Homeschoolers split over education bill

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The bill would clarify some of the federal laws that were written for public schools but impact homeschool education.

Education legislation has divided those in favor of homeschooling with supporters applauding efforts to guard against discrimination, and opponents fearing government intervention.

Introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Sept. 13, the Homeschool Nondiscrimination Bill would clarify some of the federal laws that were written for public schools but impact homeschool education.

The bill's supporters include Edith Lowes, who homeschools her daughter Victoria.

"People aren't familiar with the homeschool curriculum when it comes to the academic setting, and that needs to be clarified," Lowes, a Cape Girardeau resident, said.

This bill is a step in the right direction because homeschool needs should be addressed, said Mary Ray, who has homeschooled for the last 11 years.

One of the problems supporters hope the legislation corrects is that homeschoolers have been denied college admission because those students did not receive a state-issued diploma.

Ray's daughter, Nicole, attended four years at Southeast Missouri State University, graduated with honors and is a homeschool success story.

She did not face any discrimination when she applied because Southeast Missouri State University only looked at her GED score and her SAT score, but that is not true for all homeschool students who apply for college admittance, said Ray, of Cape Girardeau.

"I think that the schools need to look at the GED and the ACT over where they went to school," she said.

Lowes said getting her daughter Victoria's homeschool hours accredited for college admittance will be difficult if they don't go through some of the homeschool programs that have online classes.

"Luckily the school system here is working pretty well with us in trying to make sure she gets credit for what we do here at home," she said.

The bill would make it easier on homeschoolers across the nation if there were nationwide standards for college admittance, Lowes said.

The bill also would allow federal education savings accounts to be used for homeschool expenses.

Ray said she would be interested in using those accounts for her homeschool expenses "if there's not a lot of strings attached."

Some homeschool organizations such as National Home Education Legal Defense do not support any federal legislation that affects homeschooling because it is a "slippery slope," executive director Deborah Stevenson said in a news release.

"It opens a door to federal legislation that is dangerous, unnecessary and will in the end hurt many homeschooling families," she said.

Stevenson said the potential harm outweighs the good and urges homeschool families to do more research before supporting the bill.

Both Lowes and Ray said they would do more research on the bill and then contact their senators and representative.

The bill has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee for review.

ameyer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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