Legislation revising state law on home schools will delete a current requirement that parent-teachers have a college degree in some cases and repeal the present penalty for failing to register a home-schooled child on time.
The Repulbican sponsors of SB1468, Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville and Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, say the measure basically conforms the law – which has not had a major rewrite since 1985 – with “current practice” in home schooling.
Some Democrats voiced skepticism about repealing the degree and penalty provisions in committee hearings, but wound up supporting the bill after hearing explanations.
Current law requires a home school teacher to have a high school degree for teaching grades kindergarten through eight and a college bachelor’s degree for grades nine through 12. The bill allows teaching for all grades with a high school degree or a GED certificate.
In a Senate committee hearing, Chuck Cagle, lobbyist for the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, said the change raises the question, “Do they really understand what they’re trying to teach their students?”
And Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said allowing a GED certificate to suffice for teaching “causes me some queasiness.”
In practice, parent-teachers will retain a tutor in a subject where they feel lacking in expertise to teach, Dunn said. And Bell noted that the “vast majority” of more than 50,000 home schooled youngsters statewide are registered with a church-affiliated school that can provide a certified teach for a subject where needed.
For most subjects, Dunn said, “a person who has a high school degree should be OK.”
Current law is also unclear on granting authority for the hiring of a special tutor for some classes, Dunn said. The bill makes clear that what is already “common practice” is specifically allowed.
Current law also requires a home-schooled student to register either with the local school system or a private school by Aug. 1 annually. Parents of those who do not sign up on time are subject to a $20 per week penalty.
Dunn and Bell said that, in practice, the fines are always waived and the penalty provision results only in a short period of “trauma for mamma.” The bill eliminates the penalty and says that registration is due at the beginning of a school year, not on a specific date.
The bill is scheduled for a Senate floor vote Thursday and is up in the House Education Committee Tuesday.