By Michael McNutt
Gov. Mary Fallin says she is pro-choice -- when it comes to educating elementary and high school students.
The governor Tuesday told more than 2,000 homeschooled students and their parents gathered at the state Capitol that she supports their right and freedom for children to be taught at home.
"I support choice of having an education in public schools, in charter schools, in online studies and ... homeschooling," said Fallin, who proclaimed this week as Oklahoma Home School Week.
She urged the students, who with their parents crowded onto the second-floor rotunda and looked down from the third- and fourth-floor rotundas, to study, stay out of trouble, graduate and continue to learn. She said they should consider pursuing a college degree.
"There are many, many dedicated parents and family members who give their children an excellent education," Fallin said. "They provide all the great opportunities that children would have in other systems of schools, whether it be our public schools or our charter schools."
Homeschooling has been protected for more than 100 years in the state constitution, which provides that parents may teach their children at home, said Jerry Chrisman, a trustee for the Oklahoma Christian Home Educators Consociation, which sponsored Tuesday's activities at the Capitol.
It's unknown how many children are homeschooled in the state, said Chrisman, whose group is a service organization that puts on events, conventions and training for those involved in homeschooling. He estimates about 30,000 children are homeschooled.
"Our mission is to help homeschoolers be successful," he said.
With homeschooling, the state does not set the standards as in private or public schools.
The modern homeschooling movement started in 1983. Oklahoma was one of the first three states that allowed homeschooling; it now is legal in all 50 states.