Homeschool Database: Unsafe, Unlawful, and Not Really Mandatory
by Tj Schmidt • June 25, 2019
About six weeks before the deadline for annual notices, state education officials unveiled a new online homeschool form that didn’t square with New Mexico law—and created unnecessary hardships for some families. But we are optimistic these problems may be addressed soon.
Leaders from the Christian Association of Parent Educators (CAPE-NM) and I met with the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) last Tuesday after they released a new Home School Notification Database online in early June.
HSLDA’s Tj Schmidt snaps a selfie with CAPE-NM board members. From left: Cynthia Anastasio, Cathy Heckendorn, Emily Jones, Dave Jones, Brian Anastasio, John Heckendorn.
While PED officials had provided CAPE-NM a few days advance notice that they were releasing this new system, they didn’t wait for any input from homeschoolers before making the system live. This decision was unfortunate, because after reviewing the notification platform both CAPE-NM leaders and I had some serious concerns.
New Mexico law states that the PED is to provide a form to enable homeschool families to conveniently provide the notification of the operation of their homeschool program. This notice must be submitted by August 1 (or within 30 days of establishing a homeschool program).
While the PED can certainly create an online notification system for homeschool families, and such a system may even have advantages, the department can’t force parents to use it.
But mandating its use is exactly what one PED official did to an HSLDA member in a recent email. That official wrote that the PED “will not be accepting notification for homeschool via U.S. mail.”
Such a position might be defensible if everyone had access to the internet. But many people don’t because they can’t afford it or because they live in an area where the internet is unavailable.
And still others are reluctant to share personal information online because of safety concerns. Even the PED implies that security on their form might be a concern, because the online notification database warns the “link you clicked is NOT part of the New Mexico Public Education website.”
CAPE-NM and I raised these concerns to the PED in our meeting on June 18.
We also objected to the fact that the PED wants parents to check a box that states they “agree to the terms and conditions” when using the PED online form. It is our position that New Mexico is not an “approval” state and that homeschool parents do not need to agree to preconditions before they can be acknowledged as homeschooling their children.
Finally, there was a concern that the PED is interested in assigning each homeschool studenta unique identification number, within the Student Teacher Accountability System (STARS). But this system was designed for public school students, and we feel a homeschool student should only be assigned a STARS number if he or she participates in a public school class or extracurricular activity.
PED officials at the meeting appeared receptive to our concerns. We were able to fully present our case for homeschool freedom and what state law actually requires. We have since heard back from the PED, and we are hopeful that all our issues will be satisfactorily resolved.
Look for updates on this situation as it develops. Your continued support of CAPE-NM and HSLDA allows us to respond whenever homeschool freedom is threatened!