The Republican-led Iowa House has endorsed a proposal for home schoolers that was rejected by the Democratically-led Iowa Senate last week.
The House approved a bill that would let parents who home-school their children teach those kids driver’s ed rather than requiring those students to enroll in a course taught by a certified instructor. Representative Kim Pearson, a Republican from Pleasant Hill, is a home-schooling parent.
“It is our God-given right to educate our children,” Pearson said during today’s debate. “We are intimately concerned about their well-being and their education and we’re concerned about safety of the children and our neighbors as well.”
Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, called teaching her daughter to drive the “most terrifying experience of her life,” so she and her husband lined up a professional instructor who had a car equipped with a second brake on the passenger side of the vehicle.
“It helped us out immensely and gave me confidence in her driving ability and perhaps her, too,” Wessel-Kroeschel said, “because her mother wasn’t screaming and hitting the break that wasn’t on my side.”
Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, read a letter from a driver’s ed instructor from Ankeny who said he’d used his safety brake 148 times last summer as he taught 16 students how to drive.
“Home schooling, by its very name, speaks to what its education is all about — home schooling,” Steckman said. “This bill takes it to a different level. It could affect all of us who are driving. An automobile has sometimes been called a lethal weapon and I think safety equipment is the least we can ask for.”
But Representative Pearson and other House Republicans rejected Steckman’s bid to require home schooling parents to install a second set of brakes in the vehicles they use to teach their kids to drive.
“Regarding safety, it’s been shown that teaching-parent driver education is safer than public-school driver education,” Pearson said. “And we’ve got studies from the University of Colorado that bears that out.” That study examined 100 teen drivers in Colorado and found teenagers who’d been home-schooled for driver’s ed were far less likely to speed or be involved in an accident compared to kids who’d gone to driver’s ed taught by a certified instructor.
The neighboring states of Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota allow home-schooling parents to teach their kids driver’s ed. Several years ago the Iowa legislature voted to put Iowa on that list, but then-Governor Tom Vilsack vetoed the bill. The measure faces a bleak future again this year, as last week’s Senate vote against the proposal was 25-24.