- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

State lawmakers in Pennsylvania will soon decide whether to loosen the state's 14-year-old home-schooling law, which critics say requires "countless hours" of tallying at-home instruction.
One of the strictest in the country, the law requires that parents who home-educate their children provide at least four pieces of documentation, including a notarized affidavit that, among other things, states the parents' educational objectives, a daily log of student activity and progress, and year-end evaluations.
One mother from Hershey says the paperwork is so demanding that she has spent an estimated 1,300 hours nearly as long as an academic year filling it out for her four children during the past 14 years.
"As the kids have gotten older, I've transferred more of those responsibilities to them, but it becomes somewhat of a bone of contention," said Mary Ann Eagleson, who has spent the past 14 years home-schooling her children. "They read from their science books and they just want to write down 'science' in the assignment log, but I keep telling them we have to be more specific."
That could soon change.
State Rep. Samuel E. Rohrer, a Republican, has introduced a bill that would erase many of the law's mandates, including standardized testing, keeping assignment logs and year-end evaluations of student work portfolios.
Instead, the law would require parents to provide the state with only annual written notification of the home-education program to the local public school superintendent within 30 days of starting the program. The notice would include only the name, address and age of the child, and the name of the parent supervising the program.
Mr. Rohrer said yesterday that the paperwork required under the 1988 law frustrates parents who he says need to worry more about providing the best education possible for their youngsters.
"There's no question that the paperwork requires countless hours of attention," he said. "It only puts a burden on parents, a burden that really frustrates good education."
The bill is being reviewed by the House Education Committee. Of the 26 committee members, 11 have declared support for the bill. Three more votes are needed for the bill to make it out of committee. The legislative session ends Nov. 27.
Some parents who home educate their children, however, said they don't think the paperwork is burdensome and that, if done in a minimal way, it can be filled out within 30 minutes.
"It's not as burdensome as people think it is," said Gloria Molek, a mother from Pittsburgh who home educates her two children. "You've got to think about what's going to be the big trade-off here? Are we going to substitute one piece of paper with another?"
Other home-schooling parents say the paperwork, like the education objectives, gives them a structure to follow to ensure their children get the education they need.
"The current law simply provides a framework of accountability that helps us educate our children," said Susan Richman, a mother from Pittsburgh and a board member of the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency, the largest of the state's seven home-school associations.
"It's all about how parents pick their attitude," Mrs. Richman said. "You can do it in a minimal way, and in the end you can find it really worthwhile and meaningful."
About 850,000 of the country's 50 million children are home educated, according to the U.S. Education Department's most recent estimate.
As more research and anecdotal evidence shows that home-schooled children can perform as well as their public school peers, some states have begun relaxing their rules, substantially reducing the involvement of public school officials in home education, said Dewitt T. Black III, senior counsel for the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association.
Mr. Black said Pennsylvania is the only state in the country requiring parents to submit proposed education objectives in each subject to the local superintendent before beginning home instruction.
"Home educators of Pennsylvania have earned the right to less state oversight after demonstrating their success under the current law for the past 14 years," Mr. Black said.


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