As one of 11 states that does not require homeschooling parents and their children to have any contact with state or local education officials, Michigan’s approach to homeschool oversight is one of the most relaxed in the nation.
On yesterday's show, we talked about concerns that lax regulation allows some parents to conceal abuse and neglect at home.
But Mike Donnelly says that increasing state oversight isn't the right way to address those concerns. Donnelly is an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association, and works with homeschool families across the state.
Donnelly says that there are lots of reasons families choose to homeschool: concerns over the school environment, a desire to have greater control over curriculum, and the increased flexibility to accommodate a child with special needs. He argues that additional regulation would mostly hurt loving, law-abiding parents who choose to homeschool.
“We believe that parents can be trusted, we believe that homeschooling has demonstrated over the last 40 years to be a very effective way of preparing children to take their place in society as effective citizens,” Donnelly said.
When it comes to questions of child safety in the homeschool setting, Donnelly says he's horrified by stories of abuse and neglect. But he doesn't think that increased regulations would do anything to make children safer.
“People who want to do bad things are going to get away with doing bad things no matter how much reporting you put on them. It’s the old argument criminals are going to commit crimes no matter what you do," Donnelly said. "So the question then becomes, ‘What level of regulation is appropriate to impose in a free country like ours?’”
Donnelly says that if the state wanted to address child abuse and neglect, they should be devoting more resources to the state's strained child welfare system to ensure that reports of abuse get the appropriate follow-up.
Listen to Stateside’s conversation with Mike Donnelly to hear his thoughts on the quality of education that homeschooled children receive, why those children aren’t required to take standardized tests, and how he believes Child Protective Services could be better equipped to address and prevent abuse.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas.