LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Chair of the Michigan House Education Committee proposed reform to homeschooling reporting after responding to a comment from Attorney General Dana Nessel about children abused through the foster system who were homeschooled.
AG Nessel commented on X (formerly Twitter) about the Brown and Flore families who allegedly “preyed upon dozens of children who were removed from previously abusive biological homes and subjected the children to prolonged routine and systemic mental and physical abuse under the guise of discipline,” identifying a weak spot in the state’s capacity to care for children.
“These egregious allegations highlight not only a moral and legal failure of those entrusted with the children’s care, but a failure in our systems to ensure children placed in custody are properly taken care of,” AG Nessel said on social media.
In response to the AG, House Education Committee Chair Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) radvocated for the registration of students by homeschooling parents.
“Michigan is one of only 11 states that doesn’t count or register homeschooled children, and abusive parents are taking advantage of that to avoid being found out,” he said on X. “It’s time to support all Michigan students and change that. Michigan cannot allow this loophole to continue.”
State Representative Jaime Greene (R-Richmond), Minority Vice Chair on the committee, opposed the idea and Rep. Koleszar’s proposed solution to child abuse.
“I don’t know if he realizes this or not, but it is essentially a blanket statement that homeschoolers abuse their children,” Rep. Greene said in an interview with Michigan News Source. “I was disappointed in his statements and that he made a broad assumption that abusers are hiding in homeschoolers . I disagree with what his statement is.”
Instead, there are other groups that need a closer look, according to Rep. Greene.
“We have a systemic issue in our [Child Protective Services] and foster care system, that all of these circumstances where there have been abuse, these kids were already in the system and were forgotten about; so the system already failed them,” she said in the interview.
Rep. Greene also opposed the strategy of registering students as a way to reduce abuse.
“So instead [Rep. Koleszar’s] solution is to register and track every homeschool student in the state of Michigan to prevent abuse – that is not going to prevent abuse, that is not going to solve the problems and abuse,” she said in the interview.
Further, Rep. Greene called the proposed legislative response “an absolute violation of parental rights, it’s an invasion into personal privacy, and it’s an unjustifiable overreach of government.”
A recent poll from the Washington Post found that homeschooling is the fastest growing form of education across the United States, finding that a majority of states have experienced double digit growth in the total enrollment of homeschooled students since the 2017-18 school year. Among the highest were Florida with 72% increase, Hawaii and Pennsylvania with a 62% increase, and Kansas with a 57% increase. Several states were blank, including Michigan, since officials do not require notification when families choose to homeschool their students.
The report said, “In states with comparable enrollment figures, the number of home-schooled students increased 51 percent over the past six school years, far outpacing the 7 percent growth in private school enrollment. Public school enrollment dropped 4 percent in those states over the same period, a decline partly attributable to home schooling,” according to the report.
Rep. Greene has homeschooled her children for more than a decade, and spoke to the benefits of the schooling method.
“I am still homeschooling my son [and] he’s a junior in high school,” Rep. Greene said. “He has a very rigorous curriculum that I believe is pouring into his character development, and he is workforce ready,” she added.
She addressed that homeschooling curriculum could be personalized to meet the student’s needs.
“I could also teach the basics and I could ensure that they mastered a subject before moving on, where in public schools they just push kids along.” Rep. Greene said in the interview. “My kids have a better grasp of mastery of mathematics, of writing, of understanding what they’re reading than probably your typical kids.”
Another homeschooling mother from Owosso weighed in on the proposed reform as well. Samantha Krzak began homeschooling her daughter in Wisconsin before moving to Michigan. She placed her in a private school temporarily before homeschooling again.
“In Wisconsin I had to send a form to the state each year saying that I would be homeschooling one child; I did not have to say the gender of the grade of that child,” she said in an interview with Michigan News Source.
Krzak acknowledged that homeschooling is the parents’ right to choose and despite sending tax money to benefit public schools, she did not want to accept any money for homeschooling.
“As a homeschooler, that is not something we want either, Krzak said. “We don’t want funding from the public sector at all because that allows them to have a say over what we do, how we school, how many hours per day, and it’s very different day to day.”
Other states requiring no notice include: Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Texas.