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House passes bill giving greater autonomy to home-school families

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 7:35 a.m. MDT

The Utah House on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill that excludes home-schooled children from statewide education requirements. (Shutterstock) The Utah House on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill that excludes home-schooled children from statewide education requirements. (Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — Both chambers of the Utah Legislature have passed versions of a bill freeing home-school families from statewide education requirements and making it easier for children to transfer in and out of the public education system.

The House voted 52-17 Tuesday in favor of SB39, which removes the requirement for parents to file home-schooling affidavits every year and frees children schooled at home from state education requirements.

The House amended the bill to require the input of a local school administrator when selecting the grade level of a home-schooled child re-entering the public education system. That amendment requires the bill to be heard again in the Senate, which last week approved the original version of the bill in a 22-5 vote.

Some lawmakers questioned whether parents should be given full autonomy to educate their children as they see fit. Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, said the bill creates a double standard where public schools are increasingly burdened with state mandates while home-schooled families are awarded greater flexibility.

"I think we have an obligation to educate all the kids in the state, and I feel that those instructional requirements are appropriate no matter where the students are taught," Poulson said.

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said most parents who home-school their children are capable of providing them with a quality education. But he added that the law is in place for those parents who do not.

"One of the reasons we have standards is for the outliers," Briscoe said.

But other lawmakers emphasized the role of a parent in overseeing the education of their children.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, referred to the Common Core State Standards, which have come under frequent fire from conservative groups, and said SB39 would give parents greater latitude to remove their children from the benchmarks.

"Passage of this bill would allow them to educate their kids the way they see fit," Gibson said.

Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, said being schooled at home used to be the norm, and it was relatively recently that the practice began to be viewed as abnormal.

Roberts listed the academic accomplishments of members of his family who were home-schooled and said that if the public education system were perfect, the state would not see the need for college and university remediation.

"There are standards in the home," he said. "Parents put the standards on their children."

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