Michigan is one of the best states in the country to homeschool in. Parents are not required to register with the state or have any contact with school officials. In 2015, two Detroit children were found dead in a freezer after being withdrawn from school two years earlier. The mother claimed the children were homeschooled. Because Michigan does not require homeschooled children to be registered with the state, homeschooling came under scrutiny. The Michigan House introduced a bill to keep closer tabs on homeschooling families. In addition to requiring families to register with the state, this bill would have required that they be seen twice a year by a professional (such as a social worker or physician). This bill and other bills that have attempted to force homeschool families to register with the state have also failed.
School District Funding and Homeschooling Partnerships
Michigan’s constitution contains the Blaine Amendment which clearly prohibits state funding of non-public education.
“No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students. The legislature may provide for the transportation of students to and from any school.”
However, school districts have creatively worked around the Blaine amendment. According to the HSLDA, Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled that “shared time” or non-essential classes were maintained through Michigan’s Constitution Article VIII, the right to education. The court also said part of the Blaine amendment was unconstitutional. “We hold that portion of the second sentence of Article 8, § 2 hereinafter quoted unconstitutional, void and unenforceable: ‘or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students.’” (Traverse City School Dist. V. Atty. Gen.) This provided public schools leeway to create homeschool-public school partnerships.
Are Homeschool-Public School Partnerships a Win-Win for Michigan?
The appeal of homeschool-public school partnerships is that students can enroll part-time to take non-essential or extra-curricular classes. The school gets funds for the shared-time enrolled students and homeschool students are able to take non-essential courses like music or foreign language through the partnership. While this may seem like a win-win for Michigan schools and homeschoolers, homeschoolers should be leery.
What’s wrong with government involvement in homeschooling?
Michigan is creatively collecting homeschool data.
Michigan is creatively getting homeschoolers integrated into the public school system. Legislators have tried to introduce legislation to track homeschooling by requiring homeschoolers to register with the state. These attempts have failed. Instead, they are collecting homeschool student data by way of public school partnerships. While homeschoolers are not required to register with the state to be part of this program, enrolled students provide their data to the public school district voluntarily in order to participate.
Michigan homeschoolers are giving control over to the state.
At this point, homeschoolers may not be concerned about the state’s involvement in their children’s education. However, the more homeschoolers participate in these programs, the more control they are giving to the state to decide how their children should be educated. Homeschoolers may be inadvertently creating a pathway to Michigan regulating how their children are educated.
Homeschooling is growing; government interest in regulating it will likewise grow.
Homeschooling used to be a foreign concept, but the homeschool movement is growing. As homeschooling popularity grows, homeschool-public school partnerships will also grow. There are pros to this, schools get funding while at the same time being able to serve students at a reduced cost. Homeschool parents are paying taxes to pay for public schools without getting the benefits. Nevertheless, the larger the homeschool-public school partnership is, the more likely the government will become involved. Where there is money at play, there is government that wants to spend it or to tell you as parents how to spend it. INCH has reported on these concerns here. House Bill 4805 demonstrates the need for legislation to protect homeschooling in Michigan. Homeschoolers must stay vigilant in protecting their right to decide how their children are educated.
As a former homeschool parent, I intend to represent Michigan homeschool families by not only voting no to proposals that would force you to change how you educate your children, but I would also like to introduce a bill of rights for homeschoolers in Michigan. I oppose any requirements for homeschoolers to register with the state of Michigan or any requirements to follow public school education plans. I would love to hear your input on this topic. Please leave a comment on my blog, Facebook, or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to be the voice for homeschool families and parental rights in Michigan.
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