Connecticut Home Schoolers Fight Stricter Rules

By Matt Pyeatt | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - Home schooling parents in Connecticut are battling legislation that would force them to comply with new rules and, according to a support group, convert Connecticut from one of the least restrictive home schooling states to one of the most restrictive.

House Bill 5535 would replace the state's current home schooling standards that have been in place since 1990.

But according to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the new standards would change the way parents are able to educate their children. The new standards for home schooling would include:

-- An annual notice of intent to home school must be filed with the superintendent of schools within 10 days after the start of instruction.

-- The notice must include the name of the person providing instruction and proof that the instructor has a high school diploma or its equivalent, a description of the subjects to be taught and the materials to be used, a schedule of days of instruction that consists of a minimum 900 hours per calendar year and the scheduling of an independent method of assessment of the child's academic performance, as approved by the commissioner of education.

-- The superintendent must evaluate the notice for completeness and maintain the notice as part of the school district 's permanent records.

-- The superintendent must review the results of an independent method of assessment of the child's academic performance or conduct a portfolio session with the parent. A portfolio session must display evidence of compliance with the instruction program described in the notice of intent.

-- The superintendent must send a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, to any parent filing an incomplete notice or to any parent failing to file a required notice. Any child whose parent fails to comply with the notice requirements or any other provisions of the new law will be considered truant.

-- Each school district would be required to annually report the number of home schoolers to the Connecticut Department of Education.

Parents involved in the home schooling process are not happy with the proposed changes.

"It would make it very difficult for us to home school our daughter," Lisa Reiss, a home schooling parent from Manchester, Connecticut, said. "We don't set a curriculum for the whole school year. We teach to mastery and once she has mastered a concept, we revise our curriculum every quarter or so. For us to have to submit a curriculum in the beginning of September would be very difficult."

The Connecticut General Assembly's Education Committee has jurisdiction over the home schooling bill. The panel is co-chaired by state Sen. Thomas P. Gaffey and state Rep. Cameron C. Staples, both Democrats and plans a hearing Monday to decide what, if any, action to take on the bill.

During another hearing a week ago, parents and children rallied at the state capitol to voice their anger about the proposed guidelines. "There were about a thousand people and they had the actual hearing room and three overflow rooms filled with parents and children," Reiss said.

David Larson, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, told the Hartford Courant that the bill would establish "minimal standards" in guaranteeing a quality education.

"What the state is looking for is evidence that they have a well-thought-out plan instead of 'well, what are we doing today?'" Larson reportedly said. "I can't help but believe - just as there is in any institution - that there are abuses."

But Dewitt Black, senior counsel at the Home School Legal Defense Association, said the proposed changes to the home schooling process in Connecticut were far too restrictive.

"Only seven states require parents to have any particular credentials in order to conduct a home instruction program," Black said. "Connecticut would join a very small minority of states in imposing that sort of thing on parents."

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