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Editorial: Allow Home-Schooled Kids To Take Classes

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FOR THE RECORD - This editorial incorrectly reported that home-schooled students are prohibited from taking any classes at a Rio Rancho Public Schools campus. Home-schooled students can take courses at Rio Rancho schools, as long as they are enrolled in four or more.

Rio Rancho Public Schools seems to be having a problem with the definitions of home school and private school. So, let’s look them up.

According to state law, NMSA 22-1-2, Definitions:

E. “home school” means the operation by the parent of a school-age person of a home study program of instruction that provides a basic academic educational program, including reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies and science; and

K. “private school” means a school, other than a home school, that offers on-site programs of instruction and that is not under the control, supervision or management of a local school board.

Seems pretty clear they are not the same thing.

But school board members say the district’s lawyer advised the board it is illegal to allow home-schooled students to take classes in district schools because home schools are private schools.

Some school board members who want to allow home-schoolers to attend an elective class are seeking clarification from the attorney general. Many districts around the state allow home-schooled students into their classes.

Until the board changed its policy Monday to begin prohibiting home-schoolers from taking any classes at Rio Rancho schools, classes were open to students enrolled in four or more subjects. The 14 students now enrolled part-time will be permitted to complete their studies.

Rio Rancho’s four-class limit had been in effect because the state does not give school districts money for students taking fewer classes. Albuquerque Public Schools’ policy is similar — home-schooled students can only take courses if they are enrolled “half a day.”

Rio Rancho Board member Craig Brandt says home-schooled students should have the same access to a free public education as other students. He’s right.

If parents want to teach their kids at home, fine. They must do so without the help of taxpayer dollars.

But they still pay taxes that go into the kitty from which districts are funded. Letting their children take a class — or four — if the district has room would be a fair way for them to get a little bang for their tax buck.

The board plans to ask the Legislature to change the law so districts could receive money even if a student is taking only one course. That seems fair, too.

Meanwhile, the board president is refusing to make public a memo the district’s lawyer gave the board citing her legal arguments for a strict home-school policy under the guise of attorney-client privilege.

That’s ridiculous. The board is the client and has the ability to waive that privilege at any time.

It should release the memo in the name of transparency and good government — rather than hide the reason for a bad decision.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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