Carol Lugg’s Testimony at Information Hearing
of Pennsylvania House Education Committee
June 13, 2002
My name is Carol Lugg and I am the Chairperson of North Central Pennsylvania Homeschoolers and while I can’t speak for the collective homeschoolers in north central Pennsylvania, I can speak as a homeschooling mother of four children who have been homeschooled under the current law, and I anticipate another twelve years of homeschooling in my future, so what happens to the future of homeschooling, matters to me, very much.
I am not going to tell you how bad HB 2560 is; instead I want to tell you how good and decent our current law is - when it’s applied appropriately by all parties. Every year when we commence homeschooling, we submit a notarized affidavit to our districts. We also submit objectives to the district, which the district cannot reject.
Throughout the year, we keep a record of completing one hundred and eighty days or nine hundred hours, with the numbers differing slightly for the high school years. I personally use a ninety-nine cent memo pad and record hours spent in educational activities. This affords me a lot of flexibility. We must also maintain portfolios throughout the year, simply by saving a sampling of their work. Near the end of the year, the parent and child can determine how elaborate they want this portfolio. It would be within the law to simply take in a folder with a sampling of papers enclosed.
Once the portfolio materials are gathered, an evaluator is contacted. This means a cost anywhere from $25 to $50, but when we bear the cost, we insure that we get to choose who does the evaluation and typically we look for someone who finds our educational style acceptable. This evaluator then prepares a letter stating, if it is so, that an appropriate education is taking place in the home. This letter and and the portfolio must be submitted to the district by dates clearly specified.
In third, fifth, and eighth grade the child must be tested from a list of ten state-approved tests. I use a testing service which charges $25, and testing will cost me $75 throughout my child’s primary and secondary education. If it’s a testing year, we include our test scores when submitting portfolios and the evaluator’s letter to the district. Given that the compulsory attendance age is 8, most of us don’t contact an evaluator until 3rd grade, and we have our children evaluated over a period of nine years at an average cost of $35 per evaluation, I can expect to spend $315 for evaluations and $75 for testing. I’ve spent a total of $390 to show the state that I have educated my child through high school and balanced the scale to give the state the accountability it requires to maintain a compelling interest in the education of a child. I think that is probably just slightly more than I would spend to show the state I have had my car inspected over the same period of time.
My children and many other homeschooling families, in fact 45% of them, live in districts which allow us to participate in school sponsored activities such as intramural and extramural sports, vocational education, music, including orchestra, and some districts even allow students to attend a few classes if seats allow. I can have access to those extracurricular activities because under the current law I DO report to the district. They know I am doing my job and they respect that. I guess when superintendents or school boards in other districts reject homeschoolers, they must not really understand that this can work and work quite well.
We must not pass a bill that includes a clause that would destroy the relationships that are good for 45% of homeschoolers and would certainly not, in any way, encourage a growth of that statistic.
So I have to ask myself - Why? Why gut a law which appears to be working? Why gut a law that allows a framework under which to build a solid homeschool? Why gut a law that gives us the freedom to choose our curricula, evaluators, methods of accountability, choice of tests, whether we want to do simple or fancy portfolios, and allows us to attempt to establish a relationship with our district? Why would the sponsors of this bill call it an improvement? The Department of Education ought to be able to clear up misunderstandings and deal with superintendents that are stepping over the boundaries of the current law. I think why we are here today is because we have situations where there are superintendents and homeschoolers pushing the current law to its extremes. I could agree that we could get rid of a few hoops in the current law, but not at the risk of adopting a law that is filled with loopholes.
In closing, perhaps my outlook is different because the glasses that sit on my nose see the positives, the good things about our current law. Maybe it’s because I have always homeschooled under the current law, and my glasses are tinted, but I don’t think so. I homeschool under a law which provides for due process and protects me from the unmitigated whims of a truant officer. I can relax and use the world as my classroom without fear or paranoia when others see us out during the day. I can give my kid a parent-issued diploma, or I can use one of the diploma programs - why, I can even create my own diploma program if none of these fit! I will be sending my kids out into a world that is more than 98% “unhomeschooled”. I want the populace to know that my child’s education has consisted of accountability and responsibility.
There’s no accountability in this bill, yet when the homeschooling is completed, a homeschooler can call themselves a high school graduate. This “no accountability but full recognition” bill with an attitude tips the scale of justice and has done nothing but divide the homeschooling community.
I ask the House Education Committee to just simply drop House Bill 2560, not to even consider it as an option, or any of the other avenues that will be directed here. Let’s expect superintendents and homeschoolers to educate themselves to the current law and make this present law work. I would have liked to have seen amendments to the current law, like no longer submitting these portfolios to our districts, letting us choose perhaps between evaluations and portfolios or testing. But that’s not what’s before us here. Massaging the current law might have been effective, but to wipe this out, and replace it with a law that will be massaged by those of the educational establishment, we may end up with a very contorted law that none of us could recognize. Perhaps if a reasonable bill had been introduced, we could have enjoyed a bit more freedom. Good and bad laws don’t necessarily make good or bad homeschoolers, but they do alter the environment in which we live. Protect our good reputation, protect our decent law, and protect a child’s right to an education. Thank you.