Is Charter Schooling Really Homeschooling?

Is Charter Schooling Really Homeschooling?

By Annette M. Hall

How has the proliferation of government funded homeschooling affected the homeschooling community at-large? Or has it been affected?

I find it curious that when independent homeschoolers try to gently voice growing uneasiness over the charter school epidemic within the homeschool community, tempers flair, dander is raised and dissenters are immediately labeled anti-charter, no matter how valid the concern.

According to the Education Commission of the States, as of May 2008, 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted charter school laws.

According to a Heartland article published May 1, 2005, "The Center for Education Reform (CER), reports more than 400 charter schools were started in 32 states in the 2004-05 school year — a dramatic 15% nationwide increase over the previous school year."

"Dr. Joe Nathan, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for School Change at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, estimates there are roughly 3,400 charter schools across the country enrolling approximately 800,000 students."

Charter school proponents say they love the numerous programs and field trips offered at state expense and will cite this as their main reason for joining. Vendors offering dance lessons, gymnastics, art programs and the like, have figured out charter schools can and will pay much more than the going rate for these services; driving prices up, making these programs unaffordable, and often times, out of reach of many independently homeschooling families.

It wasn't that long ago that independent homeschoolers pooled their resources to pay for these type of classes and enjoyed nice discounts on regular rates because they were willing to do the footwork for instructors. Providers recognize the majority of homeschooling families are single-income households and were paying these expenses out of pocket, cash in hand.

While living in Sacramento, CA we had four very active homeschooling groups but participation began to dwindle, as more students were enticed into charter school enrollment. It's sad to see once vibrant and active homeschool groups die a slow death due to lack of participation by local homeschoolers. It was particularly frustrating when these new charter school members would show up at park day and brag about all the neat "freebies" that were available to them. You could almost see listeners turn green with envy. Who can compete with homeschool welfare?

The state take-over of the homeschool community has been gradual and deliberate.

"The charter school craze has taken the country by storm. Parents are flocking to enroll their children in charter schools in a desperate attempt to provide a safe and positive learning environment for their children. Waiting list are status quo, and parents of children in traditional public schools are left wondering if their children are being left out and left behind."
According to The Public School Parent's Network

The public school systems hire marketing firms to assist them in pulling off smooth marketing campaigns across the nation in order to prop up enrollment. Detroit schools spent $1.5 million on marketing in 2002 alone. Detroit is not alone, it has become standard practice. After all in today's world, image is everything. For years schools have been using PR firms to garner support for their tax and bond proposals. It would be naive of us to think they wouldn't take it just a small step further.

William J. Bennett and K-12

Savvy businessman William J. Bennett has an interesting and well-connected background. He has been a driving force in this long-running educational controversy. Bennett served as Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, and later he served as national drug czar, and has written numerous pessimistic books about American culture. Bill Bennett resigned from his position as Chairman of K-12.

The implementation of his the K-12 program could have only been pulled off by someone with his social prominence. After all, individuals can purchase the K-12 educational program for around $1,000 per year, a price reduction of about $300 from previously listed prices. Those who participate through the charter school programs, available in multiple states cost the taxpayers an estimated $4,800.00 (in 2003) per year for the exact same program. Interestingly enough, the prices for both their public schooled program and all privately purchased course material are no longer available on their website.

The public schools have done everything they can to neutralize the homeschool movement, right down to absconding with use of the "homeschool" label. We must ask ourselves why? Why wouldn't the public school system simply call their students what they are — charter school students — or something properly describing their ownership? With all of the words in the English language they could have selected, "homeschooling" was chosen as a way to confuse parents and blur the distinction between public and private educational options.

Struggles Are Not Forgotten

The public schools have been successful in entering our camp, taking away our identity by embracing it themselves. Those of us who were around during the battles, which were fought and won and paved the way for "homeschooling" have a hard time forgetting the fear, which we struggled to overcome on a daily basis; never forgetting that the next knock at the door could mean an extensive legal fight or worse. We haven't forgotten how we kept our children in the house during school hours, and how we jumped each time the phone or the doorbell rang. Each child was carefully instructed exactly what to do and say, should they ever be questioned by authorities and even our neighbors who didn't know of or believe in home education.

These feelings don't just go away. They were real and a daily fact of life that you learned to deal with in your own way. Support groups were a life-line, if they existed at all. Most homeschoolers of the day were either on their own or had one close friend they would spend time with.

Living in a community where people still don't know that homeschooling is legal and that you don't need permission from the school district has been hard. What's even more frustrating is that communities like ours exist across the country. We have lots of homeschoolers in the area but by and large the majority belong to the local public charter school, those who don't are enrolled in church schools. There are days I feel guilty and at the same time, sorry for my son because he wants friends to play with -- of any age and try as I may, there just isn't anyone close. There are days I've even contemplated sending him to the public school, something I've swore many times I would never do.

School Choice

The school choice argument many like to make (i.e., we are entitled to educational choice), doesn't sit well with me either. Yes, of course free citizens have a choice, to accept government scraps at public expense or fund the education of our children ourselves. The adage certainly applies, "He who pays the piper, calls the tune." As always, you get what you pay for.

What we are finding is that people are wanting more choices at taxpayer expense. This whole entitlement philosophy has gotten out of hand. All these wonderful "government services" people are so fond of; strip us of our voice and our tax dollars.

We can't have it both ways. Either we want to be a free people, with the ability to make our own choices and choose our own paths, or we allow ourselves to become slaves to the system. Many services, in years past were provided for with local dollars (local control) or by volunteers (such as the fire department). Today the federal and state governments now have huge operating budgets and are stripping families of their buying power due to an ever increasing tax burden, which in turn forces more families to opt to become a two-income households, out of perceived necessity. I use the word "perceived" because most people today simply don't have the skills needed to live a more independent lifestyle, one their parents or grandparents likely enjoyed.

Why do people have such a hard time taking responsibility for their own lives? Is it too much to ask? I've been watching the legislation concerning charter schools and every year the state is tightening the screws. We haven't seen the end of the tightening, yet. I can see the writing on the wall. I only hope we can stop this hemorrhage and that independent homeschoolers don't find themselves in a mess because of the charter school stampede.

It would be very easy for independent homeschoolers to shut-up, mind our own business and not risk offending anyone. California Homeschool Network (CHN) as an organization has been very friendly and accepting of charter school members. They are free to join and voice their opinions, unlike many other homeschooling organizations that now ban charter school members from joining. CHN promotes the free sharing of ideas and ostracizes no one. However, those of us (homeschoolers) who have been around awhile would be neglectful if we didn't attempt to warn you of the direction we see things going.

We are not the enemy. We are caring individuals who are trying to sound the trumpet and help others see past the money the state dangles. It's very tempting and sometimes even I feel a twinge of jealousy. I can't afford all the wonderful extras that many charter and public ISP families enjoy. Of course on the other side of the coin, many of you could well afford those things the state currently foots the bill for and that doesn't sit well with me, either.

I do not consider you (charter school members) the enemy. I consider you dear friends and I am trying to share the hard truth as I see it. I'm worried about the future of homeschooling and I'm not about to let the fact that someone might get angry with me for speaking up deter me from identifying the dangers I see before us.

Let me be absolutely clear: I've made some pretty blanket statements. There are some families who need to be in public programs for many reasons, primarily "high risk" factors. Those are your own reasons and you are the best judge of what your family needs, not me. I'm speaking primarily to those who are riding the money train. The ones who can afford to be independent and choose not to because they just can't stand the thought of paying taxes and not getting their nickels worth of services.


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"We're here from the government,
and we're here to help:"

California Virtual Academy

(Using Bill Bennett's K12 Curriculum)

By Mary Leggewie
June 2002

The "virtual academy" has come to California. Rather than rely on what I had been hearing from others, I decided to attend a recruiting meeting for the California Virtual Academy. I attended one locally, and then I attended one within walking distance of the CHEA convention that raised the ire of the California Home Educator's Association (CHEA) and many independent homeschoolers. More...


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Charter School Seduction

Hold out $100 per month per kid and see what happens!

By Mary Leggewie
March 1999, updated April 2000

They waved $100 per month PER kid in front of the parents (8 moms were there, 24 locally have already signed up) and told them this was their "mad/fun money." What a temptation to some of those moms with 5-7 school-aged kids! It's hard to turn down that kind of money when many are struggling to buy groceries. More...


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We Stand For Homeschooling

The very nature, language and essence of homeschooling are being challenged and even co-opted by a vast array of emerging educational programs which may be based in the home, but are funded by government tax dollars, bringing inevitable government controls.

These new "home-based" publicly-funded entities are variously called: charter schools, cyber-charters, e-schools, Independent Study Programs (ISP), dual enrollment, Blended Schools Programs (BSP), Programs for Non-Public Students (PNPS), Public School Alternative Programs (PSAP), virtual schools, academies, community schools, home bound, and other newly devised terms and concepts.

There is a profound possibility that homeschooling is not only on the brink of losing its distinctiveness, but also is in grave danger of losing its independence.

Sign the "We Stand for Homeschooling" resolution and encourage others to sign it.

Annette M. Hall,
Editor, LocalHomeschool.com


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For More Charter School Information

Updated: May 19, 2008