N.D. Lawmakers Allow Parents With High School Diploma to Homeschool

The North Dakota House voted Friday to give final legislative approval to a bill that allows a parent with a high school diploma or a general equivalency diploma to homeschool their children without supervision.

State representatives voted 51-38 to approve the Senate's version of HB 1171 after senators had voted 27-20 on Monday to pass the measure. The bill now goes to Gov. John Hoeven to be signed.

Dubbed by supporters as the "Homeschool Freedom Bill," the legislation would loosen current state standards that require homeschooling parents to hold at least a bachelor's degree to provide unsupervised instruction at home.

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The bill also eliminates the requirement of a monitor for home education and the requirement that home education be conducted in the home.

Parents who don't have at least a high school education or higher can still supervise the homeschooling of their children but must be monitored for the first two years.

"I do believe that the home school association has proven that they have been able to manage themselves and do quite well, and that their students are doing quite well," said Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch (R-Mandan), the chairwoman of the House Education Committee, according to The Associated Press.

James Bartlett, executive director of North Dakota Home School Association, said homeschoolers are very happy that the bill has been passed but said there is still work to be done.

"It's still just one step toward a full de-regulation of homeschooling to acknowledge the right of parents to direct education without state interference," Bartlett told The Christian Post, saying the ideal case would be to have no set education requirement for homeschooling parents.

An earlier version of the bill that set no state supervision of homeschooling families had been passed by the House in February. But the Senate had made changes to the bill, adding the highschool and GED diploma requirements.

But even with the Senate revisions to the bill, several legislators objected to relaxing homeschool regulations.

"In a time we are asking [licensed] classroom teachers to become more and more qualified, we're lowering this to a high school diploma," said Rep. Lois Delmore (D-Grand Forks), according to the Grand Forks Herald. "If we want children in home schools to continue to do well, I think we need some training qualifications."

Bartlett, however, argued that regulation in education does not necessarily mean better student performance in standardized testing of reading, writing and mathematics.

"Where we have the highest regulation is in the public schools and there the student achievement is 30 percent lower than that of homeschoolers in the state," said Bartlett, citing research by Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute. "There's a false perception that regulation has something to do with student achievement."

Once the governor signs the "Homeschool Freedom Bill," North Dakota will join nine other states that require parents to have a high school diploma or GED before they can teach their children at home, according to Home School Legal Defense Association, a Christian-based advocacy organization for homeschoolers. Forty-one states do not require homeschooling parents to possess a high school diploma or GED, the organization reported.

The debate over state oversight of homeschool education is expected to return during the 2011 Legislative session when the bill expires.

Bartlett said his organization would support a future effort to make the legislation permanent.

Christian Post reporter Elena Garcia contributed to this report.

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