For Immediate Release: The harder school districts make it for families to resolve chronic truancy, the more they push potentially unprepared families into homeschooling
02/19/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is expressing concerns about an Arizona bill that would allow attendance officers to impose a fine of $10 per day on the parents of students who are habitually truant. “Families whose children are habitually truant need support, not fines,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “House Bill 2021 risks pushing parents to homeschool through the use of a financial penalty.”
Coleman says officials in multiple states have become concerned by a pattern where parents withdraw chronically truant children to homeschool them after the school district begins legal proceedings. Coleman warns that monetary fines like those proposed by HB 2021 could work the same way, especially for parents who may have limited means. “Homeschooling works best when parents choose it because they are attracted to it as an educational method,” says Coleman. “The more barriers school districts create to resolving truancy, the more incentives they give parents to homeschool merely to avoid penalties related to truancy.”
There is evidence from other states that some families may use homeschooling to escape truancy proceedings. In 2018, Kentucky’s Office of Educational Accountability found that 62% of children withdrawn to be homeschooled were previously chronically truant from school. Attendance officers reported that they saw a spike in the number of families withdrawing to homeschool the week after they sent truancy notices to families’ homes.
When asked what sorts of policies states should be adopting, Coleman points to Illinois Senate Bill 2332, which removes a section about imposing sanctions on the families of chronically truant children, replacing it with a section instructing school districts to create “a socio-emotional focused attendance policy that targets the underlying causes of chronic truancy.”
“School districts should work with families, not against them,” says Coleman. “Parents who see truancy-related fines accruing are more likely to opt to homeschool, regardless of whether they are prepared for the commitment homeschooling requires.” CRHE urges states and school districts to adopt policies designed to address the underlying problems causing truancy, and not to penalize students or parents.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.