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District of Columbia
District of Columbia

December 4, 2014

Power Grab—State Superintendent to be Made “Head” of Every Homeschool

Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in D.C. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education in the District of Columbia has issued new regulations that would make the state superintendent the defined “head” of every homeschool.

The regulations which purport to create new graduation requirements for district public and private schools also include homeschools. The rules declare that starting with the class of 2016 all students must earn 24 credits in order to receive a state-issued diploma. The regulations essentially require that every student in the district receive a college prep program even if such a program isn’t appropriate for every student.

Homeschool parents and advocates are unhappy with the new rules. They are especially disappointed that they were not consulted during the development process. Although the office of the state superintendent says that, “in developing the regulations, OSSE and SBOE engaged in an extensive period of public engagement and solicitation of public comments,” this does not to appear to have actually happened.

Unpleasant Surprise

Ethan Reedy, who is the president of one of the district’s homeschooling groups, says that by the time anyone heard of the new rules they were already written.

“I was sent a copy of the regulations after they were issued for public comment,” Reedy said. “The department certainly knows who I am, and no one ever contacted me to ask my point of view.”

Reedy says that the proposed regulations don’t make sense for home educators, and he is gravely concerned about the idea that the state superintendent would be the “head” of his homeschool.

“Homeschoolers in the district have a complete chapter in the law that lays out the requirements in great detail,” Reedy explained. “There is simply no need for homeschools to be included in this new rule.”

Lack of Transparency

HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly, who helps members in the district, expressed frustration over the process.

“The D.C. office for education knows who the advocates and leaders are in the homeschool community,” he said. “None of us were contacted about this in spite of the assertion otherwise. So much for transparency in governance.”

Donnelly added: “These regulations would be a significant and unreasonable overreach of the state into the inner workings of homeschooling families. These rules would require homeschools to submit to a cookie cutter curriculum. If D.C. wants to do this to their public schools—fine. But leave homeschools alone.”

Familiar Approach

The move, he said is reminiscent of the approach adopted when the district tried to impose draconian new regulations on homeschoolers in 2009. Homeschoolers resisted in an uproar that led to months of consultation with Department of Education officials. The final set of rules was an uneasy compromise that has, however, worked pretty well, Donnelly said.

“All these folks had to do was make a phone call to us and ask our point of view,” he said. “I’d like to know if they consulted with any homeschoolers. I’m sure no homeschooler would have advised moving forward with this kind of dramatic imposition.”

“Homeschoolers don’t need the state superintendent of schools as their principal. What they need is to be simply left alone,” Donnelly said.

HSLDA is calling on district residents to contact the State Board of Education and ask them to remove homeschoolers from the proposed rule. Other citizens should inform themselves of the rules which are likely to be concerning to parents of public as well as private-schooled students.

For more information and to read the regulations visit HSLDA’s District of Columbia legislation page.

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