Homeschooling changes benefit students, families
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Beth Cody, Writers’ Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The good – great! – news is that Iowa’s homeschool laws have changed to make legal compliance easier for parents. The bad news is that both parents and school district administrators are confused about what parents must do to comply with the new law.

Last month, to my surprise after all the excitement about the law changes, I received the very same usual August letter from the Mid-Prairie School District (I live in southern Johnson County) telling me that I had to fill out “Form A” as usual, and detailing information about where my children can take required standardized tests. The Iowa City School District letters contained similarly erroneous requests.

When I called the M-P district to inform the administrator that she was mistaken, and that not all homeschoolers must file Form A now, she seemed unconcerned that parents might be misled by her letter. I received a follow-up letter last week that contained a chart of new homeschool options, but the cover letter still implied that Form A must be submitted.

Clearly, homeschooling parents need to understand their new right to freedom from controlling administrators – and the administrators sure aren’t going to tell us about it.

Background: Until this year, Iowa homeschooling parents had basically three choices:

  1. 1) Homeschool independently with students taking an annual standardized test to show achievement above the 30th percentile
  2. 2) Homeschool under a supervising licensed Iowa teacher  
  3. 3) Participate in a Home School Assistance Program (HSAP) through the local school district

Form A needed to be filled out each year for each child in all three cases.

However, with this year’s new law, there are now five choices for homeschooling parents, depending on how much independence from public schools parents want.

If parents want to remain independent, not enrolling their children in public school classes or activities, there are now two choices:

  1. 1) Competent Private Instruction (CPI) Option 2 with no reporting: Parents do not need to fill out Form A; children are not required to test annually or work with a supervising teacher. Under this choice, Iowa families can finally enjoy the same homeschooling freedom as families in many other states.

  2. 2) Independent Private Instruction (IPI): This option allows up to four unrelated children to be taught, without charging tuition. Form A is not required, but upon written request, parents must submit names of students, instructor and place of instruction. 

If parents wish to dual-enroll their children in public school activities or classes, there are three choices, all of which require Form A to be submitted annually:

  1. 3) CPI  Option 2 with reporting: Same as old #1 of the three choices, submitting standardized test scores annually.
  2. 4) CPI  Option 1: Supervision by a licensed teacher (formerly #2)
  3. 5) CPI  Option 1 with HSAP: (old #3)

Note: All parents should still keep teaching records, in case of legal challenge.

My family is using new choice #1, as we do not want any involvement with the public schools. However, even though testing is no longer required, I will still have my children take the Iowa Assessments every other year – for our own information, not for bureaucratic overseers.

Sadly, there are some people who through ignorance about homeschooling do not trust parents to adequately educate their children. But states with more onerous requirements have never demonstrated better homeschooling results than states with more liberal laws. Iowa’s laws were among the stricter homeschooling laws until now, contributing to our rank of 43rd out of 50 states in educational freedom, according to Freedom in the 50

These new options are welcome to most homeschoolers, who would rather spend their time learning than filling out forms and filling in bubbles on standardized tests.

Nobody likes coercive government red tape (except controlling bureaucrats) and any time it is reduced, the freedom of the people is correspondingly increased. This is truly a cause for celebration.