A free education for all | North Carolina Politics Watch

A free education for all | North Carolina Politics Watch 41 AdobeStock child studying writing
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The complete lack of oversight of homeschooling in North Carolina is a disservice to children and the future of our state.

The idea of ​​compulsory school attendance for children is neither new nor radical in modern society. The World Bank reports that, of the almost 200 recognized nations of the world, only a small handful do not require school attendance.

At age 12, the US slightly exceeds the 10-year world average for required attendance, but there are several with even higher expectations. Several nations in Latin and Central America require between 13 and 15 years. In Germany and the Netherlands, there are 13.

Of course, putting a school attendance requirement on the books and enforcing it (or, for that matter, providing a genuine and worthwhile attendance option) are very different things. Children, with or without their parents’ blessing, have been leaving school early for centuries. And while those numbers have been on a downward trajectory in recent decades, million american children have followed this worrying path in recent years.

Still, despite all the challenges it presents, the benefits of compulsory school attendance, for children and the general welfare of society, are beyond question. Especially in a world where misinformation is rampant and options for earning a living through unskilled labor continue to shrink rapidly, our society is seriously harming its children and its collective future by taking a let do approach to the subject.

All of which brings us to the discussion that took place at a recent meeting of the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Legislative Oversight of the General Government. As reported by Clayton Henkel, a reporter for NC Policy WatchThe meeting featured, among other things, a deeply disturbing “progress report” on the reporting system the state employs for the tens of thousands of children we have reason to believe are receiving state-mandated education in schools in the home.

Consider the following numbers revealed at the meeting:

According to Dr. Chena Flood, director of the state’s Division of Nonpublic Education, her office has registered more than 112,000 home schools with an estimated total enrollment of 179,990 children. Also, the numbers are growing rapidly. During the 2020-21 academic year, parents filed 19,454 “Notice of Intent” to open new homeschools, a 105% increase over pre-pandemic filings. Another 12,314 notices were filed between July 2021 and January of this year.

What about the total staff that Flood’s office employs to oversee these schools that educate 10% or more of the state’s scholars?

That number would be six.

A free education for all | North Carolina Politics Watch 43 HomeSchoolGrowth slide NCDOA
Homeschool growth since 1985. Source: NCDOA

No, that’s not a typo or a joke. To monitor a population of children that would fill Raleigh’s Carter-Finley Stadium more than three times over, our state employs too small a group of people to run even a single public school. And just to add to the absurdity of the situation, the Flood staff isn’t even part of the Department of Public Instruction; it is housed in a general agency known as the Department of Administration.

Of course, the obvious, practical reality revealed by such absurd numbers is that our state does not provide meaningful oversight of homeschooling. And the bureau’s plan to hire three temporary workers to help clean up the homeschool database clearly won’t make a significant difference.

As Flood told the committee, for example, while state law technically requires homeschool students to be given a test before they can “graduate,” students don’t need to pass it.

“The law only requires that they be administered a test. It does not have to be linked to your curriculum. You would think that is the case, but because they have free rein to decide their curriculum and decide the test, we have no idea,” he said.

And while for some children this is not a serious problem, for many others it obviously becomes an outrageous situation.

Some students, for example, are undoubtedly receiving “science” instruction from demonstrably inaccurate curricula that wrongly question the fact of evolution and intersperse statements of conservative Christian beliefs. Still others, worryingly, are not receiving any meaningful instruction at all.

To make matters even more ridiculous, Dr. Flood’s small office lacks the authority to do anything about homeschools failing their children, or even those that simply refuse to communicate or provide access to records. schoolchildren.

“The statute doesn’t say we can shut them down for not giving us that information,” Dr. Flood told the committee.

The situation is so patently dysfunctional that even one of the most conservative members of the General Assembly, Sen. Bob Steinburg (R-Camden), expressed concern at the committee meeting, urging the state to “expand” control of education. at home so that “children do not get lost.”

The bottom line: America is a free country in which parents have and should have tremendous autonomy over how their children are raised. But it is also true that with parental freedom comes responsibility: to respect basic social norms and prepare children for a life as citizens.

And unless North Carolina intends to abandon these basic premises of a democratic society in favor of an anarchic society in which everyone can fend for themselves, state leaders must take swift action, including a dramatic expansion of the professional workforce. , to get him to handle the homeschooling situation as quickly as possible.