KY Reaches Out to Homeschoolers
by Tj Schmidt • May 22, 2018
The unfortunate idea that less freedom will make homeschooling safer and more effective has found its way to yet another state. Thankfully, the process of correcting this mistaken notion has begun there as well.
Late in April I visited Frankfort, Kentucky, to meet with the staff of the Legislative Research Commission (LRC), a legislative panel which has been tasked with scrutinizing homeschool law in the Bluegrass State. I was joined by our local affiliated attorney A.C. Donahue, Richmond homeschool leader Jennifer Newell, and homeschool dad and chaplain to the legislature Lee Watts, as well as Scott and Devone Bolin of Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK).
We were there by invitation, and we greatly appreciated the opportunity to address a situation that could profoundly affect the way homeschooling is done in Kentucky.
Several states introduced legislation this year that tried to analyze, critique, and restrict homeschooling—including Kentucky.
House Bill 574 would have required homeschool students to submit a portfolio every year for review by the state Department of Education. Homeschools whose students failed to show academic progress would have been forced to submit remediation plans under the threat of possible termination.
The bill is all but dead in the House Education Committee, but we believe the representative who sponsored it also asked the LRC to launch its review of Kentucky homeschool law.
This is a serious undertaking. The LRC is composed of 16 state senators and representatives, and its directive specifically includes drafting bills and overseeing education reform.
An Accurate Picture
That’s why we were so pleased to address the LRC’s staff. We had heard that a good deal of their research on homeschooling consisted of Googling likely-looking websites. They had also been analyzing homeschool laws in adjacent states, apparently with the goal of showing that Kentucky’s rules are the most lenient.
As veteran homeschoolers, we provided legislators with a more nuanced perspective. We represented parents who are informed, engaged, and willing to go to great lengths to defend our right to educate our children.
I pointed out that Kentucky can take pride in the fact that its law is very fair to homeschoolers because it is not based on a separate statute. Instead, homeschools operate under the private school statute, which means they follow the same rules that apply to other non-public schools.
I also showed that each of the seven adjoining states has at least one legal option for homeschooling that is less restrictive than Kentucky’s. For example, Ohio and Virginia offer wide latitude for families to homeschool in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Reasons for Encouragement
Though we can’t be certain how Kentucky lawmakers will respond to this research, we do know that the LRC will eventually present some sort of report to legislators. Fortunately, we have been assured that once the report is compiled, we will be given the chance to review and comment on information we provided for it.
We’re also reassured by the fact that high-profile bills aimed at studying and restricting homeschool law in states such as Hawaii and California have already been defeated this year, thanks to local leadership and the activism of individual families.
In Kentucky, CHEK’s leaders have established a rapport with state lawmakers. That helped provide the opportunity to weigh in on this current legislative study. Should the need arise to rally against legislation aimed at our freedoms, we can say with confidence that the collective voice of homeschooling families will be heard.