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Better oversight of home schools needed

We agree with Robert McCarter, managing attorney for the Council for Children’s Rights. There is no reason to believe that homeschooling encourages child abuse or that many home-schoolers are abusers. Most home-schooled children, as local pediatrician Preeti Matkins told the Observer, “are safe, with very good parents.”

But a number of incidents in North Carolina where child abuse is suspected point to a need for closer oversight and scrutiny of home schools.

The most recent incident involves a child protection supervisor at the Union County Department of Social Services, Wanda Larson, who has been charged with child abuse after a deputy found a boy handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck. There were reports that the child and others in the home were malnourished, and went to nearby homes begging for food.

Last year, Larson filed to home-school the children but has not produced attendance, immunization or testing records required by N.C. law. With the swelling numbers of home schools – the number of registered home schools doubled over the decade to 53,347 – enforcement of this rule has become sporadic. And when students leave public schools for home schools, they are out of the eyes of a number of people who can spot abuse and report it.

Those facts have helped create situations where abusive conditions can go unnoticed or get inadequately addressed – as in the case of 10-year-old Zahra Baker, who was found dead two years ago – killed by her stepmother, who said she was being home-schooled.

Children deserve better protection than that. Home school rules and practices should be revisited to ensure they get it.

Council helps give shelter

Thanks and applause to Charlotte’s City Council for keeping a good thing going.

The council voted unanimously this week to give $1 million to help expand Moore Place, a complex in north Charlotte that provides apartments and services to the chronically homeless.

The Urban Ministry Center will spend $2.2 million to build 35 units, bringing the total at Moore Place to 120. The center will also raise $1.8 million for its Sustainability Fund to help cover operations.

The city made a wise investment. Moore Place not only provides help for individuals who desperately need it, but also saves taxpayers money. People living at Moore Place would be running up sometimes astronomical bills at hospitals and jails without it. Urban Ministry officials say Moore Place saved the community $1.8 million in its first year, based on 420 fewer days in jail, 449 fewer emergency room visits and 377 fewer days spent in hospitals.

The council’s vote this week is an encouraging sign that Charlotte is starting to understand what others have known for years: When tackling homelessness, housing works. A few years ago, the council grudgingly gave $500,000 toward a $10 million bill to build Moore Place. This time it voted unanimously to give more money to a smaller project.

There are still a couple of thousand people homeless in Charlotte on any given might. Council members should be commended. Now they, and others, need to stay committed.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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