To the Editor:
When one child goes missing in Iowa an Amber Alert is issued and search parties are organized. What happens when nearly 4000 children are unaccounted for?
Not long ago the death of Natalie Finn and the alleged abuse of Malayia Knapp were revealed. Both reportedly home schooled in Iowa. How does this happen?
In 2013 an education reform bill was amended to include an additional form of home schooling called Independent Private Instruction (IPI), established for private or religious based home schooling. Under IPI, unlicensed individuals may instruct their own children and up to four unrelated children.
They are not subject to oversight, standards, regulations or progress reporting to school districts or the Iowa Department of Education. No one knows who receives IPI. Licensed instructors are mandatory reporters of abuse, must be fingerprinted and undergo background checks, not so for IPI. These children essentially disappear from the educational system with no safety net.
According to Department of Education data, 10,732 Iowa children were home schooled during the 2012-2013 school year. For 2015-2016, districts reported only 6,975 students enrolled in Home School Assistance programs, received Competent Private Instruction, or both.
These data raise concerns for a significant number of children about educational competence standards (required for Home School Assistance and Competent Private Instruction), as well as child welfare issues and the real potential for neglect, abuse or death because of the lack of oversight and accountability.
Legislators who support IPI do so to promote Christian education and because they prize parental liberty and freedom from government control. But it's a mistake to assume that all who claim to home school are responsible, decent people. Most are, but there seem to be nearly 4000 children unaccounted for in Iowa.
Every child deserves to be safe and receive a good education from qualified educators. Neither is guaranteed under IPI.
Iowa and our local communities have long shared responsibility with parents to provide access to quality public education. Along the way, they have also shared accountability for the safety and welfare of students.
Oversight and regulation are reasonable expectations.
Iowa Senator Matt McCoy, Des Moines, has introduced SF 138. It contains reporting requirements (already required of Competent Private Instruction providers) as well as allowing health and safety visits for the protection of children home schooled under IPI. HF 268, cosponsored by Representative Timothy Kacena of Sioux City, contains similar provisions.
Kids have no political power and no voice. Responsible adults need to speak out on their behalf and demand repeal of IPI or, at least, insist their legislators vote for SF 138 and HF 268. Provisions in the bill should cause no concern for a parent who is doing the right thing.
(signed) Anne Stansbury Johnson