While I have striven to make this concise and as factual as possible, there is one issue I will not cover here: “Goals 2000” (and its close cousin, “Certificate of Mastery”), as it is more involved and deserves much more attention.
To start off this fascinating and sometimes confusing story, a brief history of public school is required.
How Public Schools Started in The U.S.1
The public school (or common school) movement primarily started in New England. Even during colonial times, the Massachusetts colony tried to impose schools on the various towns. Horace Mann became Massachusetts first superintendent of instruction in 1837, and other states implemented similar posts in their state governments.
By 1852, Massachusetts passed a compulsory attendance law, and again, other states soon followed.
The public school movement was the first effort that succeeded in using government power to try to reform or manipulate society in the United States. This opened new avenues for government intervention into our personal lives at all levels of our personal affairs.
Mann’s intentions were to completely replace private schools with the common or public schools. It was the goal of many zealous common school advocates to completely abolish the predominate private Christian schools. Horace Mann wrote, “Let the common school be expanded to its capabilities, let it be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged; men would walk more safely by day…”
Of course, Horace Mann was not only wrong, but compulsory education is a useful tactic for tyranny exemplified by communist and socialist regimes throughout the world. Also, look at the crime rate in the United States since the time of compulsory education for further proof of the failure of public education goals; again, Horace Mann was completely and undeniably wrong.
We should also note, there is no mandate or amendment in the Constitution guaranteeing the “right” to publicly-funded education.
For some time now, government schools have been using a variety of techniques to coerce homeschooling families and private schools back into the public school fold. In order to keep the government (through public schools) out of private education, parents must refuse the fruit of evil, in the guise of government funding. This “fruit of evil” comes in the form of government vouchers, “cyber” schools, charter schools, etc. I want to make this point very clear: I am writing about government intervention programs, not privately- funded programs.
I intend to show these methods at work and what is happening to people living in the states of the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
NEA (National Education Association) Interference2
This may seem like old history, but starting in 1984 the NEA has Board of Directors presented the “Policy Statement on Home Study”, and has reaffirmed these resolutions in later conventions. Here are the resolutions passed at the NEA convention:
- Home instruction teachers must meet state teacher certification requirements.
- Annual permission for home education should be required and authorized by the state or local school district.
- Local public school administrators (who are “experts” in learning environments–author’s note) should monitor home instruction. (This ensures the same curriculum as in public school – author’s note).
- Mandatory state or local testing programs should be required of home study participants along with other assessments done by the local school district.
- Pupils should be able to attend public school part-time for additional instruction, and they should be counted in the average daily membership (ADM) without proration (for full state/local funding per student, even though there minimal expenses involved–author’s note).
Many states (like Washington) follow these guidelines generally, and have made them part of their state laws. You can see that there is virtually no difference from public schooling, if these guidelines are followed.
Currently, many cities throughout the United States have instituted truancy ordinances or daytime curfews. In some cases, like in Detroit, Michigan, they can actually put truant children’s parents in jail for noncompliance of the local truancy law. In other states, parents are fined and required to appear in court if their children are found to be truant.
As reported by OCEANetwork (in the November 1999 issue of OCEANetwork Currents), several communities in Oregon (Portland, Salem, Keizer, and McMinnville) have adopted truancy or daytime curfew laws.
The law in Portland, called the “Truancy Abatement Ordinance” coincides with the regular school hours of the Portland Public Schools, and states that children from the age of 7 to 18 cannot be in any public areas such as parks, streets, alleys, highways, etc. There is a provision for homeschooled children, but police can still take these students into protective custody, hold them, and question them, if the officer believes they are in violation of this ordinance.
Basically, any youth is considered to be violating this curfew (if they are not in school) and must prove their innocence. So, to help avoiding problems, homeschool parents are asked to stay with their children, and to keep a note with the child that states they are homeschooled, with contact information to verify this information.
Government Educational Vouchers
Educational vouchers can come in many different forms, but we will look at them in the context of homeschooling.
This is insidious for many reasons. First, when have taxes for public education actually gone down? Now, you end up paying more in taxes for the vouchers, too. Also, they find additional funds via “alternative funding” (state-run lotteries, or “sin” taxes come to mind) for public education. That sure is an appropriate way to fund “public education” (or maybe why we shouldn’t fund public education).
But, there is another danger. Even though you may get assurances from local or state school officials that your curriculum (Christian-based, or any other variety) of choice is fine with them, check your state homeschooling laws for verification. Many homeschoolers have been burned by this issue.
In Washington state, the Office of Superintendent of Public Schools (OSPI) has made repeated attempts to rent church property for school classrooms. State-rented church property is an easy way for the state to gain access to school age children that it does not have. In addition, it might give parents a false sense of security because school was being presented in a church setting, even though it is actually run by the values-neutral public school district. In Article 1, Section 11 of the Constitution of the State of Washington, it states that “no public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or INSTRUCTION, or the support of any religious establishment.
Here is an example:
In a small community on the Washington coast, parents were enticed by the OSPI with $600 a year per student, and the students could meet in church-provided facilities, and they would be allowed to use their own curriculum. A few months later, the state came back and informed them that in order to meet state laws, they would have to remove any religious symbols (a cross and some scripture quotes) from the area used for school. After discussing this, the church and the parents agreed to remove any religious references. Another few months later, the state looked at the curriculum, and found references to God and religion. The state promptly informed them that they could not use their Christian curriculum, because that violated state laws. The final insult came when the church found out it had had to pay taxes for the property that was used for the state program, since the facility used for school was no longer considered church property, according to state laws.
What would you do if you were offered the use of a computer lab for your child, with plenty of reference materials? And what if the people who were running the program, said you could use your own choice of curriculum materials, too?
Some of the other enticing things about “cyber” schools is the additional opportunities for interaction with other children, tutoring/mentoring, pooling teaching resources, etc. all in one convenient place. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Well, cyberschools can have a devastating effect on the voluntary homeschool support networks in the communities where they have been implemented. Many parents like the idea that no one has to volunteer or put forth any effort, and the state pays for the program. In the process, the children are learning state-mandated curriculum (the same as public schools) and the lines between homeschooling and public school becomes blurred.
In looking at Washington State’s “Cyberschool” programs, full-time Cyberschool students are forbidden from using religious curriculum and instruction in their education. Part-time cyberschool students cannot use religious course instruction in the cyberschool program itself. In other words, anyone who receives state funds or participates in state programs cannot include religious curriculum in any part of the state funded/sponsored program.
Also, the school districts in Washington state get full student funding for each “cyber” student (over $3500+ in most cases), whether they are part-time or full-time participants in the cyberschool, while not having the expenses of providing for students in the public school system.
They use interesting names for these programs, such as “Classlink”, “Homelink”, “Primelink”, “Preplink”, but they are all just public schools in disguise. The local school districts often give inaccurate and misleading information about these programs. Fortunately, many parents become disillusioned with these programs after they see how they really operate. If you truly want to homeschool, stay away from programs like these, and say “no” to any and all publically-funded programs.
Here is the best alternative for homeschoolers: Join an existing nonprofit homeschooling group or form your own group, with modest membership dues to cover mailings, newsletters, and a member-supported lending library. Just say “No thanks” to government intervention through government funding. Most important of all, know the laws for homeschooling in your state (see www.hslda.org/central/states/).
Charter schools are supposed to involve parental input, with an emphasis on the personal preferences of parents. But, charter schools are almost exclusively run by the public school system. Many times with the diverse curriculum requirements make a confusing patchwork of subject matter, and still meet school district requirements.
There is one instance that I am familiar with where the local charter school was directly run by the local school district, even though the school district did not acknowledge it publicly. One of the local public school administrators blasted the charter school for low test scores and questionable curriculum, after he did an inspection and was quoted in a newspaper story. The next day, the newspaper ran an article where they revealed that the school district actually ran the charter school, and was ultimately responsible for the problems that the school district had found. As you can see this is just another deceptive ploy to make public education look “good” to parents. There is only a fine-line difference between “cyber” schools and charter schools, but the real issue is that the local school districts want to get state funding for all children within their district and the charter/cyber schools bring in maximum tax dollars for minimal effort.
Governmentizing Private Schools5
Here is the another twist in taking away private education away from local parental control: “governmentizing” private schools by having private schools become part of the public school system. Why is this dangerous? The laws that allow alternative schools can be easily changed by the whims of politicians, as administrations or legislators or school board members change. Of course, once a private school has become governmentized, it is subject to government rules and regulations for public schools, and higher taxes to fund the new schools. Here is an example:
Recently, in an news article (published by Focus On the Family), it mentioned the new “Alberta School Act”. According to this report, the Edmonton Christian Schools and the Red Deer Christian School in the Alberta Province of Canada, have become part of the public school system in Alberta.
The new “Alberta School Act” allows public school districts to set up alternative schools based on certain philosophies, subject matters, languages, or religions.
The Edmonton Christian Schools and the Red Deer Christian School negotiated with their local school boards to eliminate tuition, but the parents must pay several hundred dollars for the cost of the buildings, transportation for the students, and for textbooks.
Further, the article mentioned that the teachers of these schools would be paid more (now that they are public school teachers), and that education would be more “affordable”.
Once again, failed public school systems are looking to attract more students and tax money, by taking over more successful private schools. With their past record, this will be another doomed government program. A better idea is to eliminate taxes for public education, and allow parents to let their children be educated as they see fit.
Keep in mind the reasons that you originally decided to reject public school, and refrain from being tempted by government programs that only limit your choices.
The most important thing that any person interested in private education (including homeschooling) can do is to find out the laws in your state regarding education. By knowing the laws, you can decide whether or not any government-sponsored programs will allow you to teach your child the way that suits you best. Consider joining the Home School Legal Defense Association. It can provide the necessary support and protection from unfair and illegal government actions against your private education activities.
Avoiding any government-funded programs is important. Remember, there is no “free lunch”, and anything provided by the the government will have strings attached. Determine for yourself what the real pricetag is for any outside programs
Special thanks to Carrie Patterson of Clark County Christian Home Educators for information and help.
Special thanks to Washington State Senator Val Stevens (39th Legislative District) for keeping homeschoolers informed on Washington State laws and giving them sound advice.
Additional thanks to the Home School Legal Defense Association, for their invaluable information on state home schooling laws.
- See A Basic History of the United States, Volume 3 (The Sections and the Civil War 1826-1877), by Clarence Carson, pp 88-91
- See “The Seduction of Homeschooling Families“, (The Freeman, March 1998, pp 139-144) by Chris Cardiff.
- See “Portland institutes Daytime Curfew”, (OCEANNetwork Currents, November 1999 issue)
- From various newspaper articles in The Reflector, The Columbian, and from Washington State laws.
- From “Christian Home and School, FYI,” Volume 77, Number 4 – September 1999, article “Christian Schools Go Public.“
January 24, 2000
Manfred B. Zysk has been homeschooling for five years, with the help and dedication of his wife, Margaret Zysk. They work with other homeschoolers in Idaho.