I said that I would do five #HealHomeschooling posts but now there needs to be six. I learned something that made me quite upset yesterday and there is only a little time, only a Hail Mary pass, a last-ditch effort to correct it. So there is something big that you can do today to make a difference. If you wait it will be too late. We don’t need to ask for new regulations in Iowa, but rather beg Iowa’s governor to keep perfectly good protections for children that are about to end and be replaced with nothing.
The state of Iowa had some pretty sensible regulations on homeschooling yesterday. Regulations that protect kids. Regulations that are not onerous to parents. Regulations that are moderate and sensible, particularly when compared to much of the nation. All that will change tomorrow. Starting tomorrow, when the governor signs new homeschooling legislation, 100% of these regulations will be gutted. That’s right. There will be zero protections left for homeschooled children in the state of Iowa. Parents in the state of Iowa will be easily able to give their children the non-education I got from my parents in the state of Louisiana if they so choose.
How is this happening? Well, organizations like the HSLDA have been pushing for zero regulations of homeschooling for some time now. Why? Well, because you know – parents own their children. That’s right. Children belong to parents, not the government. What about the fact that children belong to themselves? What about the fact that children have rights too (although a more limited set) in our society? Are we going to run roughshod over what’s in the best interest of children in order to score political points with an interest group? Do we want to seem this out of touch and pretend that we don’t see where this is going? Do we really want this to be what America looks like?
Today Iowa’s Governor Branstad will take pen to paper and sign legislation that guts homeschooling regulations. Unless we can get him to veto this provision. Maybe we can. Maybe we can speak for the children. After all, no one else is. So please please please call Governor Branstad’s office and tell him to veto this! Also, if you want to join the “Call Iowa’s Governor ASAP: All Children Deserve an Education” Facebook event that my friend Rebecca Gorman, a former K-12 homeschooler and Oxford University graduate, created please do! If you don’t have a Facebook, here is the information Rebecca made available:
Iowa is poised to repeal its reporting and assessment requirements for homeschoolers. All that is needed is for Governor Branstad to sign House File 215.
If this concerns you, please call Governor Branstad’s office (515-281-5211) and tell him you want him to use his line item veto Division XI (not the whole bill, just that one section) of House File 215. WHEREVER YOU LIVE IN AMERICA, please call.
Tell him why you think that homeschooling parents should have to report that they are homeschooling and have their children participate in annual academic assessments.
If you have a personal experience with homeschooling, please include it.
If the bill is signed without those portions vetoed, there will be no oversight to make sure that kids are actually receiving an education. There will be nothing to keep Iowa parents from pulling their kids out of school and then not teaching them anything.
Governor Terry Branstad’s office: 515-281-5211
The current bill: http://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/linc/85/external/HF215_Reprinted.pdf
Form letter/phone script that you can use when you call/email/fax/tweet the Iowa governor’s office this morning:
Dear Governor Branstad,
Please line item veto Division XI of File 215 when it comes across your desk to be signed. Homeschooled children need checks and balances, outside protections, a fair shot. This law won’t give them that. Instead it will rip apart Iowa’s perfectly good homeschooling regulations. As a policy, it will leave children with zero protections from bad homeschooling and it will increase illiteracy, child abuse, and likely even child deaths in your state. While a group of homeschooling parents have been lobbying for this change, the fact is that it is not in the best interest of children or of families. Also, it is not a grassroots effort, but rather the product of an extreme ideological agenda pushed by a group that has been furthering some decidedly anti-child aims, including championing the rights of parents convicted of child abuse and neglect, even when it has resulted in deaths of children in their care, to homeschool their children. These lobbyists have shown poor judgment, to say the least, and the stories of abuse and neglect that have recently been coming out of the homeschooling world indicate the need for the rest of us to pay closer attention to the dark side of this education method. The common patterns these stories seem to take cast serious doubt on the idea that “the honor system” is good policy when it comes to homeschooling and I do not imagine that Iowa should be a part of this move towards deregulation.
As such, please veto this bill when it comes across your desk. Concerned citizens like me and the current and future homeschooled children of your state need you to.
My Open Letter to Iowa’s Governor Brandstad
Dear Governor Branstad,
I apologize for writing you at last minute, but I just found out about this. I am contacting you as a former homeschool student and a recent public policy graduate from Brandeis University, where I wrote my masters degree capstone paper on homeschooling and deregulation around the country.
Today you will take your pen to a piece of legislation that, if signed, will be severely harmful to a portion of your state’s citizens and soon be an embarrassment to your state’s image. You will sign something completely gutting the homeschooling requirements that your state has had. The homeschooling requirements that Iowa has had up until now were sensible, not onerous for parents, and they were smart when it comes to what homeschooled children need. Today all that will change with a stroke of your pen. So I am asking you to do something important and something big – veto this provision of the bill before you. Please, please, please Governor Brandstad, do not sign this harmful piece of legislation into law! Do it for the homeschooled children. They were not there lobbying your legislature to get this measure put before you, but oh the stories some of them could likely tell if they were.
See that’s the thing. Parents always want what’s best for their children, except for when they don’t.
This gutting of laws in other states has left a trail of dead children, uneducated children, and abused children in its wake. I am not kidding. I was homeschooled in the state of Louisiana, a state where homeschooling parents can register once and no one ever checks on them again. Because of this, I was the only one of my 9 siblings to even learn how to read and if it had not been for the intervention of my grandparents I highly doubt you’d ever be hearing from me today. Some of my childhood friends are not so lucky. They do not have enough education to take the GED, much less get higher education. You don’t hear from them because they are quiet about it, ashamed, and they are also struggling just to get by – they become the people that the rest of your state’s taxpayers have to help survive. I don’t know if you want to create more poorly educated dependents in your state, but that is what you will get if you sign this homeschooling bill into law.
I am currently working on a project called Homeschooling’s Invisible Children with some other former homeschoolers. We have over 80 horrific cases of child abuse and neglect in homeschooling environments documented across the country and there are many many more that need to be included, entered into our database, and many more that are occurring right now. How many additional Iowan children do you want to add to this list by signing the piece of poorly thought out public policy set before you today?
You see, the homeschooling world is a strange place. There are those who homeschool because they believe in liberating children from what they see as the rote learning of public schools. However, there are significant and much more vocal portions of the homeschooling world that have a decidedly different agenda. They want to do away with any and all protections for children in American society, believing that children are essentially owned by their parents. Many of these so-called “homeschool leaders” also don’t believe in real homeschooling at all. They are affiliated with a movement now being referred to as Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy. They believe girls should get a lesser “home ec” track education so they are forced to become stay at home wives and mothers. They advocate that parents discipline their children harshly, hitting them with objects at the first sign of disobedience, and that parents have a right of ownership over every aspect of their children’s lives. I know this because I was one of those children raised like this myself. I can also say with certainty, as both a researcher and a homeschooled student, that because of this faction of the homeschooling movement (the one that has successfully lobbied your state for the deregulation package set before you today) a lot of homeschooled children, now grown, have been left with serious social struggles, mental health issues, and trouble carrying out the basic activities needed for everyday existence, not to mention life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There are certainly many good homeschooling parents, but there are also some who actively use homeschooling as a cover to engage in certain kinds of depravity with their own offspring that when discovered, horrifies and makes the nightly news.
Some of the people who lobbied for this bill before you today did so under the direction and influence of a “homeschool advocacy organization” that unfortunately does not have the best of intentions for children but has instead latched onto homeschooling and hijacked it as a culture wars tool. They believe that homeschooling is the best way to control and indoctrinate your offspring, rule with an iron fist, and dictate their every move, no matter what kind of parent you are. This issue is too new and under-the-radar to have made mainstream news yet, but the HSLDA has openly supported the rights of known child abusers, child killers even, to homeschool their own children. I wish I were making this up or talking about an occurrence in some third world country that needs our help. But no, I’m talking about this happening right here in America. Think about how child maltreatment will happen much more easily in Iowa if you sign this bill.
I expect you are wondering how a serious problem like this could be happening without you knowing about it. I get that you have likely never heard of this being an issue before and the fact is that most people haven’t. The reason for this is that this is that the people who this has hurt have been largely silenced. Most of the first generation of homeschooled children are not yet 30 years old. We are just starting to get a voice and a lot of what we have to say isn’t pretty. There are new “survivor blogs” cropping up everyday and more people speaking out about problems within homeschooling. There is a new group called “Homeschoolers Anonymous” that has been flooded with submissions and readers. There is a recently created Facebook group called Protect Homeschooled Children, and its numbers are growing.
While I am sure you are very busy today with other pressing issues of governance, I encourage you or one of your staffers to take a peek at part 4 of Mary’s story and see if you still feel comfortable bringing pen to paper and signing homeschooling deregulation into law for your state, knowing that kids in Iowa will more easily be able to have Mary’s experience, my experience, the experience of some of the other people who are only recently speaking out and finding that though we were isolated from society we were not alone in facing what we did but instead endured a common hidden yet systemic problem in the homeschooling world.
We are left with an important question. Are American children American citizens? If so,does the American dream not extend to children having a fundamental right to a basic education in a safe environment? It is unconscionable that the legislature put this bill in front of you but most likely they did not realize that this stripping away of child protections was occurring, although as lawmakers they certainly should have seen the risks. Now that you know what this bill would do, it would be unconscionable for you to sign it, so please veto it instead. Sent a message that the children of your state deserve better and that your state’s reputation is better than this.
Heather Doney, MPP