1997 – OFTP Response to a School Board

The following is a letter received by an OFTP member from the local Ontario school board. It is included here without the names and addresses as an example of a typical letter that Ontario school boards have [at the time] been sending out to home educators. Following this letter is the response that OFTP sent on the member's behalf. There was no response from the school board nor from any of the government officials who received copies.

Letter from the School Board

RE: (OFTP member's children's names) Home Instruction Plan and Supervision

Dear Mr. and Mrs. (OFTP Member's names),

I am requesting that you contact (local school principal) in writing by December 19, 1997 in order to provide her with a Home Instruction Plan for your children, (names of children) . In addition, please inform (Principal of local school) of when she may have regular access to examples of the children's work and their learning environment. If you are unable to comply with these requests by the date mentioned above, I will be called upon to advise The Ministry Of Education and ask that a Provincial Inquiry be initiated as outlined in Section 24 (2) of The Education Act.

As part of the request that the Ministry institute a Provincial Inquiry, we will copy them all of our correspondence with you. I hope that we will be able to work together to help us perform our obligations as outlined in The Education Act.

Yours truly,

(Name )Director of Education and Secretary

c.c (Name)- Superintendent of Education
(Name) - Principal: (Name of local school).


Reply sent from OFTP to the Director and several others

The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents
(address)

December 12, 1997

(Name)
Director of Education and Secretary
(Name) County Board of Education
(Address)

Dear (Name),

It has been brought to our attention that you have recently sent a letter containing the following statement to one of our members:

" I am requesting that you contact (Principal of local school) in writing by December19, 1997 in order to provide her with a Home Instruction Plan for your children, (names). In addition, please inform (Name of Principal) of when she may have regular access to examples of the children's work and their learning environment. If you are unable to comply with these requests by the date mentioned above, I will be called upon to advise The Ministry of Education and ask that a Provincial Inquiry be initiated as outlined in Section 24 (2) of The Education Act."

May we suggest to you that there is a better way in which to relate to home educators living within the jurisdiction of the (Name) Country Board of Education. Firstly, we encourage you to increase your understanding and knowledge of the home education movement and thereby lower your level of dis-ease with this educational choice. There are many resources available to you right in the (Name of City) area. For its part, the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents invited you personally and other area school board administrators and employees to an Information Meeting at (locaation) on (date), 1997. We are still willing to share with you information and resources drawn from the local community of educators and scholars.

Secondly, the recent history of Inquiries in Ontario called under Section 24 of the Education Act has resulted in the last nine events supporting parents in the pursuit of the educational choices they had made for their children at home. Given these outcomes, it would seem prudent to channel the monies and resources involved into more worthwhile endeavours. The results of these last nine inquiries lead us to conclude that several Ontario school boards have limited knowledge and evidence concerning the educational programs, initiatives and intentions of home-based educators.

On the subject of "evidence" of satisfactory instruction, we believe that it is important to note that Section 24 (2) of the Act states: "Where the parent or guardian of a child considers that the child is excused from attendance at school under subsection 2 of Section 21, and the appropriate school attendance counsellor or the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor is of the opinion that the child should not be excused from attendance, ..." The wording of this excerpt implies to us that the local school attendance counsellor or the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor has some evidence to support his/her opinion. There is nothing within the Act or, interestingly enough, within the numbered policy memoranda of the Ministry of Education and Training which supports or warrants a school board actively pursuing, as you have in your letter, the gathering of evidence of satisfactory instruction. If you believe otherwise, would you explicitly detail what a school board's obligations are in enforcing the Act with respect to home-based education?

It appears to us that what is being stated in your letter is a suspicion on the part of the school board that if it is not directly in contact with the program and initiatives of the home education program and actively judging the content and quality of it against its own model of education, then what parents must be doing is somehow suspect. Does the school board have the legal right to ask for evidence of satisfactory instruction from parents who choose the home education model in Ontario? No! We see no support for this position in the Act or in common law. Our society no more gives this right to school boards than it gives the right to a board of Health to monitor the nutritional program that parents provide for their children. Parents, in our society, hold a prior right in these matters with respect to the well-being of their children.

Parents who have the time and the inclination to home educate their children are very concerned that they receive the very best education. As you get to know more parents who choose home learning, this fact will become immediately clear to you. A superior course for you to follow would be to encourage positive interactions with the home education communities within your jurisdiction. On this, we are ready and willing to participate.

Thirdly, reflect on the current political climate in Ontario where we are striving to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of our major budget expenditures - education being one of them. Ontario parents who choose home learning save the taxpayer a bare minimum of 40 million dollars annually. If, in fact, one percent of the children in Ontario are home educated (a figure true for the United States), then that number rises to 1.03 million dollars annually. Not only are these parents not receiving financial support for their educational choices, but also they are required by law to support state-run schools.

In conclusion, we ask that you consider the experience of school boards in neighouring counties. As a result of extensive meetings with the (Name)during (date) in which local home educators joined a subcommittee of the Education and Policy Committee, parents who now contact the school board concerning home-based education are referred to local home learning groups within the jurisdiction and are given the option of being considered "registered" or "unregistered" with the school board. It is the hope of the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents that the (Name) County Board of Education will avail itself of the information and contacts readily available locally and choose to support home-based education in such a way that parents feel a part of a community whose primary goal is the betterment of society through a variety of educational alternatives.

Yours truly,

(Name), OFTP Administration

cc. Chris Corkery, Corkery and Corkery, Peterborough, Ontario
Albert Lubberts, President OFTP
(Name) - Superintendent of Education, (Name) Board
(Name) - Principal: (Name of school)
Richard Adams, Provincial School Attendance Counsellor
Dave Johnson, Minister of Education and Training for Ontario