Record: Elizabeth Richardson, “Homeschooling Laws (or Lack Thereof) in New Jersey–Are Children Slipping Through the Cracks?” in Journal of Law and Education 42, no. 1 (Winter 2013): 173-181 [Abstract Here]
Summary: Richardson, a law clerk at Lynch, Cox, Gilman, and Goodman in Kentucky, here summarizes and comments on New Jersey homeschooling law. New Jersey law states that parents or guardians must cause children between ages 6 and 16
regularly to attend the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school.
What does “equivalent instruction elsewhere” mean? In 1967’s State v. Massa decision the New Jersey Superior Court reasoned that equivalency applied only to academic content, not to teacher certification requirements or socialization.
Richardson’s contention, however, is that there is no mechanism in place to determine whether or not homeschooled children in New Jersey are receiving equivalent academic instruction. She canvasses several options New Jersey might consider implementing, including placing some sort of educational requirement on a homeschooling parent, requiring parents to submit a curriculum plan, requiring some sort of standardized test, or at the very least at least requiring parents to inform the local school district of their intent to homeschool.
To further encourage such steps Richardson provides examples of several other states with more robust requirements. Pennsylvania, for example, requires registration, evidence of immunizations, and an outline of the proposed education objectives by subject area. Maryland does as well.
Richardson concludes by arguing that increasing New Jersey regulations will not infringe on the constitutional rights of homeschooling parents, and it would help insure that all New Jersey children receive the education necessary to lead healthy and prosperous adult lives.
Appraisal: Richardson’s piece here is fairly lightweight. She cites none of the rich and complex secondary literature on the complicated questions she raises here. Her summary and discussions are simplistic and her solutions scattered. But her basic claims that New Jersey law requires that all children receive an academic education equivalent to what children receive in the public schools and that currently New Jersey has no way to determine if homeschooled children are in fact receiving such an education is absolutely correct. Of course any attempt by the New Jersey legislature to implement any of the suggestions Richardson canvases here would be met with intense opposition by the homeschooling community, but she’s right that until New Jersey does something about this situation it is very likely that there are going to be some children “slipping through the cracks.”
Milton Gaither, Messiah College, author of Homeschool: An American History.
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