Just less than a year ago, we published an article documenting the fact that North Dakota’s Department of Public Instruction shows that alternatives to public education are on the rise. Earlier this month, we expressed our view that we need true school choice in North Dakota. Both of those articles demonstrated that the number of students being homeschooled is steadily increasing.
One of the biggest advocates of homeschooling in the North Dakota Legislature is Rep. Christopher Olson (R – District 13). In fact, last Legislative Session, Olson sponsored House Bill 1428 which allows homeschool parents, without bachelor’s degrees, to opt their children out of state assessments. The bill was the subject of major floor debate in the House and Senate. If you haven’t seen them, they’re definitely worth watching. Surprisingly, the bill passed and was later signed into law by Governor Doug Burgum. It was a huge win for homeschool families.
Unfortunately, Rep. Olson – one of the most skilled debaters and brilliant legislators in the North Dakota Legislature – has decided not to run for re-election. This is a major loss– especially for those who advocate for school choice.
Even though House Bill 1428 passed, it wasn’t without its critics. For example, during floor debate in the House, Rep. Alisa Mitskog (D – District 25) rose in opposition and proceeded to express her grave concerns about “abuses happening with homeschooling”. Rep. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck also wasn’t a fan. She seemed to think teachers know better what children need than their parents do.
Yesterday, while reading the minutes from the most recent interim Education Funding Committee meeting, I came across this entry:
“…total enrollment in the nine largest school districts exceeded the total enrollment of the remaining districts and they are now growing faster than the remaining districts. He said the number of homeschooled students has steadily increased since 2010. He said 3,025 students were homeschooled in 2017.
“In response to a question from Senator Rust, Mr. Tescher said the number of homeschooled students reported is based on those who have reported to school districts their intent to homeschool.
“Senator Rust said because there is no penalty for neglecting to report homeschooled students, the number of homeschooled children could be higher than reported.“
It’s worth noting that Senator David Rust (R – District 2) – himself a former public school administrator – spoke in opposition to House Bill 1428 when it came to the Senate chamber last year. [As a side note, Senator Oley Larsen’s (R – District 3) response is worth listening to.]
When considering the opposition experienced last session, the loss of Rep. Olson for the coming session, and Senator Rust’s comments in the committee meeting during the interim; I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see an attempt to reverse the trend of deregulation for homeschooling in North Dakota? Is that paranoia on my part? Perhaps. But as the Home School Legal Defense Association notes on their website, “Legislative victories in North Dakota have been hard to come by…”. Not to mention that homeschooling has only been legal in the state since 1989.
I suppose homeschoolers will always have to deal with opposition. There will always be people like North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta, who – while saying parents have the choice – expressed his view that:
“…every student should be educated by a highly qualified, competent teacher.”
It’s because of that opposition, we should always stand ready to defend the right to homeschool.
***NOTE: I’d encourage all homeschoolers to join the North Dakota Home School Association, if you haven’t already. They do a tremendous job of providing updates to key pieces of legislation affecting homeschooling families.