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Parent teachers want less intrusion

December 30, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO - Parents who home school their children in Pennsylvania want less intrusion from the state Department of Education, but a law that would have done that failed to pass the Legislature last month, State Rep. Pat Fleagle said.

The bill, which would have relaxed many of the mandates of Pennsylvania's 14-year-old home-schooling law, failed to make it out of the House before the 2002 legislative session ended Nov. 30, Fleagle said.

"I think we'll see it come back in some form next year," Fleagle, R-Pa, said.

School districts oppose the bill.

"It's important to ensure that all children get educated," said Shanna McClintock, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

She said home schoolers need to be monitored by the state to see that their children meet standards.

Fleagle said Pennsylvania led the nation in home-schooling legislation in 1988.

"Now it's one of the most restrictive states for parents who teach their children at home," he said.

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There are safeguards in the law to guarantee home-schooled children get a proper education, but there is a bias in it, he said.

"I have no problem with students who are home schooled taking standardization tests," Fleagle said.

They almost always score higher than students in public schools, he said.

The law, had it passed, would have dropped the rule that parents keep records of their children's work, obtain year-end evaluations from a teacher, administrator or other state-certified evaluator or have their children undergo standardized testing. It would require only that students receive a minimum 180 days of instruction and that certain subjects be taught in certain grade levels.

"Parents who home school their children in Franklin County are very disciplined and knowledgeable. They care about their children and their track record proves it," Fleagle said.

About 550 students in Franklin County are home schooled, according to state education department statistics. They include 242 in the Chambersburg Area School District, 131 in the Waynesboro Area School District, 87 in Greencastle-Antrim, 78 in Tuscarora and 13 in Fannett-Metal.

Statewide, more than 24,000 students are taught at home.

The total number has increased every year since passage of the home-schooling law in 1988.

Mary Hudzinski, administrator for the 110-family Mason Dixon Homeschoolers Association Inc. in Waynesboro, has home schooled eight of her children. She was among several home schoolers from across the state who spoke in support of the bill before legislative committees.

"Every parent should be distressed over the failure of this bill to pass because it acknowledges parental authority over the education of their children," she said.

Hudzinski sees state control as an ideological issue among home-schooling parents.

The state doesn't recognize that parents are the authority over their children's education, she said.

"The legislators see themselves as the owner of our children. They're granting us the right to educate them."

She said a teacher in a public school decides which students should pass on to the next grade. The same is not true for parents who home school, Hudzinski said.

"We have to hire an evaluator to interview our children and then submit a report to the public school system to accept or reject," she said.

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