Blocking kids from Indiana public schools

Here in Indiana, the state court of appeals has ruled that public school districts can refuse to enroll students if they want to go to public school part-time. An important example of when this might happen is in the case of homeschooled kids who want to pick up advanced or specialized courses. From the article:

The case involved Brownsburg schools, which had refused to accept two home-school students in three high school classes in the 2004-05 school year.

There were a lot of parents who wanted to pick and choose how to use public schools who will now have to reconsider,” said Steven D. Groth, an attorney for Brownsburg schools.

Appeals court Chief Judge John G. Baker wrote in the ruling issued this week that “home rule” statutes adopted in 1999 give Brownsburg “the authority to regulate and control the enrollment of students in its course offerings under its policy.”

Brownsburg parent Catherine Johnson wanted to enroll her sons in advanced calculus, choir and band classes at Brownsburg High School. Superintendent Kathleen Corbin refused, saying school policy required students to take at least six classes, with rare exceptions for disabled children.[…]

The school district asserted that part-time enrollment would place an added teaching and security burden on the school. Besides, district officials said, it had the authority to make and enforce its own rules. [emph. added]

Yes, God forbid that schools should be “burdened” with all those pesky kids wanting to take classes. Does this mean that public schools could, for example, bar known gang members from enrolling in public schools? Because surely that’s a security burden. How about kids of illegal immigrants who can’t speak English? Surely that’s a teaching burden. Who gets to decide what how much of a “burden” a class of students is, and whether or not the burden is unacceptable?

And do parents not have the right to “pick and choose how to use public schools”, if their tax dollars are paying for the public schools and if they are given no other option for how to use that money for educational purposes ala vouchers or tax credits?

This seems like a terrible ruling. But on the bright side, we enroll an awful lot of homeschooled kids part-time here at my college, and they are (with only rare exceptions) extremely bright, well-prepared, conscientious, focused, and enjoyable to teach. If the public schools want to sniff about “teaching and security burdens” and hand-deliver this entire demographic to my doorstep instead, then I’m for it.

Update: Upon further review, I don’t think the ruling is bad, but I do think that Brownsburg’s decision is bad (certainly for them, and probably for the homeschooled kids they are turning away). The ruling itself is actually something I basically agree with in principle, namely that communities ought to be able to decide how exactly to run their schools. But I also believe the idea of local control ought to be taken to its logical extreme, and individual families ought to be given the same degree of choice in how they educate their kids. If they want to homeschool and want to send their kids to the local public school for a class — but the local public school chooses not to admit their kids part-time — then the homeschooling family ought to be refunded the tax money they are paying into the schools and be allowed to use it elsewhere for education.


Filed under Education, High school, School choice, Teaching

8 responses to “Blocking kids from Indiana public schools

  1. JimMc

    Forgive me but if I’m reading that correctly, the issue revolves around “home rule” –> i.e. who gets to decide the school policy, the local district or the state. The local district happened to win in this case.

    It’s funny how when “home rule” or “local self-government” suddenly becomes inconvenient, many conservatives seem to abandon their once-cherished principles.

    I say stick with the principles and work to change the policy.

  2. Jim – See my update, which I think I was writing at the time you made your comment.

  3. JimMc

    Thanks, Robert. I didn’t mean to lash into you specifically either. I meant to draw a comparison to those who easily run away from their principles.

    How’s that for a weasely cop-out? 😉

    I’m not sure I agree that taxpayer money can or should be refunded anytime you don’t want to participate or don’t feel you derive sufficient benefits. Taxes are just part of the deal. Even the Amish pay taxes (I think – I’ll have to check that).

    But I do believe in public-school vouchers (i.e. not private, just public) so that kids have more than one public school choice. And I do believe in the flexibility to allow home-schoolers to participate in some level of public school activities.

    What the heck, public special-ed schools are already required to provide necessary services to kids in private religious schools. Let’s be consistent.

  4. JimMc

    Follow-up on Amish taxes:

    From 2 impeccable modern authorities:

    The Straight Dope and Wikipedia both say yes, the Amish do pay taxes.

  5. The Amish don’t pay social security taxes, or draw benefits.

  6. If the homeschool parents can get their taxes back, then the childfree should get theirs back, too.

    Fortunately for me, I pay less than $600 a year in school taxes, so I’m not that bothered by the fact that I’m paying to educate other people’s kids. 🙂

  7. Everybody is missing my point here. I’m not saying that people who don’t put kids in public schools ought to get their tax money back. (Although I don’t necessarily disagree with that either.) I’m saying that people who WANT to put their kids in public schools (as evidenced by a serious attempt to enroll them) and are denied service for whatever reason should be refunded the money. It’s a matter of a family paying into the system, then attempting to use it, and being told that they can’t. THEN they should get their money back.

  8. JimMc

    Not to make excuses for Brownsburg schools, but for better or worse, most public schools systems are traditionally organized around the “all or none” services concept (as opposed to an “on-demand” system).

    My guess is that if enough homeschoolers made enough noise, they could get the district to reconsider their policy. Perhaps even re-organize their services.