Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states in the United States, as it has been for the past 25 years. Yet from its conception to the present day, it remains a divisive issue, in no small part due to the largely unregulated environment in which it operates.
The media has been largely silent on the debate, with no major news outlets covering either side of the issue. This doesn’t come as a surprise, though, as arguments for or against a certain topic, however solid they might be, are generally reserved for Op-Ed columns. More troubling, however, is their failure to report on the dramatic differences in homeschool regulations by state.
There are numerous success stories of homeschooling parents who have done an excellent job in ensuring their children have received a quality education, as well as numerous stories of children whose homeschool education has been so sub-par it can be classified as educational neglect.
In an article published by ProPublica in August 2015, the wide gaps in regulations are apparent. Eleven states (Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Texas) don’t require parents to notify the local school district that their children will be homeschooled, and most of them also don’t require tests, portfolio reviews, or other assessments of students’ progress as evidence that parents are really teaching anything. While thirty-three states mandate that parents teach certain subjects, twenty-two of these states have no way to verify whether they actually are. In the states where kids are assessed, their low test scores can be used to intervene in homeschooling.
Additionally, most states have no minimum education requirements for parents who choose to homeschool their children. While a few require a high school degree, there is currently no state that requires a parent to have a college degree in order to homeschool their children. Furthermore, in forty-eight of the fifty states, parents or others in the home with a criminal history are legally allowed to homeschool children. Also, state laws requiring school children to be vaccinated don’t generally apply to homeschooled children. While those states that view homeschools as private schools do require immunizations, proof of vaccination is not actually submitted to any authority.
As of January 31, 2017, there has been no corporate media coverage of this issue. The few local or Internet-based outlets that have published about it have done so with a clear pro- or anti- homeschooling bias, and have often only focused on a particular facet of homeschooling law (such as notification requirements) and usually only in one state.
Source: Jessica Huseman and Lena Groeger, “Homeschooling Regulations by State,” ProPublica, August 27, 2015, https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/homeschool.
Student Researcher: Sheryl Gavin (North Central College)
Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)