H.R. 610  Choices in Education Act of 2017

 STATUS OF THE BILL

  • Introduced on January 23, 2017 by Representative Steve King (R) (IA)
  • Referred on January 23, 2017 to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

SUMMARY OF BILL:

  • This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states.
  • The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA’s geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.
  • To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.

EIE ANALYSIS:

In most cases  Excellence In Education tends to take an observational position until the bill has started the process through the various committees.  AB610 has taken on a life of its own due to the fact that it actually mentions “homeschool” and other organizations have started taking a position on the merits of the bill.  With this in mind, we will present an initial review realizing that as the bill matures and is amended our position may also be amended accordingly.

The section that establishes homeschoolers as possible recipients for federal grants becomes the primary concern for EIE.  You might ask why this is not an optimal idea considering that private homeschoolers do not receive any financial benefits from any governmental agency ranging from local school districts to the Federal Government.  This is a fair question, but let’s look at the intended and unintended consequences of this bill.

  • Until now, homeschooling in the United States has been primarily governed by the school districts, counties and the state you live in. This process allows for more “local” control permitting the community to set it’s own standards.  Yes this results in each jurisdiction interpreting the law differently and can cause some confusion but it does take into consideration “local” conditions and issues.  If this bill allows for the Federal government to distribute funds through the qualified states, this will sooner or later establish federal standards that must be met in order to qualify for the funds.
  • In the State of California we are privileged to have a fairly high level of homeschooling freedom within both the public and private sectors. To date, there has not been an official state definition of homeschooling which in our opinion has been a tremendous advantage.  If you are homeschooling through a public school or a charter school you are required to meet common standards that the state has encouraged the charters of follow.  If you are homeschooling through the private sector you have many more freedoms, especially in choosing the style of homeschooling and the curriculum.
  • If this bill is passed as is, a major concern will be the requirement that “homeschooling” must be legally defined by the Federal Government. This is where the danger lies.  For Charter students the standards may not be much different than they are now, but for the private homeschool family the changes may be a serious deterrent to homeschool freedom.  The legal definition of homeschooling that will be encouraged by the Federal government will most likely include the following requirements:
    • Must follow Common Core Standards or whatever Federal program that will replace it.
    • Family must be supervised by a state credentialed teacher or the parent must hold a credential.
    • Curriculum choices may become restricted (i.e. faith based curriculums like ABeka).
    • Homeschooling styles may become restricted due to the potential serious adherence to “scope and sequence” that may be implemented. This will possibly restrict families from participating in “delayed” academics or any other style that is not “time” sensitive.
    • All homeschoolers will be required to be “accountable” to both the State and Federal Governments through the process of mandated meetings and providing evidence of adequate work being accomplished.

EIE POSITION:

EIE was founded on the principles of homeschooling freedoms and we feel that as this bill stands now our freedoms will be at risk.  Our current position is to watch the legislative process proceed and provide our members with a more definitive position when appropriate.  If the language does not change our position will change from “watch” to “oppose”.