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This bill will not be going any further this year. It did not receive the necessary motions to go to a vote in committee.
House Bill 1027- Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA).
Rep. Mike Reynolds
Initial thoughts: If this bill passes it will go into effect for the next school year. Some parents could use the money of the OSA to homeschool once they are qualified under OSA.
To be eligible for OSA you must 1) reside in OK, 2)total family income not exceed 250% of federal poverty level (Less thanthis amount for family of 4=$57,625; 6=$77,425; 8=$97,225) and either a) entering Kindergarten and enrolled in public school; or b) was enrolled in public school prior year and school received a "C", "D" or"F" grade; or received an OSA scholarship the prior year (won't be effective until 2014) , 3) apply for admission in an eligible private school or has submitted evidence that the student will be homeschooled, and 4)has applied for a scholarship before Sept. 1.
Problems/concerns with this bill:
1) The bill uses "homeschooling" or "home schooled" multiple times. While this term is occasionally used under Oklahoma law the better legal term would be "other means of education."
2) While students who are currently enrolled in the public school could be eligible to decide to homeschool their children, there could a problem with the second option. This option would allow any parent of child entering kindergarten to potentially be eligible for the OSA. However, they have to enroll their child in the public school and then pull them out. This would seem to lead to a situation of uncertainty within the public school. A local public school could see a sudden increase of parents enrolling their children in the public school and then a week before September see all these children be pulled out. This would seem to put class/teacher planning into a potential limbo. In addition, requiring enrollment in the public school automatically places your child in the government database where they can be tracked via the P-20 initiative, which would require additional yearly accountability and some form of regulation.
3) To be eligible to use the OSA money for homeschooling "evidence" would have to be submitted to the State Department of Education. There is no explanation of what that evidence would need to be. Under this bill the DOE would have to develop and establish what they would deem as acceptable proof. Given the diversity of homeschooling, the evidence should be broad.
4) Under the bill a parent eligible for the OSA award would get 40% of a complex funding formula. Based on the average per pupil expenditure of 2009 (about $7800) this amount could be about $3,120. The problem is that this money is paid directly to the parent. While the bill makes sure that this will money will not be counted as income, it is uncertain on how the courts will treat this money when a parent uses the money for religious materials. Current Oklahoma Constitution Article II, Section 5 states: "No public money shall ever be...used directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system or religion or for the use, benefit or support of any...religious teacher...." In short, what the government pays for, the government has the right to control. Since this is just a voucher program, it would seem questionable whether this bill could pass muster. It certainly would likely face opposition and court challenge. Since money is paid directly to families, a negative ruling could cause them to have to repay that money.
5) Finally, in order to initiate payments, homeschool parents would have to provide verification of homeschool before the first payment. Each additional payment would require verification that the student is still being homeschooled. As stated above, there is nothing to indicate what that verification would entail. As written the DOE would have todevelop policies and procedures that homeschool parents would be required to meet. These could change from year to year.
As this bill is written HSLDA would oppose this bill. It is a voucher and could lead to unknown regulations/procedures for those who accept this money.
While written with good intentions, we know that government money does not come without strings attached. Rep. Reynolds made a statement at the Town Hall, which brought thunderous applause. He stated that he believed that all schools, public, private and homeschools should be free from government control and intrusion. If that is so, then why would he also want to offer government money? With money comes control and intrusion, pure and simple. We need to send a polite, but clear message that money in the form of vouchers is not the best way to help homeschool families simply because of the government strings attached.
Rep. Reynolds has been a friend to home education and it is not our intention to hinder that relationship. We simply disagree with this particular method of "helping" the homeschool community.
This bill has been assigned to the Budgets and Appropriations Committee. We are not sure at this point which sub committee in which it will land. We are assuming the Common Ed Committee. Rep. Denney has told us that she does not want to hear any homeschool bills in her committee, but if forced to, she will do her best to oppose it.
Please respectfully and politely express your thoughts to Rep. Reynolds and to the committee using the contact information below.
Rep. Mike Reynolds:
House Bill 1906- Extracurricular activities (HSLDAInsights)
THIS BILL WILL NOT BE GOING ANY FURTHER AS IT DID NOT RECEIVE THE NECESSARY MOTIONS TO GO TO VOTE IN COMMITTEE.
1) Applies to children 5 to 21. Currently under OSSAA Rule 1 any student who reaches his/her nineteenth birthday before September 1 will not be eligible for athletic competition. Any student who reaches his/her twenty-first birthday before September 1 will not be eligible for non-athletic extra curricular activities. Minor point-bill says “on o rbefore September 1” while OSSAA Rule says “before September 1.”
2) Bill states that “eligibility of an individual child to participate in extra curricular activities shall be determined in accordance with school district eligibility rules and policies which are applicable to all other children.” Notwithstanding that further down in the bill it prohibits school districts being part of an association that “discriminates in any manner against a student that is being educated by other means and is not enrolled in a public or private school.” Currently school districts are the ones that apply the rules/policies for eligibility to participate within the OSSAA system.
3) As mentioned above, this bill will prohibit school districts from being part of an association (i.e. OSSAA) that “discriminates” against a student that is not enrolled in public or private school. Discrimination, in a legal context, involves a protected class(i.e. race, gender, age, etc.). Homeschooling is generally not a protected class nor do we want to be considered as such.
4) While the bill is rather vague about what requirements a homeschool/other means of education student would have to do to be eligible (left up to the school district) it will at the least, require a student to provide proof of residency.
As far as the overall issue of extracurricular activities, these are some of the concerns HSLDA has:
1) Bill is too vague as to what is going to be required for a student to be eligible. Current OSSAA regulations require the following:
a. 90% attendance in class,
b. Passing grade in any five subjects to be counted for graduation in that last semester,
c. Eligibility checks are made after three weeks of a semester to maintain eligibility, and
d. Seniors must be enrolled in at least four classes.
How are these requirements going to play out for homeschool students?
1) It would seems likely that extensive rules would be needed to address these issues. Most likely this would have to happen at the OSSAA level. It is uncertain whether OSSAA would understand the true diversity of homeschool programs and it could lead to rather draconian requirements for homeschool school students to demonstrate scholastic eligibility.
2) Of the 10 states that have no reporting/testing requirements like Oklahoma, only one has a right to participate in extracurricular activities (AK). However, even then the program must be accredited by a recognized accrediting body. We know of no homeschool students who have been able to participate in sports.
a. In ID homeschool students have a right to dual enroll and then participate in anypublic school program including nonacademic activities. The parent determines academic eligibility according to state law.
b. In IL, a homeschool student “may” enroll part-time to participate. The school board has the power to accept these students and the IHSA allows the district to determine whether a homeschool student can participate in interscholastic activities.
c. MI states that to participate in extracurricular activities a student should be enrolled part-time in school. However, MHSAA eligibility rules require a student to be taking at least 66% of a full credit load in the public school to be eligible to play sports.
d. MO might allow a student to enroll part-time in public school but hasn’t been tested in court. MSHSAA requires the student to be enrolled in at least 80% of the course load which virtually excludes homeschoolers.
e. In NJ the NJSIAA does allow homeschoolers to participate in sports but they have to 1)reside in the district, 2) obtain approval from school board and principal, 3)demonstrate they are academically qualified and receiving an equivalent education, and 4) comply with all other requirements imposed on other members of team.
f. CT, IN, OK and TX have no option whatsoever to participate in extracurricular activities as a homeschool student.
3) Even though voluntary, there is concern that implementing a “right” to participate in extracurricular activities could lead to regulation of the overall homeschool community. As seen above there is really no state that allows participation without either enrolling in the public school or demonstrating that the student’s educational program is either accredited or equivalent to that of the public school program.
4) HSLDA is generally neutral on extracurricular activities unless there is evidence that a bill would harm the homeschool community in general. At this pointin time, it is impossible to determine whether there could be any harm to the general homeschool community given the fact that no other state like Oklahoma has such a statute. What is certain is that additional regulations/polices would have to be implemented after the enactment of this bill.
Again, this bill was written with well-meaning intentions, however, the implications are far-reaching. This is perceived by some legislators as an "entitlement" bill, which is never a good thing. In addition to the possible regulations this could force on homeschool families, the fact that this bill sets up homeschoolers as a protected or privileged class can lead to more problems. While Rep. Cleveland has added a line in the bill, calling for no regulation of homeschools, we know that this cannot stop politicians and bureaucrats whose desire is to control. If you don't think this is true, look at our 2nd and other Amendments to the US Constitution being challenged and ignored right now.
This bill has also been assigned to the Budgets and Appropriations Committee. We are not sure at this point which sub committee in which it will land. We are assuming the Common Ed Committee. Rep. Denney has told us that she does not want to hear any homeschool bills in her committee, but if forced to, she will do her best to oppose it.
Please respectfully and politely express your thoughts to Rep. Cleveland and to the committee using the contact information below.
Rep. Bob Cleveland:
We are providing the following information for you to review and understand why OCHEC is in opposition of equal access bills. As always, OCHEC is supportive of parental choice and does not deny anyone the choice to enroll their children in or participate with the public school. However, as a state organization designed to protect the homeschool freedom we currently enjoy, we must oppose any legislation that would threaten, now or in the future, to regulate homeschooling statewide.
While HB1906 may seem to innocently blanket every child in the state not enrolled in the public schools, we all know that the main population that it would affect would be homeschool students.Oklahoma has a totally unique situation in that it currently has NO regulation on homeschool families whereas ALL the other states where this has worked have invasive regulation already in place.These types of laws (Tebow Law for example) may work well in other states, but those states already have invasive regulations on homeschools and one more regulation really doesn't mean anything to those participating. The question we need to ask is do we in Oklahoma want to open the door to any type of regulation for any reason? Once a door is opened, it cannot be closed back.
It is not the seemingly innocence of the this bill that concerns us, it is the underlying current and interpretation that will cause the problems. Nothing is ever as it seems.The problem with this bill is that it leaves too many questions unanswered. No one, even the author knows what those rules and policies (highlighted below) will be and how they will be implemented.
On October 4th, 2011, there was an Interim Study on Home School Students Involvement in Public Schools (IS-072). An OCHEC representative attended the meeting on short notice but did not participate. However, he did meet with Ed Sheakley, Executive Secretary of OSSAA, in the hallway before the meeting. They agreed that there was no middle ground to be found and that we may well find ourselves in the unusual position of both opposing a bill although for different reason. Here's a recap of the meeting.
Rep. Blackwell, two homeschool families, the Fishers of Hooker and the Arthoughts of Keys had multiple children talk about how great homeschooling is. Roger Fisher stated he would be willing to turn in a weekly pass/fail report. He reported that22 other states allow participation (and they are all regulated where Oklahoma is not). Sited Tim Tebow and Alabama. Scott Arthought stated that other states have conquered this issue and would he be open to verification.
Rep. Blackwell opened with a commitment to work with both sides and that he would not push any legislation at the embarrassment of either side. He then introduced Ed Sheackley of the OSSAA. He stated that there needs to be a level playing field, high standard applied to both public and homeschool students.He questioned how the district could address that the homeschool student is a legal student, comply with 1080 hours of attendance, weekly grade checks, student conduct rules, residency and transfers, the age and grade rules, the need for oversight and accountability.He also questioned how it would be funded.He believes there is very little oversight in homeschooling and there would be a need to validate that oversight.
Randy Holley, Superintendent, Shaddack, questioned how to prove eligibility, brought up bad homeschoolers that would take advantage of the system, would need enforceable regulations. He believesthe state needs to regulate first, then provide eligibility.
Steve Cochran, Athletic Director, Lawton, said that allowing homeschoolers would disrupt the sense of family and community of a team, there would be no school pride, questioned attendance issues, says geography - transfer issues are already a nightmare,concerned about dishonest parents and that this would be an opening to discriminate against homeschoolers.
Rep. Blackwell, regained the floor and used Alabama and Florida (again, states that already have invasive regulations) as examples of how parents contract to voluntary verification. He would be in favor of not allowing public school students that begin homeschooling to be eligible. Floated the idea that maybe only rural student be allowed.
The following were questions from the committee members: Would private schools be forced to accept homeschoolers for activities? Stated virtual students are not eligible because they must be on sight. Questioned how to define compliance. Questioned liability insurance as only available to enrolled students.
Bottom line is, if they regulate one, they will find a way to regulate all. You can see in the highlighted comments above how the public school administration and faculty feel about oversight, regulation, eligibility, and validation. They are not going to stop at a voluntary verification.
While the author of the bill can make it as benign as possible now, there are no guarantees that it won't evolve into something invasive and burdensome in years to come. We don't know what kind of eligibility rules and policies will be required, as you can read, that is up to each school district. There will be no standard policy across the state because each school district operates independently. However, if you continue reading, you will see that there will be a push from public school educators and administration for state regulation of homeschoolers before accountability can be determined. Once a school has one or two of your children in their system will it give them cause to find an excuse to pull the rest in as well? HSLDA has warned us of other states in which this very thing does happen.
While we do not want to appear fearful, there is a difference in living in fear and walking in wisdom or being wise as serpents in avoiding any possible threat to our homeschool freedom.
Besides the possible regulation issues, this bill raises many more questions than it has answers. For example, when including a virtual school student, is it possible for that student to be enrolled in one school district and play sports for another? Whose eligibility rules would apply there?
What about insurance? Who is responsible for that?
If it is free, who is going to pay for it? We all know that nothing is truly free and the school doesn't get any money for my child unless I enroll him in their school district. Free always has strings attached.
If the OSSAA is forced, through this law, to allow homeschool students to participate in their sports teams, what is going to keep them from turning the tables and forcing us to allow public school students to join the Knights or any other homeschool sports team?
Last December, changes were made in the ability-to-benefit provisions of Federal Title IV financial aid. Many institutions and state departments of education throughout the nation interpreted these changes to mean that homeschool students were not eligible. Oklahoma was one of those states. After extensive communication with the financial aid departments of over 150 institutions in Oklahoma, they now understand those interpretations to be false. If you are trying to enroll your student in a vocational/tehcnical school, college, or university, please be aware of this law and the correct meaning. The following information should be helpful to you if you run into any opposition.
From the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) website:
Clarifying the ATB Eligibility of Home Schooled Students
When Congress passed the 2012 budget bill last December, it eliminated the ability-to-benefit (ATB) provisions as an alternative to the high school diploma for the purpose of establishing a student's eligibility for Title IV aid. The ATB provisions allowed students to establish academic credentials for student aid eligibility either by passing an approved test, or by earning 6 credit hours or the equivalent coursework that are applicable toward a degree or certificate offered by the institution.
This change does not affect the eligibility of home-schooled students. Home schooling was never considered a form of ability to benefit, but rather an alternative in its own right to the high school diploma or its recognized equivalent.
The law now reads: "In order for a student who does not have a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such certificate, to be eligible for any [Title IV] assistance..., the student shall have completed a secondary school education in a home school setting that is treated as a home school or private school under State law."
In Dear Colleague Letter GEN-12-01, the Department of Education gave its interpretation of the revised law: "Therefore, students who do not have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent (e.g.,GED), or do not meet the home school requirements, and who first enroll in a program of study on or after July 1, 2012, will not be eligible to receive Title IV student aid."
Therefore, home schooled students should remain eligible for aid, provided that they meet their state’s home schooling requirements.
Publication Date: 3/5/2012
March 1, 2012
Does My High School Grad Need a GED
in Order to Receive Federal Student Aid for College?
William A. Estrada, Esq.
Director of Federal Relations
There’s an urban legend circulating around the internet. No, it’s not someone who wants your bank account info so they can send you $10 million for safekeeping. It’s a pronouncement that due to a recently enacted federal law, effective July 1, 2012, homeschool graduates will no longer be eligible for federal student aid for college unless they have a GED.
Just like every urban legend, there is some truth to it. Congress made significant changes to federal student aid eligibility in December of 2011. These changes are effective July 1, 2012. But homeschoolers now need a GED? Nothing could be further from the truth. Homeschool students were specifically exempted from the changes, meaning they can continue to receive federal student aid for college just like in the past.
Unfortunately, after some investigative work from HSLDA’s super sleuths, we have determined that numerous colleges and universities received this erroneous information from some education think tanks and organizations that provide guidance to college and university student aid offices. Without looking at the law—or even guidance from the U.S. Department of Education—certain colleges and universities simply told homeschoolers they will no longer be eligible for federal student aid unless they have a GED.
Congress made no changes to homeschool eligibility. What the law actually says is, “In order for a student … to be eligible for any [federal financial] assistance … the student shall have completed a secondary school education in a home school setting that is treated as a home school or private school under State law.” (20 U.S.C. 1091(d), as amended by Public Law 112-74).
HSLDA sent a detailed letter to the U.S. Department of Education. We explained the situation, and asked the Department to send guidance to colleges and universities. While the Department works on a response, we encourage you to send our letter (available here) to any college or university that tells you this urban legend. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education has put guidance on its webpage that makes it very clear that homeschool students are still fully eligible for federal financial aid.
Homeschoolers excel in college. Congress recognizes this and intentionally made no changes to the eligibility of homeschool students for federal student aid. Please let HSLDA’s Federal Relations Department know if you come across any colleges or universities that persist in claiming that homeschool students need a GED in order to be eligible for federal financial aid. You can reach us at email@example.com or 540-338-5600.