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Archive for Sunday, October 1, 2000

Home-schoolers don’t want state interference

October 1, 2000

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There was a time when David Barfield would have welcomed intervention by the Legislature to eliminate ambiguities about the legal status of home schools.

No longer.

"When you start something through the legislative process, you don't know what you'll end up with," he said.

"We don't want to be regulated."

Barfield said home-schoolers are better off avoiding a showdown in the Capitol.

For years, the Kansas Association of School Boards has argued that lawmakers should ban home schools altogether on the grounds they are bad public policy, that no Kansas court precedent requires the state to tolerate them, and that it is impractical for the state, in a time of limited resources, to properly monitor operation of home schools.

Rep. Ralph Tanner, a Baldwin Republican who chairs the House Education Committee, said the Legislature isn't likely to step up and speak for or against home schooling.

Home-school lobbyists do a good job putting the movement's best foot forward, Tanner said.

Each session, families with home-schooled children visit lawmakers in the Statehouse.

They testify about benefits of learning in the home under the guidance of their parents.

Horror stories that might spark legislative involvement aren't on display, he said.

In addition, Tanner said, populism still thrives in Kansas.

He said lawmakers are happy, in certain situations, to respect a family's right to decide what is in the best interests of its children.

Education is a prime example of that sentiment, he said.

"You're not going to get any excitement to pass any statute that further regulates this business," he said. "It would be a long, arduous struggle to regulate that. We wouldn't have a chance."

Randy Weseman, interim superintendent of Lawrence public schools, said the bottom line in Topeka was money.

State education officials say 20,000 children are attending home schools in Kansas.

If the state required all to enroll in a public school, Weseman said, where would the state come up with the $3,820 per student in state aid it would have to pay to local districts?

Does the state have a $76 million nest egg?

"They won't touch it," Weseman said.

But he said the Lawrence district was feeling the pinch of more parents enrolling their children in private institutions or placing them in home-school settings.

"That's impacting our projections," he said.

This fall, the district's enrollment was 142 students below last year's tally and nearly 250 students below projected enrollment for this year.

State funding to the district is determined by a complex formula based on enrollment.

If the enrollment drop is permanent in Lawrence, the district could lose more than $450,000 annually.

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