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Texas Lawsuit Could Affect Home-schooling Families Across the U.S.

The Short of It

A family's right to home-school their children as they see fit is being challenged by the Texas Supreme Court, and the decision could have sweeping implications for the rest of the country's home-schooled kids.

The Lowdown

Laura McIntyre of El Paso says she has been home-schooling her nine children for the past 10 years in a motorcycle dealership she owns with other relatives. But what exactly the kids were being taught came into question recently when McIntyre's brother-in-law reported she wasn't teaching the kids education basics, like reading, math or computers. Then her 17-year-old daughter ran away from home because she wanted to go to public school, but could only be placed in the ninth grade because school administrators worried she wasn't equipped to handle higher-level work.

The El Paso school district asked the family to prove their kids were getting a real education. In response, the McIntyres sued, saying they feel the state is biased against them for their Christian beliefs and is overreaching in its power to try to mandate what they teach their kids.

Per Texas law, the McIntyres were not required to register their kids with the state, nor were the children required to take standardized tests. However, Texas does require that kids receive a bona fide education. The family claims they based their home-school curriculum on what their kids were taught at the private religious schools they previously attended. But the brother-in-law testified the children's education was not a priority since the family believed they were simply waiting to go to heaven with the second coming of Jesus Christ. He said he heard one of them say learning was unnecessary since "they were going to be raptured."

An appeals court ruled against the family. The outcome of the case being heard today in front of the Texas Supreme Court will be closely watched.

The Upshot

Home-schooling is an increasingly popular form of education in the United States. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, between 2003 and 2012, the number of kids who are home-schooled in the U.S. has grown by a third. Now as many as 1.7 million children are home educated, or about 3 percent of students.

Like Texas, 11 other states do not require home-schooling parents to register. And the requirement that kids receive a true education holds little meaning since there is no way to track students' progress or monitor what they're learning. Meanwhile, 14 states don't even have any requirements as to what is taught at home, according to Coleman's Coalition for Responsible Home Education, which advocates for greater home-schooling accountability. On the flip-side, 24 states require home-schooled children to take assessment tests, and nine require those test scores to be turned in to state authorities.

What do you think is the role of government when it comes to homeschooling?

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