Homeschooling in Georgia has come under concerted attack by those who would reduce the access to homeschooling and control both the content and method of home study instruction. Who are the opponents to homeschooling, and what do they want to accomplish?
The most obvious attack on homeschooling in Georgia at this time is HB586, introduced in the 1997 session of the General Assembly by Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-133). HB586 was drafted by representatives of SSWAG (School Social Workers Association of Georgia) and GAE (Georgia Association of Educators--a teachers' union), the local arm of the NEA (National Education Association). What do these organizations have to say about homeschooling?
NEA has a "continuing resolution" on homeschooling that includes the following statements (from the NEA accounts of the national meeting in Atlanta):
According to the NEA, homeschooling "can't" work, and if it's permitted, it should be a mirror image of the public schools.
GAE also has an "official" opinion of homeschooling, which includes the following:
"There is insufficient monitoring, both in guidelines/laws and actual practice, to preclude the possibility that children are being kept out of public/private schools for reasons other than differences in educational philosophy, e.g., baby-sitting, parent-sitting, legalized truancy, work, etc."
"[T]he Association insists that the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Legislature strive to provide sufficient funding and support to bring about changes in the home school monitoring procedures that will make home schools valid by state education standards."
In addition, GAE has called for:
"state equivalency tests by the State Department of Education for high school age students for use in documenting the adequacy of the home school in preparing the student for post secondary educational options; annual evaluation of each student's progress in accordance with state and local standards through utilization of standardized tests; ..evaluation by local system administrators, of the parents as a teacher to determine if the home school is offering a quality, standard education; and assessment by the local school system, of the curriculum offered by the home school to ensure that it adheres to the state regulations of education for private schools."
GAE wants to police home study programs, to "preclude the possibility" of truancy, and to certify both the homeschooling parent (as a teacher) and the homeschooling curriculum.
SSWAG has developed a position on homeschooling, which has been distributed to SSWAG members. HEIR has been told that the position paper is a "draft, not for public release," but SSWAG has declined to repudiate the document. It says, for example, that "the lack of oversight and quality control in the current law (20-2-690) contributes significantly to potential educational neglect in this state." In other words, SSWAG wants more control of home study programs. To gain that control SSWAG calls for:
SSWAG calls for all the same controls proposed by NEA and GAE, but adds requirements for "social skills" testing, and monthly curriculum plans.
Now, let's see what Rep. Hugley has said, in the House Education Committee hearing on December 10, in a less public meeting with homeschoolers on December 16, and in a newspaper interview published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on December 20:
Does this sound familiar? Together, their message is that homeschoolers are truants and child abusers, and the State doesn't have the tools it needs to "protect homeschooled children" from their parents. Providing homeschooled families due process protection through the judicial system will take too much time and work on the part of school social workers. And even the "good" home study programs need tighter regulation.
Homeschoolers and home study program supporters would do well to compare carefully what NEA, GAE, SSWAG, and Rep. Hugley are saying. They are singing from the same sheet of music, and the unspoken chorus is "homeschooling regulations should be set by NEA, GAE and SSWAG." Despite repeated suggestions that a true dialog with homeschoolers should precede any new legislation, neither GAE nor SSWAG has shown any inclination to listen to homeschoolers' suggestions for resolving the "truancy confusion".
GAE and SSWAG have chosen to attack homeschooling, and to promote a very negative image of homeschoolers. Could it be that their real agenda is to distract public attention from the real, unsolved problems in public education? Perhaps they don't want media attention and legislative attention to focus on:
All Georgia citizens, not just homeschoolers, should demand that Rep. Hugley and her associates at GAE and SSWAG drop their irresponsible pursuit of phantom homeschooling criminals, and focus their energies on solving the very real problems in the public school system. Unless, of course, they are satisfied with what they are getting for their tax dollars.
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