One of Colorado’s top state legislative races this year – a very high target on the state Republican party’s list of potential takeovers – is Senate District 19 in north Jefferson County. The race pits Republican businesswoman Libby Szabo against liberal union activist and state school board member Evie Hudak.
Evie Hudak’s perceived strength in this race is the education issue, but if a 1999 commentary she wrote for the Denver Post gives any evidence, she holds a narrow, prejudiced, and uninformed view of one major type of education chosen by parents: homeschooling. Here are some excerpts:
The accountability in public education is also extensive in the area of academic standards. Public school students must demonstrate adequate academic achievement.
Colorado public schools have rigorous content standards required for all academic areas, and schools’ success in upholding the standards is evaluated by regular statewide and district testing….
On the other hand, home-schooled students are not required to demonstrate academic achievement on the state assessments, and their curriculum is not compelled to include any standards.
Really? Even if it were true that homeschoolers didn’t have to meet some basic standards (in Colorado, starting in 3rd grade, homeschoolers have to take testing or evaluation every other year), the fact that they tend to outperform public school students academically belies Hudak’s claims.
Besides the kinds of accountability already mentioned, public schools also provide a commitment to building and maintaining the basic values of our society and our democratic system of government.
The Colorado Constitution provides for a “thorough and uniform system of free public schools.”
The people who govern public schools are elected by the public and expected to uphold the shared values of the community. School board members receive frequent and regular feedback from the public about their management of the district.
Also, principals, teachers and other school staff receive feedback from parents, parent groups and accountability committees. The public ensures that there is ideological control over public schools.
In home schools, there is no assurance that values such as citizenship and acceptance of diversity will be encouraged. The importance of these values to our nation’s survival prompted our founding fathers to support the right to a free education. [emphasis added]
Because the classes in public schools are large, students are not “spoon-fed.” They are forced to take more responsibility for their learning; this helps them gain more independence and initiative, which makes them better employees.
Is Evie Hudak arguing for larger class sizes? Is this paragraph even to be taken seriously? An actual study by the Society for Human Resource Management says quite the opposite about Hudak’s claims concerning who are “better employees.”
Children in public schools have to deal with many different personalities and temperaments, helping them acquire the skills to interact with the diversity of people in the world at large. They also learn to adapt to the varied leadership styles of teachers. Home-schooled children experience a homogenous group of people, sometimes only their parents.
Public schools help children become more cultured, discriminating and enlightened because they have a wide variety of resources and activities. Schools have music, sports, clubs and other student groups that give children an opportunity to learn more than pure academics and have many kinds of experiences.
The evidence from this study also suggests that adults who were home educated have a commitment to or tolerance of free expression of viewpoints or beliefs that is about as strong as that of the general public.
Another laugher from Hudak:
Despite the few recent incidents of violence, public schools do provide children with a safe environment in which to learn. In fact, many more incidents of children’s gun deaths occur in homes.
Are we supposed to infer that there is a connection between home-schooling and violent gun deaths? Absurd.
Hudak closes with an approving quotation:
Gully Stanford, member of the Colorado Board of Education, explains best why public education surpasses home schooling. “In an increasingly diverse and technological society, the paramount need is to prepare our youth for productive citizenship: No home, no matter how well equipped, can duplicate the nurturing and coping experience of a public school education,” he said.
No home can duplicate the nurturing experience of a school? I don’t care if the school is public or private. That is a far-fetched claim, as far-fetched as Evie Hudak’s published views of homeschooling.
The question remains for Democrat Senate District 19 candidate Evie Hudak: Does she still hold these views of homeschooling, and of education in general? Will she acknowledge something now that she avoided in the 1999 Post piece: namely, that families who so choose deserve the right to educate their children at home, especially given the track record of success? Or does her view remain as narrow, prejudiced, and inaccurate as it did 9 years ago?