Part I: Gov. Walz’s proposed education bill would take education freedom backward

Legislation introduced in the Minnesota House would impact education freedom in the state, including adding unnecessary requirements on homeschoolers and school districts and removing any school with a statement of faith requirement from PSEO eligibility.

The House Education Policy Committee heard H.F. 1269 today, which is Gov. Tim Walz’s education policy bill. Submitted public comments overwhelmingly opposed the bill, and families filled the room and outside hallway during the hearing. The Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MÂCHÉ) was not selected to offer testimony, nor was the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

Backward step for homeschooling

H.F. 1269 “would be a significant step backward for homeschooling freedom in Minnesota,” according to MÂCHÉ. Along with imposing burdensome requirements on Minnesota homeschoolers and districts, the bill “could provide government officials or other agents with the unconstitutional authority to see private data. Parents should be the ones who decide how their children are educated.”

One major concern highlighted during public testimony is the bill’s standardized test reporting requirement. Currently, homeschool families test every year, as required by law. Assessment results are used by parents to direct future learning.

Under H.F. 1269’s proposed language, test scores would have to be submitted to the school district, by a third party: “The person…in charge of providing instruction to a child must submit to the superintendent of the district in which the child resides…a copy of the actual test scores sent from the testing provider of the annual nationally normed achievement test from the previous school year.” How districts would use the scores and data is not clear.

According to MÂCHÉ:

There is no credible evidence to suggest that a change in homeschool standardized testing reporting requirements is necessary or useful. This reporting requirement is contrary to the 2011 Homeschool Mandate Reduction bill which paved the way to simpler reporting requirements for Minnesota homeschoolers. At that time, the school districts also concluded that they did not want to receive and maintain unnecessary paperwork from homeschoolers — nor do homeschoolers need or want the additional paperwork.

Additionally, there is concern that the proposed provision gives superintendents authority for more oversight, control, and randomness of control.

The proposed language targeting homeschool families with burdensome and unnecessary reporting requirements should be removed.

Backward step for PSEO

For eligible high school juniors and seniors interested in earning college credit, a provision in H.F. 1269 on PSEO (postsecondary enrollment options) appears to limit where those credits could be obtained, removing any college or university that requires a statement of faith in its student application process from eligibility. PSEO courses already have to be nonsectarian courses, and participating postsecondary institutions are approved by the Minnesota Department of Education. This proposed language should be removed.