Understanding homeschooling laws in other states helps us understand why Wisconsin's good homeschooling law is so important and worth working hard to maintain. For example, Minnesota's homeschooling law requires the following:
• Homeschoolers are required to take norm-referenced standardized achievement tests every year. The local school superintendent must agree to the test the parents select.
• Every year all homeschoolers are required to submit a report to the local school district where their child resides. Parents must also submit quarterly reports unless they have a bachelor's degree, or a valid Minnesota teaching license in the field and for the grade level taught, or are being directly supervised by a person holding a valid Minnesota teaching license.
• Because the local superintendent or someone they designate may visit a homeschooling family once a year (or more frequently if there is any evidence that a family is not complying with the law), families need to have available documentation showing that they are complying with the compulsory school attendance law, including "class schedules, copies of materials used for instruction, and descriptions of methods used to assess student achievement."
These requirements are further complicated by the fact that the statutes are subject to interpretation by school districts and homeschoolers. This gives local school officials additional power. As a result, there is some variation in how the statutes are enforced in different parts of the state; requirements are more strict in some districts than in others. This makes interactions with public school officials both more personal and more complex than they are in Wisconsin where we are only required to submit one form, without children's names or birth dates or, for those who choose the "Ungraded" option, grade level. This information is sent to the DPI, so we do not have to be in direct contact with any local school officials, even though they receive a copy of our form from the DPI.
One of the major disadvantages to Minnesota's law (in addition to the required reports and tests) is that the law divides homeschoolers into several groups. Parents who have a bachelor's degree or a valid Minnesota teaching license in the field and for the grade level taught, or are being directly supervised by a person holding a valid Minnesota teaching license face different requirements that those who don't. This disrupts the unity among homeschoolers that is so important to developing and maintaining our strength within a state. (See page 5 of this newsletter.) Unity is weakened even more by the requirement that homeschoolers report to local school districts. Homeschoolers living in a state that has a law that divides them are less likely to see themselves as a united group working together to protect the right of every family to homeschool according to their principles and beliefs.
By contrast, homeschoolers in Wisconsin are not divided by provisions of the Wisconsin homeschooling law. This advantage is not the result of luck or an accident. During the meeting at which WPA was founded on January 6, 1984, homeschoolers carefully, forcefully, and deliberately decided that they would not accept provisions that applied to or were acceptable to some homeschoolers but not to all. As a result of this wise and courageous decision, homeschoolers in Wisconsin have been able to stand united and work together for homeschooling freedoms. This has meant, and continues to mean, that we are in a much stronger position because of our unity.