Several bills which affect homeschooling in Maryland have been introduced for the 2008 session of the Maryland General Assembly.
- HB 1249 – Public Schools – Classes and Extracurricular Activities – Home-Schooled Students. This bill would allow homeschool students to participate in after-school activities at their local public school, as well as having the option of taking up to four (4) academic classes in the subject areas of math, science, languages, art and music. In the case of class size restrictions, public school students would be given priority enrollment. In return for home-schooled students being allowed to partially enroll, public schools would be able to receive funding for those students participating in some of the school’s programming. This bill does not currently require additional oversight or testing for partially enrolled homeschoolers.
- HB 1077 – Higher Education – Dual Enrollment Grant Program – Homeschooled Students. This bill extends the definition of high school students, to include homeschoolers, who qualify for reduced tuition at community colleges as dual enrolled students. This bill offers the same reduced tuition benefit that other public and private school students already receive.
- SB 1 – Maryland Legislative Youth Advisory Council. This bill would create a panel of 22 high school and college age students who would advice the Maryland General Assembly on issues pertaining to youth. The current language in this bill specifically INCLUDES homeschoolers as eligible for nomination.
- SB 50 – Special Education Services – Children in a Homeschool Setting. This bill requires a child with a disability in a home school setting be given the same consideration as a child with a disability in a private school setting for the purpose of determining allocation of federal set-aside funds for the provision of specified federally authorized special education services. The same bill, HB 121, has been filed in the House. This bill will NOT guarantee special education services to individual homeschool families. The bill only requires that a county school board consider the needs of homeschooled children who have been evaluated by a local school and found to be in need of special education services.
I’ll quickly weigh in on two of these. Homeschool student representatives on the Youth Advisory Council? Yes. Special Ed Services? Sure, although what the bill proposes seems rather toothless.
As for the Dual Enrollment Grant Program? Access to extracurriculars and up to four academic classes? Now these hit close to home.
Yesterday I electronically transferred $1,104.00 into Maryland state coffers in order for C. to take her one course at UMBC (about $250 of that was fees for various services she will never avail herself of…athletics, student activities, commons). Not everyone can afford to do this (hence why I would support HB 1077) and frankly I don’t know if cost-wise we could continue to do this if it meant taking multiple courses a semester for several years. There would come a point where we would just have to declare C. an early college student, but that would raise its own set of issues.
At the moment UMBC–as much as she’s liking it– is not where C. envisions graduating from with a four year college degree. There are other institutions that interest her and she’d like to be a “normal” teenager who goes away to college and lives in a dorm more or less at the same time as her age peers. I happen to agree that that would be best for her. But if high school for whatever reasons doesn’t pan out we may be faced with the prospect of either a) homeschooling her for the remainder of her “high school” years with many of those “high school” courses being college courses that we have to pay for out of our own pockets or b) having her apply to and enroll in college early. Now there are some other possible things she could do. We could hope for funding for an elite boarding school. She could spend a year as an exchange student. But no matter the path, it comes at a significantly higher price than four years of public high school.
Which brings me to HB1249. As I’ve posted before, there are some in the homeschooling community who firmly hew to the “never shall the twain meet” philosophy of government/homeschooling relations. That it’s in everyone’s interest that they remain firmly separate. There are even some in the public school camp who feel this way, as evidenced by a recent Washington Post article making a case again homeschooled athletes. But I also know that there are several states that allow for partial homeschooling and I have to say I am intrigued. When things exploded for us last year in middle school, C. would have loved to remain in school for her media, French, PE. and chorus classes…I would just have sent her to school every other day. She would have had that day-to-day interaction with her friends that is so important at this age and social continuity should she find herself with these same students in high school.
Looking ahead to high school, I would love for C. to be able to take classes on an a la carte basis, to mix college classes and high school classes and participate on a debate team or in a school play. Giftedness expert Deborah Ruf in fact recommends partial homeschooling as one possible option for meeting the needs of highly gifted students. Karen B. Rogers hammers away at the idea of flexibility when doing educational planning. So I’m going to take a closer look at this bill, and even talk to my state representatives, something I’ve never done before.