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Does home schooling need protection?

There was a time not that long ago when homes chooling wasn’t legal in all 50 states. Today it is, but government regulations vary by state – making it harder to homes chool and more burdensome in certain states.

By most measures, Mississippi has parent friendly home school regulations, only requiring parents to fill out an attendance form with their local school district. But the government doesn’t regulate curriculum, testing, or schedules.

Bills occasionally pop up in the legislature to mandate curriculum, as a bill from Rep. John Hines did this year, or to restrict various freedoms. There are also annual bills to lower the age of compulsory education. But for the most part there is a truce if you will. Tim Tebow bills to allow home schoolers to participate in athletics or extracurricular activities of their local school districts (where you still pay taxes) never see the light of day, but fortunately, neither do the government mandates. Yet.

Today, about 15,000-20,000 students in Mississippi are home schooled.

But we are seeing national movement from academic elites to rein in home schooling freedom. Why? Because every child is currently being home schooled as government schools throughout the country shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What if just 10 percent of these families decided to continue homeschooling next year? It would represent a massive shift in the education landscape and result in fewer tax dollars going to the government schools that would be serving fewer students.

Though it was recently scrapped, Harvard University – where the attacks on homeschooling are originating – planned an anti-homeschooling conference for June that would focus on the “problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment” of homeschooling.

They claim child abuse or lack of a proper education as their concern and thesis, but the greater push is twofold: the belief that government controls every child and a bigotry toward people who are religious, the original reason many chose to home school.

Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet has called for a “presumptive ban on homeschooling” saying it violates a children’s right to “meaningful education.” That’s certainly debatable considering the percentage of American students in government schools who are proficient in reading and math (hint: it’s not many).

But she also argues that parents should get permission from the government to home school. Meaning, the burden of proof shifts to the parents and they have to make their case with the government on why they should be allowed to remove their children from government school. Essentially, you must beg the crown for this right. Your child is basically a product of the state in Bartholet’s view, and the view of many other elites. You are only allowed to do certain things. Everything else comes from the state.

That obviously isn’t true. And the Supreme Court even struck that argument a century ago.

The other part of the disdain for parents who want freedom for their children is because many of those parents do so for religious reasons. Many homeschooling families “are driven by conservative Christian beliefs” and “some of these parents are extreme religious ideologues.” One could argue that anyone who believes in God is an “extreme religious ideologue” in the mind of Bartholet. Or at least believes in God…and tries to follow His word.

The truth is for many, the ability to teach your children about the Bible isn’t the reason you homeschool, just another in a long line of reasons.

A child isn’t a creature of the state. Parents have the right to raise and educate their children as they seem fit. Homeschooling has long been, and will continue to be, looked at with disdain from elites. Fortunately, neither they, nor the government, control your child.

This is an important topic in our world today. Why are we seeing these attacks, what does the future of education look like, and how can we protect Mississippi’s parent-friendly home school laws?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Brett Kittredge is Director of Marketing & Communications for Mississippi Center for Public Policy. For information, call (601) 969-1300.

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