February 24, 2014

Bill Would Change Access to Public School Classes

Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Wisconsin. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

A bill is rocketing toward enactment that will change how Wisconsin homeschool families are able to obtain access to public school classes.

Senate Bill 458, as amended just a few days ago, will create a three-tiered system for accessing public school classes.

Tier 1, kindergarten through 8th grade—If the student is old enough to attend the district's kindergarten, the homeschooled student has a right to take up to two courses, space permitting, if the student meets the school's standard for admission to the particular courses.

Tier 2, 9th-12th grade—If the homeschooled student meets the public high school’s standards for admission, the student has the right to take up to two classes, space permitting, and the school may not impose admissions requirements into the individual classes.

Tier 3, 9th-12th grade—If the homeschooled student does not meet the public high school’s admissions standards, the student can take two courses, space permitting, if the school board determines that the student is qualified to be admitted to the courses. (Tier 3 was created by Senate Amendment Number 1 to SB 458).

The bill permits “choke points” for students in all three tiers. In Tiers 1 and 3, a school or a school board have virtually unfettered discretion to decide whether a homeschool student meets the requirements to take a particular class. In Tier 2, schools have nearly unlimited power (they have had this power for several years) to decide what homeschoolers must do to be qualified for admission to the school.

Homeschool families who desire access to public school classes will appreciate the coming enactment of SB 458 as an improvement over the legislature’s unfavorable access pronouncement last year. Nonetheless, the legislature’s willingness to continue to grant broad discretionary power to schools and school boards in this arena may become a fertile breeding ground for conflict.

A bill that would have restored the status quo for access to what prevailed prior to last year, AB 329, appears to be dead.

SB 458 passed the Senate on February 18 and the House on Feb. 20. Only the governor’s signature is needed for the changes to become law.

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