Home Education Magazine
May-June 2004 - Articles and Columns
History of Homeschooling
History in the Making
This is an important compilation of mainstream media news stories from the last year, with many reports connected to public school enrollment, including cyber schools and charter schools. These and other forms of public school enrollment are increasingly affecting the freedoms of homeschooling families.
We are presenting this unique "History in the Making" perspective on the topic because we believe it is important for our readers to understand what is being written on this subject. We believe that such understanding can be the first step toward effecting a much-needed change in public perception - and in the perception of many homeschooling families as well. Please note: This is an expanded version of the compilation printed in the May-June 2004 issue of Home Education Magazine.
A Large Dose of Reality
What is being reported about homeschooling in the mainstream media?
What is the threat we face in losing the very word 'homeschooling?'
What challenge to all of our freedoms is collecting in greater storm clouds each day?
What will historians write about homeschooling in five or ten years?
Marshfield (WI) News-Herald, August 22, 2003, "Cyberschools become popular education option" 1
Citing ...school districts racing to offer their own versions of online education, the report puts it plainly:
[School districts] have a powerful incentive: money. In many states, virtual charters receive as much as $5,000 in public money for each child they teach even if the cyberstudent was not previously enrolled in a public school. The money generally is diverted from the budget of the school district where the students live.
That being the case, this article then mistakenly states:
|drains money from traditional schools to subsidize
The online approach has been attacked by public school administrators who argue that it drains money from traditional schools to subsidize home schooling.
This direct statement leaves a completely false assumption. Public charter school is not homeschooling. Cyber charter schools require enrollment-the same type of enrollment required of any student who is attending a bricks and mortar school building. The money involved is being drained from traditional schools-to subsidize charter
schools and to subsidize the private corporations who run many of them.
Unless diligent homeschoolers refute the misstatements in these news reports-a seemingly endless battle these days-the misimpression stands with any reader of these reports. The "authority" of a public school administrator calls it subsidized homeschooling. How many average readers will understand or challenge the difference?
Despite years of hard work, many homeschoolers still encounter public school administrators who, at best, tolerate homeschooling. Few seem to have willingly accepted the autonomy of parents making educational decisions for their own families, especially when the subject turns toward the measures imposed by state and federal laws on those same administrators: "accountability" for example. How disingenuous it must appear when the discussion now incorrectly includes tying huge sums of diverted public school money to a small number of families, many of who "never would have homeschooled" (see later reports.)
We seldom speak the same language as school administrators. If anything, that lack of common understanding has grown worse in direct proportion to the increased curriculum standardization, mandatory high-stakes testing, and the tracking of every child in the public school system.
Despite years of working with the same public school administrators mentioned in this article and others to achieve even minimal understanding of homeschooling, progress will be reversed in money and power battles. Those same administrators call enrollment in public schools "home schooling" and very few reporters do the necessary work to refute that.
Indeed, it is very distressing for homeschoolers to find themselves on such dangerously thin ice. Couple together:
? huge sums of money;
? career legislators who implement policy in highly-politicized environments where education is about business;
? money- and power-driven special interests lobbying legislators, often while headquartered near capitol cities;
? profit-rich corporations using whatever means necessary to create charter schools and vouchers, no matter who gets hurt;
? slick public relations campaigns;
? powerful public school administrators and teachers' unions fighting for their livelihoods and positions;
? reporters who get it wrong;
? irritated taxpayers, facing continual school levies, most of who don't have school-age children, let alone homeschooled children;
? lack of any common understanding of homeschooling;
? some homeschoolers themselves who are sacrificing autonomy for small returns, usually mere technology.
It's all included in this analysis. Here's a broad and illuminating sample of the thin ice on which we stand.
Education Week, January 8, 2003, "Despite Concerns, Online Elementary Schools Grow" 2
In this nationally circulated article, Paul Young, president of the National Association of Elementary School
Principals, targets dead center on homeschoolers:
|attract students in home schooling back into
the public system
To begin with, districts are eligible to receive state and federal grant money
for online schools' start-up expenses. 'That is the carrot out there everyone
wants to go after...This is an alternative for us to attract students in home
schooling back into the public system.'
From the same article, speaking of William Bennett's K12, Inc.: K12, a for-profit company offers online coursework and assessments for kindergarten through grade 12 to 7,000 home schoolers. Its state partners include Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In addition, K12 partners with half a dozen districts in southern and central California, a cyber school and a charter school in Alaska, and a cyber school in Florida.
With careless sentence structure, how many might think that K12 was providing taxpayer-funded services to 7,000 homeschoolers, instead of fully enrolled students in public cyber schools?
The Des Moines (IA) Register, September 14, 2003, "Virtual school offers choices in home study" 3
From a K12 promotion at a local motel, the reporter writes: It seemed almost too good to be true: a home-school program backed by a public school district that would supply a computer, a monitor and a printer, plus supplies ranging from textbooks to finger paint at no cost to parents.
Rather than clear-cut full enrollment in public school, the article refers to this as a "home-school program," leaving an impression of some ancillary-type service to benefit a special interest group.
(Note: The theme of "homeschooling program" runs through many other reports, suggesting operations are akin to an extracurricular club, rather than enrollment in a public school.)
Additionally, one self-described "home-schooler," thinks he can sell-out an entire homeschooling community. The father first expressed concerns that students would be subjected to standardized tests because it was a public school program. Yes, the tests are required because it is public school.
The K12 salesman zings the deal-closing observation: If dad wanted no testing, he could still enroll in the program but would have to pay from $900 to $1,200 a year for the course and materials.
Dad was convinced. 'I should grab about 60 enrollment forms for all the home-schoolers in our area. We have been paying for our curriculum and materials for years. Why would somebody not do this if they are home-schoolers?'
Why not? Could it be because of all the government control of your home, including those standardized tests?
Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN), October 10, 2003 "Suit seeks to stop online program" 4
The state teachers union [Education Minnesota] went to court Thursday to shut down an online education program popular with hundreds of home-schooling families.
The union's beef? Public funding going to cyber schools where parents, rather than licensed teachers, deliver the instruction. They cite Minnesota's licensing laws. The union president asks: 'Is it public education, or are we funding home schooling?...What we are talking about is, what is the definition of public education.'
Did anyone correct the union president or reporter's presumption of "home schooling?"
Shouldn't the union really be more focused on who's reaping all the profits from these operations and how are they regulated?
Schools with state-approved online programs receive the same state funding
for online classrooms as their bricks-and-mortar peers. Additionally, $2.25 million was added by Minnesota's legislature for the programs.
special interest groups such as home-schoolers
Times Record News (Wichita Falls, TX), November 25, 2003, "More parents turning abodes into classrooms"5
... using tax dollars to purchase additional online resources for home-schoolers
has become a touchy subject.
Referring specifically to a disputed Texas charter school:
|subsidize special interest groups such as home-schoolers
Such a school would subsidize special interest groups such as home-schoolers, Mike Crouch, spokesman Association Texas Professional Educators, said [sic].
Education officials support parental decisions to home-school, but not on the taxpayer's dime, especially when the state is strapped for cash, he said.
|home-school... on the taxpayer's dime
'We can't provide textbooks to our own public students,' Crouch said. 'The program gives money when there is no money to be given out.'
The National Education Association has repeatedly authorized a no-teeth resolution opposing homeschooling. Are homeschoolers now prepared on a state-by-state basis to go head-to-head against the still-powerful unions who may mistakenly perceive us as the cause of huge funding losses?
Often criticism completely bypasses those who actually have created a large part of the problem for both public schools and homeschoolers: that is, those developing the for-profit, cyber charter schools.
Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), November 26, 2003, "State Supreme Court rules in favor of cyber schools" 6
|unregulated form of home-schooling
School districts have argued that cyber charter schools essentially amount to an unregulated form of home-schooling.
Haven't school districts argued for years to regulate homeschooling? Could this be an administrator's golden opportunity to approach legislators, people with whom they speak on a first-name basis? How many homeschoolers enjoy equal access? How many homeschoolers even write news editors to counter these erroneous statements?
The Arizona Republic, September 2, 2003, "Cyberschool advocate touts Arizona academy" 7
While interviewing William Bennett, he is asked, Is virtual schooling home schooling? He answers, as he does in other reports:
'No. It has some of the benefits of home schooling. The Arizona Virtual Academy is a public school and people who sign their kids up will be in the public school system. Nevertheless, there are things to learn from home schooling that we take advantage of in this program such as passion and commitment of the parent in the education of their son or daughter. You can't buy that.'
Bennett may not really be in the education market to "buy" but rather to "sell" an attractive pretext that somehow virtual charter schools are equivalent to homeschooling.
Possibly there would be less confusion if when asked: Is virtual schooling homeschooling, Bennett would truthfully state: "No, it is public school." and leave it at that. Instead, he seems determined to always confuse enrollment in his operations with a connection to homeschooling. The financial stakes are quite high.
Journal Sentinal (Milwaukee, WI), November 28, 2003, "Virtual schools grow, learn" 8
The article first describes one family and specifically states that two sisters, who are enrolled in Bennett's Wisconsin Virtual Academy, are public school students. Yet, the mother is quoted:
'I would never have home-schooled if this hadn't come along.'
If families enrolled in public education through these avenues seem confused about their own identity, imagine the general public's confusion. Are Bennett, his sales staff and other promoters living up to reality in their presentations? Would bait-and-switch laws apply for those who innocently wander towards participation?
Most disturbing is the blunt clarity of one charter cyber school director who is using homeschoolers and Wisconsin's open enrollment law as a springboard for global expansion. First:
|bringing home-schoolers back into the public schools, and we think that's a good thing
'We're bringing home-schoolers back into the public schools, and we think that's a good thing.'
He clarifies that global money streams are a powerful motivator by indicating that he is:
...interested in marketing his program to students who live outside Wisconsin and even overseas, [saying] public schools should get involved in virtual programs or run the risk of being left behind.
'If we don't do it, the private companies are going to come in and we will lose out.'
Two oft-repeated themes appear in this article, too, and are seen in other states where public cyber charter schools are emerging: pressures for greater regulatory control and threats of lawsuits by established education interests. Statements referencing homeschooling regularly get tied into both.
Houston (TX) Chronicle, December 14, 2003, "Virtual charter school plan sparks opposition" 9
Despite extensive scrutiny of charter school operator Eagle Academies which ...has eight failing schools under review by a state monitor, Eagle now wants to ...take its curriculum of individualized learning to home-schooled students. This plan will cost a potential $15 million.
Eagle is the latest entity to try to get state education dollars to serve students being taught at home. Other proposals...have been withdrawn in the face of opposition from educators and public school advocates.
Eagle's own school principals criticize the curriculum planned for the cyber school. According to the article, they feel the materials are ...not in alignment with state curriculum standards and not preparing students to pass the [Texas's high-stakes] test.
Despite marketing perceptions that charter schools are somehow "different" than public schools, these Eagle principals obviously disagree.
At least Texas has one insightful state school board member. Terri Leo, a member of the State Board of Education, said she's not convinced that computerized learning is a valid education model. 'The home-schoolers I know would not choose to do the virtual charter school. They wouldn't want to put their kid in front of a computer all day long.'
ABC News, September 16, 2003, "Virtual School Daze" 10
After a chatty opening about a family: [They] are not just one of millions of American families that have decided to home-school rather than send their children off to public or private classrooms.
|aren't out of the local school system's loop at all
In fact, [they] aren't out of the local school system's loop at all. Instead, they are part of a growing experiment called 'virtual schooling'... Another ambiguous linking to homeschooling.
This broadcast actually purported an interest by both homeschoolers and school districts in the requirements of No Child Left Behind:
The [cyber charter profit operations] are gaining interest among home-schooling families as well as overburdened school districts partly because of new education standards and guidelines tied to federal education dollars. However, only a profit-seeking school president from Connections Academy is quoted in support of that idea:
|really focused more on outcomes
'We believe that the No Child Left Behind [Act] is providing the framework for a whole new way of thinking in education,...You're really focused more on outcomes.'
Again, profit is a powerful motivator, so profit-makers seem to have no problem forcing those "outcomes" on the heads of children. The Connections Academy president's remarks are further discussed:
[She] says, the way virtual schools work is the key to helping districts to boost educational results and maintain federal funding.
When the students are approved and enrolled, the local district diverts the funds that would normally have gone to the student's local school to the private organization.
Further, this report outlines the diminution of parents who formerly may have homeschooled, as they move from the role of primary educator to:
...'teaching coaches,' presenting the lesson plans to their children, but submitting the child's work to ...licensed educators at the company who monitor progress and adjust lesson plans accordingly. The inevitable standardized tests are next cited.
One must ask: Other than the physical structure in which public education occurs, are there any substantive differences between enrollment in cyber charter schools and enrollment in traditional public school?
One difference, of course, is that unpaid parents provide a substantial cost-saving benefit to the for-profit operators.
Back to the first-mentioned family, who was enrolled in public school in the immediately previous year-NOT homeschooling.
Based on a past experience in home-schooling, the mother ...estimates she would spend about $350 to $400 a year in educational materials for herself and her four children. But under the virtual school program all the costs are covered by her local Pueblo Springs school district.
Compare this "savings" to costs charged to taxpayers by the Wisconsin Connections Academy:
Under its contract, the company charges only $3,500 for each student enrolled in a virtual school.
One must be very naive to believe that individual taxpayers watching this ABC News report would not be irritated. Instead of a family decision to spend their own $400 for privately-purchased education materials, the family turns to disgruntled taxpayers to provide at least $3,500 for each student in that family, filtered through a profit-making venture.
(Author's note: In Ohio, as of March 1, 2004, the average funding for students enrolled in 33 various publicly funded cyber charters was $6,316.)
Inevitably, by the end of this report, the reporter cites John Bailey, U.S. Department of Education:
New legislation and policy among all levels of educational regulation need to be considered as well. 'Most state legislations [sic] envision where [virtual schooling] could be this fluid mess,' says Bailey. 'What happens when a student in Nebraska can register in a [virtual] school in Pennsylvania that is taught by teachers in Florida? What are the standards is that student responsible for [sic]? Who pays for it? These are the interesting questions that are being raised.'
What happens, indeed?
TheSanDiegoChannel.com (CA), February 17, 2003, " Cyberschool Raises Possibilities, Questions" 11
Home-schooling is not a new concept, but there's a new wrinkle that's becoming more popular in San Diego. Home-schooling via computer has an added attraction for the families that take part -- it's free. And that concept is prompting a debate over who's really footing the bill.
In addition to the often mentioned standardized testing that enrollees must take, this article reveals a K12, Inc. requirement to which many families would absolutely object:
As for accountability, CAVA monitors the progress of roughly 200 students in San Diego via computer and with periodic visits from credentialed teachers.
Would a multi-tiered understanding of "homeschooling" - presuming that would ever be possible - allow some homeschoolers to refuse to relinquish the privacy of their home to on-site state oversight while other "homeschoolers" acquiesce?
San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, August 31, 2003, "Cyber school for kids logs in" 12
Imagine an irritated taxpayer, living on a limited income, reading attitudes of families enrolling in public cyber charter schools--in this case a K12 California operation...
'What I liked most was, I didn't have to pay...' [said a parent who] homeschools her three older sons through a Christian program.
Then, the agitated taxpayer reads the next sentence:
|entrepreneurs tapping into the riches that pay for American public school
What makes e-school possible are improved technology and a new taste among entrepreneurs for tapping into the riches that pay for American public schools.
Calling him a "speculator" the article describes William Bennett, and then reports K12's cut of the taxpayer financing:
K12 Inc. sells its online curriculum to the cyber schools and takes a fee of roughly 20 percent.
It is not just taxpayers who should be worried. As an example of the inherent control of those enrolled families, a K12 teacher is cited regarding three shy sisters who are students:
'I'm really pushing for them to go back to school. It just seems like they need to get out of the house.'
With something for everyone to worry about, we next hear of a teacher's pay: Despite holding a full credential and working full time, [she] is paid $30,000 with no retirement benefits -- less than regular teachers or even what she earned as a beginner.
Finally in this report, there may be a clue as to K12's deeper motivation. It is certainly no secret that Bennett is an out-spoken opponent of teachers' unions:
Superintendent William Lebo of the Lammersville district in San Joaquin County was appalled at the academy's anti-union position and refused to sponsor the cyber charter last year.
"But that didn't stop K12. The company went ahead and advertised a Lammersville virtual academy and said the district was sponsoring it. K12 hired teachers and recruited students, many from the Bay Area. In the end, though, K12 wound up with no state funds for those students and had to pay for them all.
The Lammersville operation eventually closed. As of this analysis, the K12 website notes that there are at least four additional California K12 cyber schools, enrolling students in over 20 counties.
Author's Note: The next four articles, specifically outlining legislative initiatives in Florida, provide insight into both how legislatures are pushed into passing cyberschool legislation, then how they must deal with any abuses that follow.
The Miami (FL) Herald, April 26, 2003, "House class-size bill has plan for Internet school" 13
Democrats and some educators are skeptical of the 'virtual school' for grades K-8, which was lobbied by two for-profit education companies.
"At least one legislator has suggested the virtual school would be a financial windfall for a company founded by former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, who is friendly with Gov. Bush and his family.
Despite actions later in the year by the Florida Department of Education allowing the virtual schools to enroll students who did not meet the state's criteria, the legislative discussion was apparently quite clear as early as April:
To enroll, a student must have attended a Florida public school the year before, a provision that would rule out more than 10,000 Florida families who currently teach their children at home.
This report suggests that the K12 and Connections Academy operators were getting some sort of special treatment as favored vendors from the bill's sponsors,
Both vendors hired teams of Tallahassee lobbyists.
For the expanding virtual school business, entrance to Florida's large market would be important and likely very lucrative.
The article also details statements regarding K12's history, including references to Bennett's conservative beliefs which align with the state's Board of Education and that investors have given K12 roughly $70 million since its founding in 1999.
Supporting limitations on charter school operations, the bill's sponsor contradicts the much-ballyhooed "free-market" popularity in legislating charter schools:
'It does basically limit it to the two big firms,' [Rep.] Pickens said. 'And that's not necessarily a bad thing for something that's just starting out.'
Despite strong political wrangling, homeschoolers were cited in this article correctly:
Some of the friction nationwide has come from parents who already teach their children at home. They worry that the virtual schools will force them to enroll, making them part of state testing and accountability programs.
Many homeschoolers believe that is a valid concern, as these schools seem determined to confuse enrollment in public schools with homeschooling. In this article the distinction is made clear, as well as the requirements for enrollees:
The virtual school would be classified as a regular public school and students would take the FCAT and be expected to meet the Sunshine State Standards.
Fortunately, a homeschooling parent is quoted stating The concerns that many homeschoolers have repeatedly expressed about cyberschooling:
'I don't know if I'd feel comfortable with my first-grader in front of the computer that much.'
St. Petersburg (FL) Times, August 2, 2003, "Public funding launches virtual school for K-8" 14
Announcing a $4.8 million contract to K12 and Connections Academy awarded by the Florida Department of Education: Public school parents who have entertained notions of homeschooling will have a publicly funded opportunity beginning Sept. 2.
Despite the pointless reference to homeschooling, this report, too, states Florida's law: enrollment in a public school during the previous year is an eligibility requirement for these schools. That's not exactly what happened...
The Miami (FL) Herald, September 23, 2003, "Wrong students in virtual schools" 15
Florida's controversial $4.8 million experiment to save money by allowing elementary school students to learn at home via the Internet is serving children who have never attended a public school, contrary to a state law and legislators' wishes.
Summarizing the law and citing virtual schools for K12 and Connections Academy, the article describes how the Florida Department of Education helped the schools meet their enrollment caps with children who lawmakers determined were ineligible since they were not enrolled in the previous school year. The lawmakers were frustrated:
Rather than saving money, the state could actually end up spending more, Democrats argued Monday, because the program likely serves some kindergartners or first-graders who might otherwise have been home-schooled or sent to private school.
|playing fast and loose with the taxpayers money
'Once again, pro-voucher bureaucrats are playing fast and loose with the taxpayers money,' complained one representative.
Florida's DOE, already under investigation on unrelated charges, will now face an expanded investigation on the alleged misuse of the enrollment caps.
Describing how the Florida law allowing virtual schools passed in the first place:
The Republican-led Legislature, prodded by lobbyists working for former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, approved the virtual school program this spring during last-minute state budget negotiations, over heavy objections from Democrats and public school officials.
Palm Beach (FL) Post, January 8, 2004, "Virtual-school mix-up may cost taxpayers $1 million" 16
Despite mistakes by the Florida Department of Education, the taxpayers will foot the bill, and homeschoolers are drawn into the fray.
Six months after unlawfully permitting two for-profit companies to enroll kindergartners and first-graders in home-based 'virtual schools,' the Department of Education today plans to ask state lawmakers to pay for its $1 million mistake.
Education officials will be asking the Legislative Budget Commission to transfer $1,089,600 from an account that contains federal grant money and use it to pay for 227 kindergarten and first-grade students who were allowed to enroll despite not having attended a public school last year, as the law passed in May required.
The Senate Education Committee had sharp questions for the state's Education Commissioner pointing to specific language ...crafted to prevent such students from enrolling, and challenging the burden now placed on taxpayers.
Lobbyists for the two companies sold it to reluctant senators on the promise that the proposal would save the state $700,000 if enrollment were limited only to children leaving traditional public schools.
It is disturbing that homeschoolers are implicated in the Education Department's mistake:
But because of the Education Department's decision to allow kindergartners and first-graders who had never attended public schools -- opening up the program to parents who had always intended to home-school -- those savings evaporated.
Sioux City (IA) Journal, September 2, 2003, "Public schools fear online educator siphoning funds" 17
|siphoning money away from public schools
A for-profit Internet education provider hailed by supporters as a bridge to the future stands to make millions of dollars by year's end, revenue that critics say may be siphoning money away from public schools.
K12, a privately held company chaired by former Education Secretary Bill Bennett and partly funded by former junk-bond dealer Michael Milken, will take in a total of at least $21 million from states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Idaho.
There is a distinct difference in attitude between Departments of Education in various states. In Florida, it was reported that their DOE made special accommodation for K12 in enrollment. Yet, in Iowa:
'It's a private company and it's going to be getting ... money in Iowa that was geared for public education,' said Kathi Slaughter, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education.
After discussing the close scrutiny K12 is receiving in other states, the article reports:
In Pennsylvania, K12 stands to receive about $12 million in state funds this year. In Wisconsin, the company stands to receive at least $739,500. The report also points to complaints regarding the significant differences in expenses between virtual schools and traditional schools.
Citing a letter from attorneys for a Wisconsin teacher's group: 'It is likely that the establishment of virtual charter schools ... will result in windfall payments to the resident district, as well as significant profits for the private corporations providing the curriculum and administering the virtual charter schools.'
We also learn from this article:
Investors have sunk about $70 million into K12, but Bennett said the company has yet to turn a profit.
Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN), December 19, 2003, "District using ads to attract students" 18
Mounds View public schools began an aggressive marketing campaign this week to lure students from other schools, an action that some say challenges the very foundation of public education.
The article then describes a significant policy shift, from enrollment based on school district boundaries to marketing at students as consumers.
With many districts projecting enrollment declines in coming years -- and given the fact that state education dollars follow the student -- the potential payoff of recruiting students inside and outside their borders may be worth the expense of advertising and the hard feelings it might create.
Neighboring district and private school spokesmen are debating these marketing-to-recruit strategies.
A Mounds View public relations director is quoted: 'We have to treat our students like customers.' And the superintendent promotes the policy by citing comparisons to competition in athletics or in academics. The competition is driven by dwindling enrollments and financial stress. The district lost 172 students last year. It also lost the state education money that follows the student.
|children courted from home-school settings
Targeted mailings to non-public students in the district and ads in daily newspapers are the next step, [the PR director] said... In some cases, children could be courted from non-public schools or those in home-school settings, as well.
These target "markets" might brace themselves for slick promotions. Citing Minnesota Association of School Administrators executive director:
...[He] wonders if school districts create programs that feel or look glamorous, as opposed to being good programs, just for the purpose of attracting students? Will some school districts, for instance, say they hire the best coaches, with the unspoken suggestion: Come to such and such a district and we'll make your child an athlete?
The Janesville Gazette (Janesville, WI), November 26, 2003, "Can Janesville School District lure home-schoolers?" 19
This article is blunt:
|Home-schooled children could be a new source of revenue
Home-schooled children could be a new source of revenue for the Janesville School District, two school board members suggested Tuesday.
More than 200 children who live in the district are home schooled.
'I see it in dollar signs,' board President Tom Wolfe said of the home-schooling number.
If all of those students attended public school, the district would realize about $1.5 million in increased funding through the state school funding formula, Wolfe said.
First, President Wolfe uses seduction, discussing persuasion of parents:
Wolfe and at least one other board member wondered how to persuade some of those parents to send their children to the public schools.
Wolfe asked what the district could do to attract those parents, and he suggested that parents might not be aware of district programs that would attract them.
But, if seduction doesn't work, maybe tired cliches will:
|use the state's home-schooling law to dodge truancy problem
Wolfe said he respects the parents who have decided to home school for various valid reasons, but he pointed out that some use the state's home-schooling law to dodge truancy problems.
The board was convinced and a survey of homeschoolers was decided. 'If it's a million-dollar issue, then let's at least try," [one] board member agreed.
Daily Camera (Boulder, CO), December 7, 2003, "Controversy could bring changes" 20
Even governors speak about bringing homeschoolers to public school. Citing a Boulder Valley school district study which found as much as $3.5 million more available if charter schools were eliminated, the position of Colorado's governor is then expressed:
Charter school supporters, including Gov. Bill Owens, have disputed the report. Charters should be lauded for bringing private and home school students back into public schools, they say.
The Oregonian (Portland, OR), December 4, 2003, "Web academy would cater to home-schoolers" 21
Reread the headline; then read the opening sentence to this article: Many home-schooled students may soon find themselves enrolled in public school again, if the proposed Oregon Web Academy becomes reality. How is it catering to "homeschoolers" to enroll them in public school again?
The Green Bay (WI) News-Chronicle, February 11, 2003, "Connecting for education" 22
[A mother] reads with [her daughter] while [her son] checks the computer as part of the Wisconsin Connections Academy home schooling program. Again, repeated usage of the words "homeschooling program."
By the third paragraph, we are specifically told that it is public school, and the article next says that the children feel like they "belong to the school":
|sense of belonging to the school
But this program is very different from traditional home schooling because the kids connect to the school each day via the Internet and do some of their lessons online. They also have a sense of belonging to the school because the kids can talk to each other and have discussions online.
The school principal states: 'The program is really about affording people who wish to be the primary educators to their child the opportunity to do so with public-school resources.'
And public school control, no doubt.
Another troublesome aspect for homeschoolers and a source of possible confusion may be the use of Calvert curriculum at this public school provider-a brand which has a long-term reputation of marketing primarily to homeschoolers.
Stevens Point (WI) Journal, January 29, 2003, "Online academy will hold session for homeschoolers" 23
In twenty words, this article opens by undoing the strength, commitment and efforts of homeschooling support groups, some having been established for more than 25 years:
[Named parents] decision to teach their two sons at home didn't mean they would be alone in educating them.
We learn that instead of being "alone," the family enrolled in a Wisconsin cyber school.
Craig (CO) Daily Press, October 22, 2003, "School board to consider home school policy changes" 24
|will vote to increase homeschooling regulations
This report states that the Moffat County School Board will vote to increase homeschooling regulations for those wanting to take classes from a minimum of one class to two classes. The reason is their desire to receive half the state funding of $5,511 per student.
Home-schooled students in the district have the option to take district classes but the district doesn't receive state funding unless a student is enrolled in two classes. For each home school student who is enrolled for two classes, the district receives half of the state's per-pupil funding.
The policy will be implemented over the objections of at least one homeschooling mom cited in the report.
'I understand the need to have funding, but maybe there's something we can do besides having to take two classes,' [the mother] told board members last month.
Author's Note: For almost thirty years, a sizeable body of reports on homeschooling families' personal experiences have been carefully collected in the pages of bi-monthly journals, newsletters, books and, most recently, on website discussion lists. By vast measure, the self-described experiences have been inviting, positive, and even joyful as homeschoolers described their lives.
Many of these reports disproved the long-held stereotypes of socially inept, undereducated homeschooled children, Many also described creative and resourceful homeschooling families who individually and collectively worked to provide a wealth of opportunities for homeschooled children.
Sadly, the following article only describes families who reinforce the disproved stereotypes or seem to feel that enrolling in a school is their best alternative to school-clearly an oxymoronic premise.
Tri-City Herald (Kennewick,WA), October 28, 2003, "Homeschoolers at school" 25
-- Citing an 11-year-old who participates in once-a-week-classes and doesn't get that much interaction with kids his own age during the rest of the week because he's homeschooled:
'You're not just stuck at home with mom doing boring stuff,' he said.
-- Citing a parent:
'Music is hard to teach at home.'
-- Citing another parent:
'All the parents get together, and there's good interaction.'
What are the rewards of participating in the Kennewick School District's Parent Partnership program? The article reports a ...$400 allotment to put toward their home-based curriculum. Field trips can be reimbursed if they support the educational goals. The money can't be used to buy religious-based materials.
|...$400 allotment ...materials become property of the program
Yet the rewards are only on loan:
All materials that can be used again -- books, maps, globes -- become property of the program. Workbooks and other consumable materials don't have to be returned.
What are the costs in loss to autonomy of families' participation?
... parents must complete and follow a student learning plan that outlines goals based on the state's Essential Academic Learning Requirements. These are standards for what students should know and be able to do in each subject area by graduation.
Parents meet once a month with consultants to review their home-based teaching plans.
Under the learning plan, parents agree to spend up to 20 hours a week at home on schoolwork. This requirement make the child a full-time student with full-time funding to the district.
Homeschooled students in the program will take the same districtwide tests other students do, such as the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, Iowa Test of Basic Skills and functional level reading, science and math tests.
Does the school district hold all the cards?
The test results can be an advantage to the district if homeschoolers later move into public schools. The scores can be used to help place students in appropriate classes.
The program pays for itself, [a school district official] said. The state pays the district about $4,000 for each full-time student. That money is used to pay teachers, consultants, a secretary and the director. About 12.5 percent goes to the district for indirect costs like electricity, phones and building maintenance.
Plans for program expansion are in the works
The district official states:
'It's a very different way to look at school. It still gives parents a chance to be homeschoolers and have a say in the curriculum kids get.'
An ironic statement, for those who believe that these programs are, in fact, a very different way to look at "homeschooling."
The Record Herald (Waynesboro, PA), December 18, 2003, "G-ASD helps create online learning for Pa. Students" 26
This article details the battle, including specifics on litigation, being waged in Pennsylvania between charter schools, especially cyberschools, and desperate traditional public school districts.
The article describes responses by traditional public schools, as they band together for a counter-offensive in the form of blendedschools.net.
So far just a K-8 curriculum, expansion plans include high school. The state provided a $40,000 start up grant. Predictions by a high school principal include changing graduation requirements for the entire state '...to require each student to take at least one virtual course.'
Who's among the predictable market? Courses on the site are used for acceleration programs, credit recovery, home school, home bound and summer school.
|If a child is homeschooled and re-enrolls, school gets credit for it.
Where's the catch? If a child is homeschooled, for example, he would have to be re-enrolled in his district so the school would up the tab and get credit for it.
The organization's goals are lofty, including online teacher training and developing college and post-graduate programs:
'In essence, someone who hooks on in kindergarten could continue through and get their doctorate all online,' said [the president of blendedschools.net]. 'This could essentially be a K-20 program.'
With a consortium of school districts, the economics of scale certainly apply and are discussed:
The more districts that join, the cheaper it is for everyone [the president] noted. If 100 districts were to join the consortium, the cost would be about $4,000 a year to each district instead of $8,500, he explained.
Author's Note: Within two days, the same reporter writes another article promoting the same blendedschools.net program.
The Record Herald (Waynesboro, PA), December 20, 2003, "Homeschooled children get their educations by way of a computer" 27
Again, from the very first sentence, the misidentification of homeschooling:
Three homeschooled children in the Greencastle-Antrim School District are getting their education online by taking courses created by local teachers.
After a long, redundant description of blendedschools.net, very close to the description provided two days earlier, this article next provides the personalization of a named family who is "piloting" the program with the district.
The inevitable requirements appear: Enrollment is required in both the school district and blendedschools.net. Assignments are created in copyrighted courses by teachers from the school districts and come with required district-loaned texts. Exercises and tests are online with "automatic" scoring. Contact with parents happens via email or face-to-face visits. It is not specified where those visits take place.
The featured family in this report has extensive background as public school educators. The mother was an English teacher. The father both taught biology and was a local high school's dean of students.
The article states that the mother had been homeschooling her fifth-grade son since kindergarten. 'I felt (homeschooling) was the best for my kids at the time.' Next, ignoring the distinction between enrollment requirements and homeschooling: She calls blendedschools.net 'very flexible.'
The confusion with homeschooling continues by this family's use of homeschooling references.
The report provides insight into a growing complaint being discussed by parents concerning the programs. That is, formerly homeschooling parents who find that they are no longer involved with their children collectively together. Instead, the parent is spending time each day at the computer with each child in a family. With multiple children, that time apparently is significant.
She sits alongside her children while they do their online work. While a child is off doing his or her assignment, one of her other children logs and begin his online coursework [sic].
The article states that the family had previously ordered materials from a well-known homeschooling curriculum provider. Now, they no longer do that with their enrollment in the cyberschool.
'The only real difference is that now everything is online,' the parent said.
Well, maybe there are other differences: Enrollment in both the public school district and the cyberschool program; required tests; hours spent on computers; teaching state-standardized curriculum and being accountable to a school district teaching staff; less time for families to learn together.
The saving grace in this article is a plainly spoken distinction from the superintendent: When a child goes onto blendedschools.net, they don't fall under homeschooling guidelines any more.
The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune, July 31, 2003, "Davis to help home schools" 28
The Davis School District wants to help parents who want to home-school their kids by beginning a pilot outreach program. The district admits that the idea for this program was generated after the superintendent saw an article about K12. Superintendent Bryan Bowles then states:
'My initial thought was to create a virtual charter school, but we thought we'd try this as a pilot program this year as a way to give parents more options,' Bowles said. 'To think everyone fits in the same mold is shortsighted.'
The district proceeded to award K12 the contract for program operation, even though it isn't a charter school.
The district would use state per-pupil funding to pay K12 $1,200 to $1,500 annually for the books, equipment and other instructional materials for each participating child.
With other states paying over $5,000 per student for a K12 operated charter school, how can K12 only charge Utah less than $1,500? Many taxpayers and public school advocates would find a comparison appalling if their state is ponying up the $5,000.
In Utah, as in most every other state, how is it a "help to homeschoolers" to enroll children and then require the snares of standardized public education?
Participating children also will be subject to state-mandated standardized tests. Those tests are not required of children who are home-schooled independently of a district.
The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA), December 28, 2003, "Parents find numerous advantages to homeschooling" 29
This article starts out so hopefully, by describing what sounds like one mother's journey toward homeschooling:
'It's a huge responsibility...When I first started, I was very nervous.'
Now, instead of being intimidated [the featured parents] consider the opportunity to home-teach [their son] a blessing.
'I like really getting to know [him], really knowing his heart,' she said. 'I love being able to work with my child as an individual.'
Alas, we soon find out that the family is:
...one of about 40 families in Palm Springs Unified School District's home-schooling program this year. This program is described as working closely with teachers on curriculum, field trips, and writing labs.
The district, by law, must meet with families at least once a month to discuss their home-schooling approach. But often, it's more like once a week or every two weeks, said Lynn Yada, one of two teachers assigned to work with [the family].
|bringing the classroom into the living room
One might certainly understand why this article was sub-titled: Bringing the classroom into the living room.
Predictably, we hear from one teacher who goes about the business of diminishing the talents and skills of parents:
'It's difficult to take that curriculum as a parent, if you're not a teacher, to plan, to gauge, to find out, 'What do I need to provide more reinforcement for?' It takes practice and working through the program.'
An irony not to be lost on homeschoolers, the teacher also states: 'People learn at different paces and at different levels.' Is this why standards advocates, in schools and out, push "what every child should know and be able to do" in grade-rigid format?
Despite the next erroneous statement, homeschooling has been going strong in California, much longer than for five years, certainly long before principals decided to weigh in on clarification about who homeschools:
Although home schooling has been in the district for five years, many parents and students have misconceptions about it, district officials said.
'I think there's kind of the perspective out there that it's only for students who are really gifted,' said Anne Kalisek, principal of the district's alternative education center. 'That's not really true.'
The next several paragraphs offer a perceived personal understanding by the assigned teachers explaining their knowledge of who homeschools and why.
Then, the featured family's personal story is described in detail: The mother's clear about not rushing her child. Specific contributions by the child's father (astronomy lessons and field trips) and the child's siblings (help with math.) A statement by the boy about being "pretty focused" and all the natural opportunities he has for athletics and physical activity (extended hikes and bike-a-thons with his dad.)
The mother so poignantly describes what homeschoolers have know these many years, long before the target marketing:
'So it's a family affair. It's important for the parents to work together. All it takes, really, is time, willingness to work hard and love for your child.'
How sad in the next paragraphs as she immediately undermines her own self-worth:
[She] still tends to shy away from calling herself a bona fide 'teacher,' and she constantly looks to Yada and Hollinger to share their expertise. 'I really needed the guidance from teachers; I wanted the district to be there for me. If I have any questions, their door is open.'
As with each of these "homeschooling" programs, the requirements which benefit the school district become apparent:
Students must study a minimum of four hours a day... with a bone towards parents having the freedom to schedule lesson plans as they see fit.
The district encourages parents to attend such educational sessions as writing labs, to watch models of how to teach writing from the school's view.
Home-schooled students are also tested and held accountable for the same academic standards as other students.
Then comes a death knell-mistakenly tying homeschooling to No Child Left Behind and classifying all homeschoolers as special education students:
|...No Child Left Behind law requires schools to test...special education students, which includes home-schooled kids
Along with district mandates, the federal No Child Left Behind law requires schools to test 95 percent of students in different groups, including special-education students, which includes home-schooled kids.
The reporter is flatly wrong. Apparently, it stands.
The program uses the heavy-hand of fear toward any capricious families: Before they are even considered for the program, parents must meet with teachers who instill in parents and students that it's a decision not to be taken lightly.
The principal adds: 'It's a huge commitment on the parents' part.' The program simply isn't right for parents who aren't willing to put in the necessary time and who don't have the patience. 'If a family decides to pursue it, it's probably better started at the elementary level.'
In a sadly ironic twist to close this article, we also hear the principal's view regarding a stated core principle of homeschooling:
Among the greatest benefits of home-schooling is that parents can work closely enough with their kids to truly understand how they learn best.
'That is something that is invaluable, and that I wish I could make available to all of our parents (in the district).'
Maybe if the schools would stop interfering by developing programs and then scaring the daylights out of parents, these invaluable benefits of homeschooling could be available to many, many more.
New York (NY) Times Magazine, December 7, 2003, "PHENOMENON: School Away From School" 30
The bias of this article's author against homeschooling is quite clear in the second paragraph:
Salem-Keizer Online, or S.K.O., is one in a growing number of public, private and charter schools available to kids who are looking for an alternative to a traditional education. Commonly called 'virtual school,' it's a way of attending school at home without the hovering claustrophobia of home-schooling.
Homeschooling is not mentioned again. The remainder of this lengthy article is spent discussing the significant personal struggles of the students who are enrolling in the cyber school program, all of whom were coming from public schools.
Now they have disappeared from the school building altogether, a new breed of outsider, loners for the wired age.
There is a strongly expressed theme throughout the entire article, one which should be a problem to all of those who care about children. That is: how cyberschools are being used to encourage the children who do not "fit" in school to become invisible. It comes through loud and clear.
Author's Note: The subject of homeschooling being connected to enrollment in publicly funded schools, being an income producer for schools, is exploding in the media. Consider these three additional articles and headlines:
|State-funded home-schooling becomes reality
Star-Tribune Carroll County, AR, October 30, 2003 "State-funded home-schooling becomes reality" 31
Virtual education is coming to Carroll County. Soon, all students can receive a top-notch education from the comfort of their home free of charge.
Journal Sentinal (Milwaukee, WI), December 2, 2003, "Cedarburg considers own virtual school" 32
Hoping to connect with local home-schooled students, Cedarburg School District officials are beginning to look at setting up their own virtual school.
[The superintendent] said he is interested in developing a program that could be used by home-schooled students who could take virtual classes from home. In order to participate in the school, however, they would have to join the public school system by enrolling in the Cedarburg district. The district could then include them in its official enrollment count, which is used to calculate the amount of revenue it receives each year through state aid and local tax dollars.
The Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO), October 12, 2003, "PSD entices home students back to class" 33
A new Poudre School District program has found a way to bring homeschool students -- and their tax dollars -- back in to the classroom, at least for a couple of afternoons a week.
Please note: There are no guarantees that these links are still active.
1 - http://www.wisinfo.com/newsherald/mnhlocal/278803096769648.shtml
2 - http://www.edweek.org/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=16cyberchild.h22
3 - http://desmoinesregister.com/news/stories/c4780927/22247537.html
4 - http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/living/education/6976944.htm
5 - http://www.timesrecordnews.com/trn/local_news/article/0,1891,TRN_5784_2455187,00.html
6 - http://www.post-gazette.com/localnews/20031126pacyberr7.asp
7 - http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0902cyberside02.html
8 - http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/nov03/188840.asp
9 - http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/2296179
10 - http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/FutureTech/virtualschools030916.html
11 - http://www.thesandiegochannel.com/education/1984340/detail.html
12 - http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/08/31/MN150541.DTL
13 - http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/education/5720321.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
14 - http://www.sptimes.com/2003/08/02/State/Public_funding_launch.shtml
15 - http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/education/6836156.htm
16 - http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/content/auto/epaper/editions/thursday/news_f3cf7da89625c1960038.html
17 - http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2003/09/02/news/education/25652c4f02b6b88c86256d950011fac4.txt
18 - http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/7525819.htm
19 - http://www.janesvillegazette.com/jsd_homeskul112603.asp
20 - http://www.bouldernews.com/bdc/schools/article/0,1713,BDC_2488_2484649,00.html
21 - http://www.oregonlive.com/metrosouth/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/metro_south_news/107028336737720.xml
22 - http://www.greenbaynewschron.com/page.html?article=118434
23 - http://www.wisinfo.com/journal/spjlocal/277683932460594.shtml
24 - http://www.craigdailypress.com/section/localnews/story/10153
25 - http://www.tri-cityherald.com/tch/local/story/4267707p-4278495c.html
26 - http://www.therecordherald.com/articles/2003/12/18/local_news/news03.txt
27 - http://www.therecordherald.com/articles/2003/12/20/local_news/news04.txtLocal
28 - http://www.sltrib.com/2003/Jul/07312003/utah/79889.asp
29 - http://www.thedesertsun.com/news/stories2003/local/20031228023348.shtml
30 The text of this article appears at: - http://www.mcsba.org/ed_news/teaching & learning/home schooling/School Away From School.doc
31 - http://www.greenforesttribune.com/articles/2003/10/30/news/star2.txt
32 - http://www.jsonline.com/news/ozwash/dec03/189658.asp
33 - http://www.coloradoan.com/news/stories/20031012/news/439677.html
© 2004 Peggy Daly-Masternak
May-June 2004 - Articles and Columns
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