEN. These authorities are apparently of the belief that our government has done such an OUTSTANDING job in regulating and the public school system with their No Child Left Behind Joke (er, Act), that they now are capable of acting as governing authority over how parents choose to educate their children at home. Homeschool parents have already decided that their child will absolutely, positively NOT be left behind emotionally, physically, spiritually, morally, socially, or academically which is WHY they made the choice to homeschool to begin with.
As my good friend pointed out the other day, regardless of whether you choose to homeschool or not, or have children or not, the real issue here is to defend freedom…ANY FREEDOM…that we as American citizens currently enjoy. Freedom is a GOOD thing…not a BAD thing and deserves to be fought tooth and nail in order to preserve it.
Here’s the NJ homeschool regulation as it exists today (taken directly from the NJ Dept of Education website):
The following New Jersey statutes apply to compulsory education:
N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25 requires that “every parent, guardian or other person having custody and control of a child between six and 16 to ensure that such child regularly attends the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school.”
Note: The provision, “to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school” in N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25, permits a parent/guardian to educate the child at home.
N.J.S.A. 18A:38-31 states that “a parent or guardian or other person having charge and control of a child between the ages of 6 and 16 years, who shall fail to comply with any of the provisions of the article (N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25) relating to his/her duties, shall be deemed to be a disorderly person and shall be subject to a fine of not more than $25.00 for the first offense and not more than $100.00 for each subsequent offense, in the discretion of the court.”
Admittedly, NJ is one of the most relaxed states in terms of homeschool regulation (and we quite like it that way). Now here is a list of the newly proposed regulations in Bill A3123 which you may want to deliberately read all the way through despite its length to really understand just how ridiculous this bill is (or if in a hurry just simply skip to the end to read my conclusion):
1. Prior to the establishment of a home education program and annually thereafter, on or before August 1, a parent or guardian shall submit to the superintendent of the resident school district a notarized letter registering his child in a home education program. The letter shall include:
a. the name and age of each student participating in the home education program;
b. the name of the supervisor of the home education program responsible for the provision of instruction;
c. the address and telephone number of the home education program site;
d. evidence that such subjects as required by law will be offered, including an outline of proposed education objectives by subject area;
e. evidence that each student being registered has been immunized in accordance with the provisions of the State Sanitary Code adopted pursuant to section 7 of P.L.1947, c.177 (C.26:1A-7) and that the student has received the health and medical services required by State law for students of the child’s age; and
f. a certification to be signed by the supervisor that the supervisor, all adults living in the home, and persons having legal custody of a child in a home education program have not been convicted of the criminal offenses enumerated in section 1 of P.L.1986, c.116 (C.18A:6-7.1) within the preceding five years.
2. a. A home education program shall provide instruction to each registered student for a minimum of 180 days each year.
b. A home education program shall include courses in such areas as determined by the Commissioner of Education pursuant to section 3 of this act and such other areas as determined by the supervisor of the home education program.
3. The Commissioner of Education shall develop guidelines for home education programs that provide for a sequential course of study for each grade, K-12.
4. The resident school district shall, at the request of the parent or guardian of a student registered in a home education program, lend copies of the school district’s planned curriculum, textbooks, and other instructional materials appropriate to the student’s age and grade level. The parent or guardian may be charged for the cost of copying documents in accordance wi 1 th the rates established pursuant to section 6 of P.L.2001, c.404 (C.47:1A-5).
5. a. The resident school district shall permit a student registered in a home education program to participate in the district’s extracurricular activities, including interscholastic athletics, provided that the student:
(1) meets the eligibility criteria or their equivalent for participation in the activity that apply to a student enrolled in the school district;
(2) meets the tryout criteria or their equivalent for participation in the activity that apply to a student enrolled in the school district; and
(3) complies with all policies, rules, and regulations of the governing organization of the activity.
b. In the event that the school district requires a student to complete a medical or physical examination as a condition of participation in the activity, and the school district offers the medical or physical examination to its enrolled students, the school district shall permit a student registered in a home education program to access the examination. The school district shall provide written notification to supervisors of home education programs in the district of the dates and times of the examination.
6. A supervisor of a home education program shall maintain on file for each student enrolled in the home education program a portfolio of records and materials including, but not limited to:
a. a student record that lists reading materials used, samples of writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the student;
b. for students in grade levels three, five, and eight, the results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests in reading/language arts and mathematics administered by the supervisor or the results of Statewide tests administered by the resident school district. The test administrator shall not be the student’s parent or guardian; and
c. an annual written evaluation of the student’s educational progress as determined by a qualified evaluator, who may be a licensed psychologist or a certified school psychologist, a teacher or administrator of a public or nonpublic school in the State, or any other individual approved by the superintendent of the resident school district. The evaluator shall not be the supervisor or his spouse or the student’s parent or guardian. The evaluation shall be based on an interview with the child and a review of the materials collected pursuant to subsections a. and b. of this section and shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring in the home education program.
7. a. The supervisor of a home education program shall annually submit the portfolio required pursuant to section 6 of this act to the resident school district on or before June 30th.
b. At such other times throughout the school year as is necessary, the superintendent of the resident school district may submit a written request to the supervisor of a home education program to review all or part of a home schooled child’s portfolio, if the superintendent has reason to believe that an appropriate education is not occurring. Within 30 days of receipt of the written request, the supervisor of the home education program shall submit the requested documentation to the superintendent of the resident school district.
c. In the event that the supervisor of a home education program fails to submit the documentation required pursuant to this section, the home education program shall be deemed unsatisfactory in providing an appropriate education and children in the home education program between the ages of six and 16 shall be promptly enrolled in the resident school district or a nonpublic school.
8. a. In the event that the superintendent of the resident school district determines, based on his review of the portfolio submitted pursuant to section 6 of this act, that the home education program is unsatisfactory in providing an adequate education, he shall provide written notification of his determination, specifying what aspects of the program are inadequate, to the supervisor of the home education program.
b. Upon receipt of the written notification, the supervisor of the home education program shall have 20 days to submit additional documentation demonstrating that an appropriate education is taking place for the child in the home education program.
9. a. In the event that the supervisor of a home education program fails to submit additional documentation pursuant to subsection b. of section 8 of this act, the home education program shall be deemed unsatisfactory in providing an appropriate education and children in the home education program between the ages of six and 16 shall be promptly enrolled in the resident school district or a nonpublic school.
b. In the event that the supervisor of a home education program submits additional documentation pursuant to subsection b. of section 8 of this act, the superintendent shall review the additional materials and issue a new determination on the adequacy of the program. If the superintendent again finds the home education program to be unsatisfactory in providing an appropriate education, the matter shall be referred to the local board of education to consider termination of the program. The board shall have a hearing no later than 30 calendar days following the day on which the superintendent issued his final determination. The decision of the board shall be made within five 1 days after the close of the hearing. If the board finds the home education program to be unsatisfactory in providing an appropriate education, children in the home education program between the ages of six and 16 shall be promptly enrolled in the resident school district or a nonpublic school. Any appeal of the board’s decision shall be made to the Commissioner of Education within 90 days of the decision.
10. This act shall take effect immediately and shall first apply to the 2009-2010 school year.
Anyone with half a brain (with the exception of our governing authorities) can see how heinously biased and ill-thought out this bill is:
- Who do they think is going to fund the salaries or carry the workload of the people who are now called upon to administer all the regulations in this bill (the commissioner, superintendents, teachers, licensed psychologists, administrators, test administrators, etc.)?
- What makes them think that they know my child’s physical condition better than I do and just blindly require me to administer a potentially dangerous vaccine to his potentially compromised immune system?
- Why can public schooled children live with adults who have committed certain crimes but not homeschooled children?
- Why would I have to bear the cost of reproducing curriculum materials when I’ve already paid for them in the first place as a tax payer?
- Why would you have me jump through one administrative hoop after another taking away precious educational time from my child (have you not learned from those mistakes made in the public school system)?
- With all due respect to NJ Assemblypersons Sheila Oliver and Harvey Smith, who sponsored this bill, and with all due respect to the service they have provided to their constituents, rather than cut and paste homeschool regulations from neighboring states, why haven’t they performed due diligence and actually conferred with their district’s own homeschooling constituents on the freedoms and protections they seek (much less conferred with homeschooling families outside their own districts)?
- Why not survey the success of the homeschool majority instead of focusing on the failures of the homeschool minority? And then…
- Why not use the homeschool success as a model (teaching to the child instead of to the test) and apply it to the flagrantly broken, inefficient, inflexible and failing public school system?
The most appalling thought in all of this is if NJ is successful in taking their homeschool regulations from the most relaxed homeschooling state to the most restricted homeschooling state in less than 60 seconds, and to have it governed by philosophies that none of us like, much less asked for, think about what could happen to other states that already have a subset of these regulations already in place. Scary. The invasiveness of our government has to stop.
Note that in my gamut of emotions described in my opening paragraph that fear was not one of them. That’s because God doesn’t fill us with a spirit of fear. NJ home educators need all the support they can get right now to keep doing what they have been able to do: teach our children safely in the comfort of our own homes. So please pray for a giant hedge of protection for us from this bill.
And pray, too, for our governing authority figures because they are in need of much wisdom and discernment which they are sorely lacking at the moment.