The Indiana General Assembly enacted far-reaching education reforms this year. But there is one notable absence: home schooling.
The Christian Choate case -- extreme though it is -- shows how easy it is for a child to fall through the bureaucracy's cracks.
Indiana is one of 10 states with very few regulations for home-schooled students, according to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. In fact, parents aren't even required to register with the state for home schooling, although they are encouraged to do so.
The state has a vested interest in seeing that each child receives a quality education, through whatever means that might be. A good education tends to lead to a good job, which means a person is less likely to require welfare or incarceration. And regular contact with adults outside the home -- which happens in public and private schools -- helps the authorities ascertain a child's well-being.
In Christian Choate's case, however, home schooling meant the boy had no reason to see adults outside the home regularly.
The allegations of abuse that surfaced after 13-year-old boy's body is believed to have been found May 4 in a shallow grave in Gary's Black Oak section. It is a story that easily causes nightmares. But it could be the wake-up call legislators need to make them reconsider the virtual lack of regulations regarding home schooling.
If all students -- even those taught at home -- had to report on a periodic basis for examinations or some other reason to school officials, the outcome of the Choate case might have been different.
The vast majority of parents who teach their children at home are, we believe, responsible parents who make their children's education a top priority. There are many resources for parents who choose, for whatever reason, to home-school their children.
But how many children fall through the cracks because their parents fail to follow through on their promise to educate their children well? Without state regulations, there's no way of knowing that answer.
Should children schooled at home be required to take periodic tests to show their educational process?
For children in a public school or private school, these checks are automatic. But in the Christian Choate example, some oversight by the state might have prevented his death. State oversight also could put pressure on the parents -- admittedly, a minority -- who say they will home school their children but then fail to educate them well. This is a policy issue that has been ignored way too long.
It's too late to establish one for this summer, but the Indiana General Assembly should set up a study committee next year to look at home schooling to see whether the state should keep tabs on these children to ascertain their educational progress and well-being.