Your Views for February 13

Bill ‘alarming’

As the founder and president of the Hawaii Homeschool Network, I am deeply concerned about three recently proposed bills regarding home schooling in Hawaii. In particular, I want to discuss Senate Bill 2323.

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Current law requires families who intend to home school inform their local school via letter or 4140 form, submit yearly progress reports and participate in yearly testing. It is my understanding that the new proposed law would require background checks, potential home visits, and approval from a superintendent to home school.

Requiring criminal background checks of current home-schooling families who are law abiding is costly and unnecessary, as those aren’t the families this law intends to wrangle. Home visits are a clear invasion of privacy.

Finally, approval from a local principal would be a burden on the school because it takes away the valuable time and focus needed for all the keiki who are enrolled at their school.

As a Department of Education and charter school employee in an alternative program, I understand the already present challenges with chasing families down for paperwork when they don’t follow through with required documents to follow home school law.

The simple fact is that the current law is suitable, and the problem is that the families don’t abide by it.

The two children that are referenced in the law were likely not even home-schoolers — did they submit formal letters and/or 4140 forms, along with yearly reports and testing? If so, I would like to see the documented proof of their home-schooling declarations.

My recommendation would be to require this new law be enacted to only provide consequences for those who do not abide by the current home-schooling law, as opposed to all home-schoolers.

SB2323 is an obvious financial burden on schools and Child Welfare Services for oversight that likely would require many tax dollars to be rerouted from a highly needed public education budget. Why waste taxpayer dollars to investigate law-abiding home-schooling families who have the best interest of their child at heart? This sounds quite frivolous and unfair to public schools that could use the funds.

If the goal is to improve oversight of home-schoolers, I have several suggestions that would be much more inclusive, financially viable and logical.

1. Invite home-schoolers to participate with public education opportunities such as sports, part-time enrollment or after-school activities. This would allow more for oversight of home-schoolers and integration into an education system, as well as more opportunities for contact with other adults who are school staff.

2. Support and develop more home school support programs, including virtual and blended charter schools that encourage families to formally enroll in a public-funded educational program. This would allow families who search for alternatives to public education an opportunity to find a program right for them.

Finally, I must mention that I am perplexed as to how bills of this nature can be composed without any attempt to reach out to our current home-schooling community. As an open and inclusive community, and a formally organized nonprofit, the Hawaii Homeschool Network would have been more than happy to provide information about home-schooling to legislators.

It is very concerning that the population directly affected by this potential law has been excluded from the development of this proposal. The lack of community input is quite alarming.

I am happy to work with our representatives to consult about what would be a positive and inclusive direction for all of our Hawaii home-schooled keiki.

I would hope our Legislature could develop laws that unite as opposed to divide our ohana, which why I strongly oppose SB2323.

Nicole Ryan

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President and founder,

Hawaii Homeschool Network