About five years ago, lawmakers in New Hampshire approved a series of changes to improve their citizens’ access to homeschooling, but they now appear to be preparing to roll back those improvements.
And it’s generated considerable controversy, since one legislator opposing homeschooling called it “child abuse.”
Which wasn’t received well by another lawmaker whose children mostly have graduated from the family’s homeschool, and have gone to top-tier colleges.
The Home School Legal Defense Association is reporting on the situation, as it was involved in the improvements back in 2012.
Besides “child abuse,” homeschooling there also has been condemned with comments like, “Half the kids are failing to learn,” and “it’s a floodgate for dropouts,” HSLDA reported.
“Recent comments like these reveal antagonism toward homeschool among certain factions in the New Hampshire legislature, explaining why we appear headed toward a legislative battle over homeschool freedoms,” the group revealed Friday.
It said reports are that three lawmakers are preparing plans to “roll back improvements,” and discussion already has begun.
“Witnesses tell us that in an executive session on a controversial bill relating to banning ‘conversion therapy’ for children experiencing gender confusion, senior Democratic lawmaker Marjorie Porter categorically compared homeschooling to child abuse,” the HSLDA said.
“Although the executive session in the New Hampshire House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Services on October 26 was not recorded, sources who were present told Home School Legal Defense Association that they were shocked to hear the legislator’s comments, especially in that context.
“Others told HSLDA that Rep. William Marsh, a Republican member of the committee whose four oldest children graduated from the family’s homeschool and went on to top-tier colleges, and whose youngest is homeschooling through high school, told Rep. Porter that he considered her comments equating homeschooling with child abuse as a personal affront. He subsequently received a public apology from Rep. Porter, who is assistant minority floor leader in the House,” the report said.
The organization explained before 2012, homeschooling families had to file annual notices as well as assessments, but since then have been required to do only a one-time notice.
Those steps forward were part of a nationwide move to reduce extraneous rules for homeschoolers, and the HSLDA reported there have been no reports of problems as a result.
The Union Leader reports that it sees “another battle” brewing over homeschooling.
The legislative plan it sees as sparking the trouble is one that, again, would require a third-party review of student progress.
Michelle Levell, director of the private nonprofit School Choice for New Hampshire, says group members are already up in arms, and the bill has yet to be printed.
The crackdown is being pushed by Rep. Robert Theberge, R-Berlin.
The newspaper, and the HSLDA, both reported he has been “declining” to return calls or emails for weeks already.
However, two cosponsors say the bill was prompted by Berlin School District Supt. Corinne Cascadden, who has, according to Democrat Edith Tucker, “very grave doubts about whether half of Berlin’s homeschooled students are getting educated.”
“She (Cascadden) believes that there are some 45 youngsters who are not enrolled in public or private or church schools, whose parents do not make any effort to educate them at all,” Tucker told the newspaper in an email. “Not only are these neglected youngsters not getting the education they deserve, but they are also missing out on free and reduced breakfast and lunches and other social services.”
Levell, however, said there’s simply no evidence, which means the law, “is a solution in search of a problem.”
Cascadden reportedly told a homeschooling parent that she, as superintendent, wants access to information required to determine a “child’s welfare.”
George D’Orazio, chairman of the state’s Home Education Advisory Council, says that though he understands the concerns raised by Cascadden and others, changing the law won’t address the problem.
“Basically what’s going to happen if this passes is that the changes in the law that were made in 2012 will be undone, and I’m absolutely opposed to that,” he said. “I can’t take a position as chairman of HEAC, but as a homeschooler and member of Catholics United for Home Education I’m absolutely opposed because I think it’s unnecessary.”