Bill that would end district-level review of homeschooling in Pennsylvania goes to Corbett

| Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

State legislators approved a homeschooling bill that eliminates the need for school superintendents to weigh in on whether students are receiving an appropriate education.

Under current law, parents hire an evaluator every year to interview the child, review a portfolio of the child's work and certify whether the child is receiving an appropriate education. The portfolio and evaluator's assessment are submitted for review to the superintendent of the child's school district, who issues a determination of whether the family is in compliance with the homeschooling law.

House Bill 1013, among other changes, removes the requirement that portfolios be turned in to the school district for review and requires the superintendent to accept an evaluator's assessment that appropriate education is taking place.

“It was overkill,” said Dewitt Black, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which championed this and other versions of House Bill 1013 for close to 10 years. “The extra step created a double-jeopardy situation for homeschooling families and more administrative work for school superintendents. We're really pleased with the support this time around.”

The Senate passed the bill last week in a 37-11 vote. House members concurred 129-68 this week, sending the bill to Gov. Tom Corbett.

“By removing superintendents from the evaluation process, they have removed a critical level of accountability, leaving too many homeschooled children at the whim of neglectful parents and derelict evaluators,” said R.L. Stollar, spokesman for the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit.

Stollar called on Corbett to veto the bill, alleging many paid portfolio evaluators are relatives or friends of the student's family.

Black said, “It's not like that family can choose just anyone. Qualifications for evaluators are mandated by state law.”

Research presented by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators during testimony against the bill in March found inadequate homeschool educational programs were twice as likely to be identified during the superintendent review stage than during the initial evaluation stage.

Pennsylvania is one of nearly a dozen states with portfolio options in their homeschool laws. Advocates on both sides contend the second review puts Pennsylvania's among the most strict, second only to New York, which requires additional oversight from local superintendents.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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