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Education

Few Regulations For Oklahoma Home-schoolers

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been significantly edited. Several uncorroborated claims were included in the original news piece and they have been removed. We deeply regret these claims were published in the original story prior to verification, specifically, a former homeschool student’s claim that she never finished algebra, her curriculum changed frequently, and her implication that she did not attend class for the required number of days. We regret these claims were in the original story and take responsibility for their inclusion.

Thousands of students in Oklahoma are home-schooled, but the state does not have a system in place to verify the quality of their education. Home-schooling advocates say parents have the right to home-school under Oklahoma law and regulations on home education are not necessary, and many homeschool students thrive.

“It is a fundamental right and responsibility to the parent to educate the child and the state’s responsibility is to obviously ensure that if that is not taking place that there are agencies that step in to ensure that education is taking place,” said TJ Schmidt, a staff attorney for Home School Legal Defense Association.

In Oklahoma, home schooling is considered a right for parents. The state constitution contains a clause that guarantees “other means of education,” provided this education is “in good faith and equivalent in fact to that provided by the State,” according to a 1973 Attorney General’s Opinion.

Schmidt said the Child Protective Services division of the Department of Human Services can, and does, take action in cases where abuse is reported. Schmidt said the state should presume parents are acting in the best interest of their children unless there is substantial reason to believe otherwise.

In 2009, bills in the Oklahoma legislature that would have regulated home schooling died in committee. A spokesperson for the State Department of Education said the agency has no statutory authority over home schooling and declined further comment.

Some former home-schoolers are pushing for more oversight.

Rachel Coleman is the executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a national organization of former home-schooled students that advocates for the needs of home-schooled children. She believes parents should have the choice to home-school, and some do this very well. But the state should ensure a child is receiving adequate education.

“We need to get away from seeing the need for accountability as something that makes somebody a bad person. Needing accountability is just a fact of being human,” Coleman said.

Coleman said parents undertake a huge responsibility when choosing to educate their children. It only makes sense to require oversight for such an important aspect of a child’s development.

“A child’s education sets them up to succeed, or fail, once they reach adulthood,” Coleman said. “While a child can overcome a deprived education, it is a serious drawback to their ability to achieve and it gets in the way of their ability to sort of forge a life for themselves upon adulthood.”

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