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D.C. Backs Off Plan to Make Superintendent the 'Head' of All Home Schools

"There is simply no need for home schools to be included in this new rule.”

In this Feb. 20, 2013, file photo fifth-grader Daniel Slotten reads for comprehension during an exam that reflects new literacy standards for the Common Core initiative at a Westview Elementary School class in Apple Valley, Minn. Some states are pushing back against the new set of uniform benchmarks for reading, writing and math that replace a hodgepodge of of goals that had varied wildly from state to state and are being widely implemented this school year in most states. (AP Photo/The St. Paul Pioneer Press, John Doman, File)

The Washington, D.C., public school system has relented on a plan to put the superintendent in charge of all home schools in the District, after strong objections from home-school advocates and parents.

An early draft of new graduation guidelines released Nov. 25 said that “in the case of private instruction where a student is home-schooled, the ‘head of the educational institution’ would be the State Superintendent of Education.”

A home-school advocacy association believes things like the Common Core standards could lead to discrimination of students educated in this way. (Photo credit: Shutterstock) Photo credit: Shutterstock

That is no longer the case, said Victoria Holmes, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

“There has been a change to the regulations – in our second round of proposed graduation regulations, which we are trying to have published in the D.C. Register next Friday, home-schooling is no longer in the authority section,” Holmes told TheBlaze.

The proposed rules are based on setting minimum standards for graduation from public schools in the District of Columbia; initially, the rules stated that both home schools and private schools could fall under the purview of the D.C. government.

The draft rule initially said:

Head of the Educational Institution’ means the legal entity or designated representative with authority to act on behalf of the educational institution in an official manner,” says the draft of the rule. “In the case of D.C. Public Schools, the ‘head of the educational institution’ of the educational institution would be the Chancellor. In the case of a charter school, the ‘head of the educational institution’ may be the charter authorizer or an authorized representative of the charter authorizer. In the case of a private school, the ‘head of the educational institution’ may be the president, the board, or any legal entity with the authority to act on behalf of the educational institution in an official manner. In the case of private instruction where a student is home-schooled, the ‘head of the educational institution’ would be the State Superintendent of Education.

The Home School Legal Defense Association was among those to raise strong objections. Staff attorney Mike Donnelly told TheBlaze that school officials initially told him the rule affecting home schools was a “drafting error,” which he was skeptical about. Donnelly said he didn’t know what practical effect of making the superintendent the “head” of home schools would have, but said it was suspicious that the home school community wasn't notified of the proposed change.

“They keep making all these drafting errors,” Donnelly said. “They should talk to the experts before they draft.”

Donnelly estimates there are about 500 home-schooled students in Washington, D.C. While not a large number, Donnelly said his organization is interested in protecting the rights of all home-school parents and students.

Ethan Reedy, president of the D.C. Home Educators Association, said in a written statement before D.C. Public Schools dropped the plan that he was sent a copy of the regulations after they were already written, with no chance for input.

“The department certainly knows who I am, and no one ever contacted me to ask my point of view,” Reedy said. “Home-schoolers in the district have a complete chapter in the law that lays out the requirements in great detail. There is simply no need for home schools to be included in this new rule.”

Holmes, the superintendent’s spokeswoman, said she worked closely with the Home School Legal Defense Fund and with Reedy to find an agreeable solution to the proposed rule.

“The examples included in the definition of head of educational institution have been struck,” Holmes said. “The definition in the second round of proposed is as follows: ‘Head of the Educational Institution’ means the legal entity or designated representative with authority to act on behalf of the educational institution in an official manner.”

If approved, the rules would take effect for the graduating class of 2016 and require students to earn 24 credits to get a D.C.-issued diploma, requiring every D.C. student to receive a college preparation program.

The goal of the draft rules are to “ensure that all students graduate with the knowledge, skills and work habits that will prepare them for postsecondary education and modern careers.”

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