Officials with the state associations representing teachers and school board members are raising concerns about home schooling proposals that were added to the education reform package that cleared the House this week.
One proposal would let parents who are home schooling their own children teach four other unrelated students. Mary Jane Cobb is the executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, the state teacher’s union.
“We are opposed to allowing parents to teach their children to drive,” Cobb says. “…We believe that we need qualified people who know how to teach people to drive doing that. These are students, these are young people who have a lot of distractions and there are a lot of challenges in learning how to drive and they’re going to be on the roads with all of us. All of our children need a safe start at learning how to drive.”
Advocates of the proposal say home schooled students often have a hard time enrolling in the required driver’s ed classes and some have had to wait ’til they’re 18 to get their intermediate driver’s license.
Tom Downs of the Iowa State Association of School Boards says he hasn’t discussed the issue with association members, but as a former teacher and a former superintendent, he has a personal opinion.
“I believe if home school parents can teach driver’s ed, why couldn’t you and I teach driver’s ed?” Downs asks. “…Driver’s ed is specialized training, highly specialized training and I believe that should maintain, as current state law requires, that it be done by licensed, trained driver’s ed instructors through a local school or a local community-based program.”
House Republicans also voted to let parents who are home schooling their own child teach other, unrelated students. Supporters say it’s a move toward more “parental choice” in education. Cobb says the teacher’s union is opposed to that.
“Our primary focus is to make sure that every student in the state gets a good education,” Cobb says, “and we happen to think that happens in our public schools.”
Iowa Department of Education director Jason Glass says these proposals were not on Governor Branstad’s priority list, but Branstad’s not opposed to them.
“We prefer to spend our time and energy thinking about how we impact the whole system,” Glass says. “Home schooling is a great option for some families and some parents, but our efforts and our energies are focused on things that affect the entire system.”
Glass, Cobb and Downs made their comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.