There are many examples in Lawrence and elsewhere in Kansas of families who do an outstanding job of educating their children at home. However, the concern of some Kansas State Board of Education members that not all home school situations in the state are beneficial for students seems worthy of further discussion.
The possibility of increased reporting requirements for students who are being home-schooled was raised this week by state board members. Although board chairman David Dennis of Wichita acknowledged that there are many good home schools in the state, he also said he had been told by public-school principals of cases where students were being reported as home-schooled when they actually were being kept at home for other reasons, perhaps to care for younger siblings. In a number of cases, those students would return to public school after a period of time and be woefully behind their classmates because of the lack of instruction at home.
Dennis suggested the board consider legislation to increase state reporting requirements for home schools, which currently have a surprising lack of state oversight. Home schools are included in the non-accredited private-schools category in Kansas. By statute, those schools must register with the state and notify the school that students previously attended of their transfer so they won’t be considered truant. State law also requires students to attend school from the ages of 7 to 18, but provides little way to track the attendance or academic offerings in a home-school setting.
As noted above, many children are receiving a great education at home, but the current lack of state oversight also leaves open the possibility that some children who supposedly are being home-schooled aren’t receiving proper instruction.
A couple of state board members correctly noted that the board shouldn’t move forward on legislation that would set new reporting requirements without further studying the issue, including discussions with home-school families and organizations. The goal of any legislation should be to provide a safety net for children who are receiving inadequate instruction at home, not to upset home schools that are doing a good job.
A number of Kansas families have made the valid choice to educate their children at home. The state should respect that choice, but it also needs to make sure that children who aren’t attending public schools are being educated at home and not being kept out of school for other reasons.