Tomorrow afternoon, Jane Cunningham’s, SB706, an educational reform bill, will be heard in committee, and there may be something in the content of this 37 page bill that could affect your homeschooling freedoms
The bill is a conglomeration of Race To The Top elements which include the foundation to establish statewide charter schools, longitudinal data systems, and controlled curriculum (common core standards). It takes away local control of schools and promotes control under the federal Department of Education. In short, in an effort to address inadequacies in city schools, the state is establishing a reform that could affect future autonomy of homeschoolers who utilize virtual programs.
What does this mean to homeschoolers? This bill’s foundation promotes the ability for students in unaccredited urban districts to attend schools, in adjoining districts. The state intends to “equalize” financial discrepancy by awarding scholarships, to circumvent the Blaine amendment, which prohibits public money to go to religous schools, or tax credits to the districts that accept the transferring students.
Virtual schools, another component of Race To The Top will affect any homeschool families that enroll in virtual school programs. The present bill states,
A student may enroll in the virtual courses or programs offered by any virtual education provider or school district in Missouri that meets the standards of the department of elementary and secondary education and is accredited. The department may offer its own virtual courses or programs. Any student who enrolls in a virtual course or program under this section shall be considered a public school student and shall take the components of the statewide assessments under section 160.518 that relate to the virtual course or program in which they are enrolled.
So, no longer will homeschool students, who enroll in virtual education under these parameters, maintain autonomy by enrolling in these programs. Additionally, they will be required to submit to testing/assessments which will be aligned with the common core standards that the state has already adopted.
As a public school student, homeschoolers enrolled in virtual programs must comply with the release of information to the director of the department of economic development including, but not limited to your student’s participation as a scholarship recipient and testing results for state wide assessments.
There is no specific evaluation criteria listed in the bill as to how the DED use this information to qualify the use of tax credits issued for educational purposes? Why is this information going to the DED and not the State Board of Education or the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education? Will your children’s assessments and testing be used to track them into specific career tracks? How will it be funneled into national longitudinal data systems?
The funding mechanism of this bill is complex. The fact remains, once you dip your toes into the public pool, and public money, you will be obligated to comply with the mandates that go along with the benefit of accepting the public money.
While Cunningham’s bill addresses urban schools, and districts adjoining them, there are several additional bills in this legislative session that address the operation of charter schools. How long will it be before the effects of SB706 spread across the state?