Four legislators from the Kansas House and Senate urged homeschool families to get more involved in the state’s educational policies, even inviting them to testify at legislative committees.
“Legislation does not happen without your voice,” said Rep. Rebecca Schmoe to a standing-room-only crowd Monday at Indian Creek Library in Olathe. Midwest Parent Educators (MPE), a homeschool nonprofit in the Kansas City area, hosted the event.
Schmoe, an Ottawa Republican, invited homeschoolers to testify in the future with the House K-12 Education Budget committee, on which she serves. She worked as a public school paraeducator where she saw firsthand what children experienced in classrooms.
“The accountability in how the money was being spent was non-existent,” she said, explaining the lack of learning in an environment where only the children acting out received most of the teachers’ attention.
“You guys are doing it right,” she said to the homeschool crowd. “Your kids are not just numbers in a formula to get more funding.”
Sen. Molly Baumgardner agreed, saying she stands against attempts from the state to mandate certain educational approaches for all children.
“You know your child best,” she said. “It is for parents to have the say in what’s best for their child’s education.”
Upcoming issues: All-day kindergarten, mandatory home visits
Baumgardner urged parents to stay updated on current efforts in the Legislature to make all-day kindergarten mandatory in Kansas and provide pre-K or “tiny K” classes for ages 3 and up.
Such classes wouldn’t have worked for Baumgardner’s son, who took a 3-hour afternoon nap after attending kindergarten in the mornings, she said.
“He would never make an all-day kindergarten,” she said. “He needed that nap time.”
Several studies have questioned the effectiveness of state-run pre-K programs, suggesting they may lead to decreased academic performance, more learning disorder diagnoses, and higher rates of school rule violations.
Baumgardner also voiced her opposition to mandating home visits for homeschooled children, saying no one needed to enter individual homes unless the state had reasonable cause to believe a child’s educational needs were going unmet.
Sen. Beverly Gossage, who serves on the Senate Education committee, and Rep. Christopher D. Croft, Sr., House Majority Leader, introduced themselves during a question and answer session.
Gossage explained how she, a former schoolteacher, had taught her first three children to read by age 3. But her fourth child, Adam, showed a severe language delay and had profound dyslexia. By fourth grade he still had not learned to read, even with a paraeducator’s help, she said.
When one of her teaching colleagues asked her whether she or Gossage should tell Adam he could never learn to read, Gossage decided to resign and homeschool Adam herself.
“As God is my witness, no one is going to tell my son he is never going to read,” she said.
Drawing on her teaching background, Gossage used to create her own lesson plans. But just like homeschoolers today, she often had to change them to suit her child’s unique needs.
“We do it so wrong in the classroom,” she said. “Thank you for homeschooling your children.”
‘The great equalizer’
Croft also praised homeschooling as an educational option, saying his daughter now homeschools her own children.
“Education is the great equalizer,” he said, adding he believed it to be crucial to achieving the American dream. He encouraged homeschoolers to surround themselves in a community around a legislator “champion” and start sharing their ideas and thoughts now before the legislative session starts.
During the event, all legislators discussed how more public school students are failing basic academic standards even though Kansas spends approximately $18,000 per student in state funding.
By failing to provide a quality education, the public system is stealing students’ empowerment for their future, Schmoe said. She applauded homeschoolers for taking on the burden of educating their children, saying she knows it’s a sacrifice.
“You guys are the subject-matter experts,” she told the homeschooling audience, “and we defer to you.”