The Department of Education has so far succeeded in declaring all homeschoolers’ high school diplomas to be invalid.
Cindy Benefield, the Tennesseee Department of Education Executive Director of Field Services, who oversees the state’s homeschooling office, recently declared that a diploma from a church-related school is “not worth the paper it is written on.” That is not just the idle opinion of one uninformed bureaucrat, but has become Department policy. Bredesen’s education commissioner, Tim Webb, told four legislators in April that until the legislature passes a law stating that the diplomas given by church-related schools are acceptable, they aren’t acceptable for certain kinds of employment.
And the state is now preventing people who hold diplomas from church-related schools or home schools from holding certain jobs. For example: a police officer in Roane County, who holds a diploma from a church-related school, then graduated the police academy with perfect grades, has been demoted and prohibited from continuing to serve as a police officer – even though he also graduated from the local community college. The Rockwood police officer has been forced to take a desk job until he takes and passes the GED because the Department of Education says his 2001 diploma from a church-related school is invalid.
The fallout goes beyond that one officer. Suspects he has arrested may be set free because he can not appear as a witness in the case because the state, which regulates the profession, says his diploma is invalid.
Church-related schools (CRS) have been issuing high school diplomas since at least 1975 – and until now, they’ve always been accepted, never been challenged. The bigger irony in this is that the Tennessee university system and the Lottery scholarships continue to accept CRS diplomas. It’s a fair assumption to predict that the Department of Education would like that practice to stop as well.
Rep. Mike Bell’s bill to reverse this stunning policy change escaped the House Ed Committee without being hijacked, but it is now sitting in the Calendar & Rules Committee where it may be quietly allowed to die. If that happens, the Department will have succeeded in disenfranchising thousands of high school graduates by bureaucratic fiat. There are upwards of 40,000 homeschool students in TN. Probably 3,000 of them graduate from high school each year. The Department’s actions not only invalidate the diplomas of this year’s graduating class, they retroactively invalidate the diplomas of thousands who have graduated over the past thirty years.
What’s happening is an outrage. We have a shortage of good police officers. We have a shortage of good daycare workers – but the Department of Education can’t stand it that someone out there might be getting an education outside their control.
– Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center