Linn-Mar to Consider Cutting Homeschool Assistance Program

By Brady Smith, Anchor/Reporter

MARION, Iowa - The Linn-Mar school board will vote Monday night on whether the district will continue to offer its Home School Assistance Program for the 2014-2015 school year. It provides families that decide to home school with a certified teacher and instructing materials. The district said on Monday that the state has relaxed some of its education laws, making it more difficult to check on the progress of home-schooled students.

99 students currently receive assistance from the district's program. That's out of more than 7,000 students the district currently serves. One home school family we spoke with wants the program to continue.

"You don't always have to do studies and worksheets," said 19 year-old Yanni Willard, who attends home school under the instruction of his mother, Diana Willard. They enjoy the flexibility offered by home schooling. Even though they're at home, Diana said they still need to work hard.

"We answer to our teachers. They check up to make sure we're making progress. They're making sure that our students understand what is going on," said Diana. She gets help from a certified teacher, provided by the district, who checks in on a regular basis, to ensure Yanni is making good progress.

However, Linn-Mar superintendent Katie Mulholland worries that with new, relaxed home school laws, home school families like the Willards could fall behind in meeting Iowa's Common Core Standards for language arts and math.

"Our [students] are required to do that; there is no requirement for any kind of common core curriculum for home school students, so it's an issue of standards," Mulholland explained.

Mulholland told us that home school families under the assistance program are no longer required to give an annual report on progress toward those common core standards.

"When the legislature made the changes in the law, they really kept a school district's accountability at the same level, but made some exceptions on what parents who are home schooling had to do," Mulholland told us.

However, Willard doesn't think that's a good reason to cut program assistance outright.

"We still have the same standards. We have more of a responsibility than the district does, because we are raising our children to be out there in this world," Willard said.

Even though Yanni graduates this May, Diana worries that other families who use the district's program assistance will have a difficult road ahead if it's cut.

Mulholland also told us that new state laws make it tougher for the district to see if a home-schooled student falls behind in the attendance requirement of 148 days during a school year. If the district's home school assistance program is cut, Mulholland said families do have the option to open-enroll in other districts that offer them.
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