Homeschooling, Parental Rights and Government Intrusion
- 14 December 2008 by Author 0 Comments
Homeschooling, Parental Rights and Government Intrusion
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 12/14/2008
There seems to be a steady trend toward increasing the power of government at the cost of individual liberties. This is not just evident nationally but a trend observable at the statewide and local level as well, and was on display at a School Board meeting last week.
Journal coverage of that meeting reported that Rep. Donna Boe is concerned by the fact that Idaho protects the right of parents to educate their children at home without interference from the state. As it stands currently, there is no state law granting authority to local school districts or to the State Department of Education to provide oversight or to regulate homeschooling, even though other neighboring states have imposed such regulation. California law goes so far to make it a crime to home teach children if the parents are not certified educators.
Patti Mortenson, Director of Elementary Education for District 25, proposed adding a definition for “educational neglect” to Idaho law. That’s very strident language. Could something like this open the way for Child Protective Services and the courts to start forcing their way into the homes of children being taught by their parents? Could it open the way for the state to take children away from parents if their home schooling efforts are subjectively deemed inadequate? While the intent may be noble, the law of unintended consequences could produce significant ignoble side effects.
According to the Journal article, Boe’s concern was to provide a “safety net” for children who may be receiving an inadequate education at home. But I can’t help wonder if the attention should be more on a safety net for our children working their way through our public schools instead.
Neither Boe nor Mortenseon returned my call in my effort to clarify their intent.
I can’t help but suspect the issue is not really about academic aptitude. Idaho children who are home schooled traditionally score in the 82-84 percentile range on the Iowa Tests, according to the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators. Back when Idaho’s public school students took the same tests, they hovered in the 54 percentile level.
In light of that fact, it’s difficult to believe that Rep. Boe’s concern is for the children themselves. They seem to be doing statistically much better than their publically educated counterparts. Perhaps it’s more of a budgetary issue, since for every child being taught at home, the district loses anywhere from $5,500 to $8,000 in funding. Rep. Boe indicated there are about 13,000 home-taught children in Idaho. How many of those are in Pocatello is anyone’s guess.
The fundamental doctrine this manner of thinking is based on is the superiority of the “state,” whether it’s federal, state or local government entities. The “state” is somehow more competent and has a greater aptitude in providing for the welfare of our children, according to this doctrine. The continuing encroachment of government into private lives is symptomatic of this notion, and will undoubtedly be increasing at an accelerated pace over the next few years. But the premise that the “state” somehow knows what’s best for our children over loving, nurturing parents is problematic.
Adding the language “educational neglect” to Idaho Code could be a Pandora’s Box, for it’s statistically much more likely to occur at the public education level than it is at home. I’m not sure that’s a box they would want opened.
Rather than take the pernicious sounding “educational neglect” route, it seems more logical to simply have parents inform the local school district that their children are being taught at home. That way the local district knows where the kids are and can offer assistance and materials, if so desired.
This country was founded on principles of individual liberty and freedom. Each time the government regulates, some of that liberty is eroded. While it seems draconian to think a child could be removed from his home because he failed his math test after being homeschooled, the door is certainly nudged open with a charge of “educational neglect.” If language is added to Idaho Code to that effect, could not the state be charged with the same? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
We’re getting to the point where government is telling us what kind of speech we can engage in (politically correct), what kind of thoughts we can and can’t harbor (“hate”), how much energy we can consume (carbon footprint), talking about imposing a tax on “excessive” energy consumption (carbon tax), regulating what we eat (no restaurants using trans fats), whether we really have a second amendment (DC gun ban), even what kind of light bulbs we can and can’t use (illegal 100w incandescent), and attempting to force Judeo-Christian influences out of the public square, etc. ad nauseam.
Intent behind such regulation is probably meritorious, but the net effect of diminished individual freedom is not. The encroachment on personal liberty is accelerating, and at some point, we must collectively stand up and say “enough.” Seems to me, this is a good starting point.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.