By Michelle Levell
An estimated 600 homeschool supporters turned out yesterday afternoon to oppose House Bill 1263 (HB 1263), a bill that would roll-back the annual reporting requirement. Nearly every seat in Representatives’ Hall was taken, the anteroom and upstairs gallery were filled, and families spilled out into the hallway. The Sargent at Arms limited who could enter the chamber, leaving one state representative’s wife and children stranded by the elevator.
The public hearing lasted over three-and-a-half hours, with only two people speaking to support the bill: Representative Edith Tucker (Coos 5), one of the sponsors, and Berlin superintendent, Dr. Corinne Cascadden. Per a Union Leader article, HB 1263 was introduced by four Representatives in the Berlin area at the superintendent’s request. In the article, Dr. Cascadden is reported to suspect roughly half of the homeschoolers in her district are not being educated. In the hearing she repeated these concerns and connected it to child neglect and substance abuse problems although homeschooling is not a risk factor for abuse.
Dr. Cascadden’s remarks were also uninformed about existing homeschool accountability requirements and mechanisms that allow districts to address concerns. Current compulsory attendance and truancy laws authorize local SAUs to investigate concerns of educational neglect or homeschool reporting on a case-by-case basis. Some homeschoolers choose to satisfy their year-end assessment requirements through teacher evaluations. This is an opportunity for teachers to report any suspected abuse or neglect because teachers are mandatory reporters. These mechanisms are already in place without the additional regulatory burden of HB 1263.
Dozens of families spoke against the additional paperwork requirements imposed in HB 1263. They told heartfelt stories about their children’s successses in home education, struggles in the public-school system, and that their learning cannot be measured by annual assessments. They also were critical of district school officials that would impose standards on them without being able to meet comparable standards in their own schools.
The bill attempts to address concerns about homeschool students “falling through the cracks.” However, HB 1263 does nothing to address those concerns. Any law that impacts an entire population in hopes of addressing outliers, is faulty legislation.
The House Education Committee did not vote on the bill yesterday. Their custom is to schedule an exec session a week or two later at which time they may decide to support (Ought to Pass) or oppose (Inexpedient to Legislate) the bill, or amend it.
For more information about HB 1263, read Homeschool Freedom Threatened.