State Approval of Louisiana Home-School Curricula Could Be Erased

Rep. Beryl Amedée’s House Bill 650 would end BESE’s approval of home-school curricula.

Rep. Beryl Amedee speaks at an Aug. 24, 2022, event for the relocation of members of the Isle de Jean Charles Choctaw tribe to a new residential development in Gray. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

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State Rep. Beryl Amedée proudly acknowledges she home-schooled her three sons, spending 21 years total as their teacher before going on to advocate for other like-minded parents who eschew traditional educational settings.

The Republican from Terrebonne Parish wants to make access to home-schooling easier for other families, but some lawmakers fear her approach will remove all accountability for parents who teach their kids at home.

Currently, parents who want to home-school their children must notify BESE when their child enrolls in a home study program. They can use a home study program the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has approved or opt for a curriculum of their own choice. Either way, home-school students graduate with a diploma that’s equivalent to the private school version, and not the state-recognized diploma awarded at public high schools.

Amedée’s House Bill 650 would end BESE’s approval of home-school curricula, leaving only “nonapproved, nonpublic” programs.

When parents interested in home schooling contact her, Amedée said she spends 45 minutes explaining the options and provides an eight-page document to detail. Her bill would “simplify and streamline” the process, she said.

Jessie Leger, legislative affairs director for Homeschool Louisiana, appeared Wednesday before the House Committee on Education in support of Amedée’s bill. Her Christian-based organization promotes home schooling and provides support to families who teach their children at home.

Ten other states use the one-time notification process that Amedée’s bill would put in place, Leger said. Just 11 states require approval of home-school curricula, she said.

Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, cited her 10 years working for BESE when detailing her issues with Amedée’s proposal. She recalled reviewing substandard applications from parents who wanted to teach their children at home.

“I know there were homeschool programs … where the person who wrote the notification couldn’t even write a sentence,” Freiberg said. “I just have a lot of concern about not having a standard for homeschools that are approved.”

Students who complete nonapproved home-school programs could still qualify for TOPS assistance under Amedée’s bill, even if they don’t meet the required ACT score. The language in House Bill 650 mirrors another proposal Amedée has authored that would allow home-schooed students to receive TOPS if their grade-point average in TOPS core curriculum classes meets scholarship standards.

Rep. Ken Brass, D-Vacherie, asked Amedée about the lack of accountability in a nonapproved home-school program, to which she responded that state public schools currently aren’t accountable to parents.

Amedee also touted that her bill would also officially shed the “dropout” label from students who move from public schools to home schooling, a designation she said hurts  traditional schools during performance evaluations.

There was some confusion among lawmakers as to whether home-schooled students were eligible for proposed education savings accounts (ESAs), which would give state money to families who opt against putting their children in public schools.

The current versions of the House and Senate ESA bills do not give students in home study programs, both approved and nonapproved, access to the funds, though Sen. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, has proposed amendments to his Senate Bill 313 that would allow ESAs to used for home schooling.

The House ESA proposal heads next to the Senate Committee on Education, and the Senate bill still needs review from its finance committee.

The House Education Committee narrowly approved Amedée’s bill, 7-6, with chair Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, breaking a tie vote. Republicans cast all seven votes in favor. The no votes included GOP representatives Freiberg and Michael Melerine, R-Shreveport, who formerly held a BESE seat that his wife now holds.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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