by Gennel Zimmerman
For the last 5 years, I have been a home educating mother of four. One of the aspects of being a responsible home educating family is the diligence that we employ to keeping up with homeschool law in our state. Pennsylvania has some of the most restrictive, burdensome home school laws in the United States: laws that burden families, students, and school administrators who have to keep up with our growing numbers. While I have very much appreciated our district’s administration in their support of our family’s homeschool structure, it seems apparent to our family that Pennsylvania’s home school laws need a fresh look after over 25 years since enactment.
We’ve come a long way since then and it is time for the law to be amended in more support of our students. There is legislation currently under consideration by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that I’d be honored to share with the community at large, with home educating families, and with those who are employed by public schools. House Bill 1013 would address three parts of the current, outdated law that need to be changed to lessen the burden on the districts and superintendents, as well as the evaluators and parents that choose to home educate in Pennsylvania.
The new law would allow for one evaluation by a licensed, clinical or school psychologist or a teacher certified by the Commonwealth, or by an administrator, and would remove the onus on the school districts’ superintendents to review the same material. It is also a benefit of the law, as in other states, that a superintendent would not be able to disregard the first evaluation in favor of his own review, thus removing a so-called double jeopardy of requiring two evaluations of these students.
This bill also allows for the diploma given upon completion of the graduation requirements to stand in the same recognition as the diplomas issued by public schools.
Lastly, I’ve been informed by Homeschool Legal Defense that current law provides for an administrative hearing only to resolve the issue of whether the homeschool student is receiving an appropriate education. Other issues of administrative noncompliance must be resolved by judicial proceedings in the form of truancy charges against the parent. Such criminal charges used to resolve questions such as whether the parent included all the required information in an affidavit are draconian and inappropriate. The law should be changed to permit such paperwork discrepancies to be resolved at an administrative hearing conducted by the school district. In connection with this, the home education program should be permitted to continue during the time of any appeal of the hearing examiner’s ruling.
I hope that many citizens will support today’s excellent home educated students in our state, by telephoning or contacting your state representatives and asking them to support House Bill 1013. The job we do to best support our students is one we do not take lightly. All of the parents I know who home educate pour themselves daily into the education of their students at home, with some amazing resources and curriculum. We would much appreciate the support of the community in the excellent job we and our students do, often attracting the attention of the best colleges in the nation, and often earning the highest accolades for the accomplishments of our remarkable students.
*This article was written for the Reading Eagle although a shorter version was printed.