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Vol. XXVI
No. 6
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November/December
2010

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NORTH DAKOTA

Legislation Needed in 2011

Unless the North Dakota Legislative Assembly repeals the expiration date on favorable changes to the homeschool law made in 2009, home educators will once again find themselves saddled with more unnecessary and unreasonable state oversight.

On April 22, 2009, Governor John Hoeven signed into law House Bill 1171, making significant improvements in North Dakota’s homeschool law. Most significant was the change that a parent with a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED) no longer has to be monitored by a state-certified teacher during the first two years of homeschooling. Prior law required such monitoring if the parent did not have a baccalaureate degree. Parents without any diploma must still be monitored as before. Also unchanged by the 2009 legislation is the exemption from monitoring if the parent is licensed or approved to teach by the education standards and practices board or has met or exceeded the cutoff score of the national teacher examination.

H.B. 1171 also changed the law to permit the home education to take place in a location other than the child’s home, so long as the program of education is supervised by the child’s parent.

Under the current law, monitors are no longer required to notify the school district that they are monitoring a child receiving home education. Apparently, the legislators considered this requirement to be superfluous, since monitors must already report student progress to the public school superintendent twice each year.

The law now in effect also addresses situations where students completing a home education program are seeking a diploma from the child’s school district of residence, an approved nonpublic high school, or the center for distance education. Prior to the enactment of H.B. 1171, a student could seek a diploma by meeting the issuing entity’s requirements for graduation or, in the alternative, could complete 21 units of high school coursework required for public and nonpublic schools. Students utilizing the second means for obtaining a diploma are now required to complete at least 22 units and must complete 24 units beginning with the 2011–12 school year. Twenty-two units will be required if the current law expires.

The date for expiration of the law enacted in 2009 is July 31, 2011. If this happens as scheduled, North Dakota’s unique status as the only state in the nation requiring monitoring of homeschooling parents by state-certified teachers will once again extend even to parents with a high school diploma or GED. Parents will also lose the flexibility they now have to supervise their home education program in a setting other than their own residence. To retain the freedoms of current law, the Legislative Assembly must repeal the expiration date to make the changes permanent.

As an alternative to retaining the changes made by the 2009 legislation, a completely new homeschool law could be enacted in 2011 to remedy not only the problems addressed in 2009 but also the other burdensome provisions that have plagued North Dakota homeschoolers for decades. However, the risk involved in seeking such sweeping reform is that if this effort should fail, even the 2009 advances may be lost.

The North Dakota Home School Association is preparing a legislative strategy for the upcoming 2011 session that will best serve the interests of home educators.

— by Dewitt T. Black