Bulletin #29 What's in a name? 03/11/2004

 

Did You Know: Cyber and Charter E schools, and any other form of education, performed in the home is called homeschooling by many legislators and administrators.

 

Some new terminology is surfacing, but we ought to be cognizant that they all represent government sponsored and funded school at home: Affiliated homeschools, Tele-commuting schools, Virtual Charters, E-Charters, Public Online School, Virtual Schools, Web Academies, homeschool charter schools, and probably many other names. The permutations are all the same thing, and that is public school at home. All of these entities are publicly funded and therefore represent enrollment in public school.

 

Why should homeschoolers be concerned about this? and isn't this homeschooling? and so what's the big deal?

People who homeschool autonomously, (i.e. on their own without enrollment or involvement with local government schools) should be concerned about this on a few levels. First and foremost is the fact that legislators and the media currently do not make any distinctions. A homeschooler is a homeschooler to them. This is so erroneous. There is an enormous difference between one who homeschools autonomously and one who is enrolled in a government school program that is done at home with supervision, funding and oversight by the school. The problem here is that whatever legislation affects public schooling will affect those doing a public school curriculum at home. If those people doing government school at home are referred to as homeschoolers, then autonomous homeschoolers will be brought into the net of that legislation, just by the use of the word "homeschool" in legislation. Whether that is intentional or unintentional is a matter for debate. Most legislation does not make a distinction. A law will include language referring to "homeschoolers", and that will pertain to anyone who is educating at home. This is extremely problematic for those of us who wish to remain out of the total jurisdiction of our local school administrators, to the extent that current homeschool laws allow. This becomes even more problematic if the undefined terminology "homeschool" is used in federal legislation!

 

Secondly, autonomous homeschoolers are being sold on enrolling in these programs and being brought back into public school and made to believe that they are still "homeschooling". Well, perhaps they are still educating at home, but it is publicly funded government schooling no matter how you slice it. Families are being offered "free" computers, "free" testing services, "free" transcript services, and much more. That is perfectly fine if you wish to choose this option, and well it should be an option, but families should know that they become public schoolers when they enter into these agreements. For all intents and purposes the issue is not how you choose to educate your children, the issue has deeper consequences legislatively speaking. Labels don't really matter except as it pertains to legislation. Making the distinction isn't an attempt to be divisive, it is an attempt to preserve homeschool rights and freedoms.

 

People must be made to understand that when public money is involved in home education then it is no longer private and autonomous. With public funding comes accountability and oversight, and if you choose to accept those terms then it is perfectly acceptable. The problem comes when that accountability and oversight is applied when you are not part of the crowd that accepts public money, or not enrolled in public schooling, especially at home.

 

There are many attractive programs out there, in states like California, Alaska, and Florida, charter e-schools abound and families that wish to home educate are flocking to sign up. Accepting government "help" and any kind of "equity" sounds like a terrific idea. Families should do what is best for them and for their kids. What many may not realize is that they really are enrolling in public school, and perhaps the distinction does not matter much to them. It does matter to those of us who do not wish to be caught up in the terminology.

 

Homeschoolers who are highly regulated probably don't care about the ramifications or labels, because they just want anything that will help them - and they are already dealing with government control so they may want something in return. There are also homeschoolers that want the best of both worlds no matter how it affects everyone else. That is really an unfortunate fact and shows how families may lack the understanding that when they allow themselves to be categorized as homeschoolers, when in fact they are enrolled in public school, that they are hurting the homeschool community in the process.

 

Here are some things one should know:

 

1. Public funding requires some kind of accountability. Accountability of home-based public schoolers will be demonstrated in the form of testing, reporting, home visits, and other interventions.

2. Some charters are allowing questionable profiteering because cost of instruction is lower than for traditional model schools and less money is spent on teacher salaries, benefits, transportation costs, and other brick and mortar expenses.

3. Some charters are siphoning funding away from traditional model schools by enrolling across district boundaries and without being subject to accountability measures.

 

4.Some charter operators may find themselves in court as they stretch the definitions of what is permissible under existing laws. This may affect the families operating under these models.

 

5. Cyber legislation is beginning to emerge as legislatures are trying to grapple with setting down rules for how non-classroom charters will operate.

 

6. Issues of truancy may be valid if children who are enrolled in government schooling at home do not complete total computer or seat time.

 

As of January 2004, 2,996 charter schools were operating across the United States. At least 14 states have a state-sanctioned, state-level virtual school either planned or in place, according to "Virtual Schools: Trends and Issues," a 2001 report commissioned by the Distance Learning Resource Network. The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia. Other states have started virtual schools since that report and updated information regarding the latest charter school numbers, state-by-state are shown at http://www.edreform.com/index.cfm?fuseAction=stateStatChart&psectionid=15&cSectionID=44

 

Examples of these kinds of programs are Bill Bennett's K-12 curriculum, Maryland based Connections Academy, Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), Ignite!, PDELA, Salem-Keizer Online, and are offered in states in the form of Oregon Web Academy, Wisconsin Virtual Academy, Florida Virtual Academy, Arkansas Virtual Schools, Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA), and California Virtual Academy.

 

Proponents of Parent Directed Education would like the homeschooling community to embrace all permutations of "homeschooling". They feel that making distinctions between different forms of educating children is divisive, and that the primary concern should be the focus on what is best for the family and the child. They have come out vehemently against the "We Stand For Homeschooling Petition" (http://westandforhomeschooling.org/res/index.php ).

We wish to re-iterate that the issue here is not whether it is good or bad to educate children in one way or another, or that one choice is superior over another. The issue here is that distinctions are necessary to insure that autonomous homeschoolers are not swept up along with public schoolers in legislative language. When you spot a news report and they are talking about homeschoolers, one must pause to think, who do they mean? Do they mean those that are in e-charter schools which are publicly funded, or those who are autonomously educating their children separate and apart from public or organized private school.

 

Here are some good articles regarding this topic:

A New Charter for Homeschooling?
Attractions and drawbacks appear in home-based charter schools http://www.carolinajournal.com/exclusives/display_exclusive.html?id=1290

Charting a course toward school flexibility, accountability http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2001845033_matt28.html

Virtual Reality - Cyber E schools and homeschooling

http://homeschoolreport.org/Virtual_Reality.htm

Government-Subsidized Home Schooling Programs:
Will Family Educators Dodge This Bullet

http://www.hstuac.org/subsidy.html

A to Z Homeschooling web page http://www.gomilpitas.com/homeschooling/weblinks/HSatSchool.htm

Home is where the school is
But should the public pay for it? And how much is too much? Arkansas Times 02/13/2004 search the archives at http://www.arktimes.com

States grapple with virtual school legislation

http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/ssunreg.cfm?ArticleID=4419&ul=%2Fnews%2FshowStory%2Ecfm%3FArticleID%3D4419

Cyberschools - the rest of the story

http://www.honestedu.org/essays/bernhoft/cyber.php

Home Education in Ohio: New Arm of Public Education

http://www.homeschoolfreedom.org/arm.pdf

Wisconsin Parents Association - they have several articles on this topic you can check their site

http://www.homeschooling-wpa.org/issues/index.shtml

How Virtual Charter Schools Threaten Homeschools

http://www.homeschooling-wpa.org/issues/cyber_charter/Charter-Schools-Factsheet.pdf

A Dept. of Education supported site which promotes charter schools

http://www.uscharterschools.org/pub/uscs_docs/index.htm

Website regarding education reform

http://www.edreform.com/index.cfm?fuseAction=section&pSectionID=14&cSectionID=34

 

 

Attorney Deborah Stevenson - Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense.

www.nheld.com or email : info@nheld.com

Judy Aron - Director of Research, NHELD imjfaron@sbcglobal.net