Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Home Schooling – Another Threat to the U. S. Education System – Parents Are Voting With Their Kid’s Feet

Will Public Education Ever Learn?

This Forum has long criticized the teacher’s unions for failing to put students first.  By giving the impression, warranted or not, that the teachers and their unions are putting their own benefits ahead of providing quality education the teachers are acting in a self defeating mode.  The only way that they will prosper is if their students prosper first.

The threats to public education are largely from Conservatives who want to reduce taxpayer support of education and who want to divert public money to private schools even private profit making schools.  The only way to stop this is for public education to excel, and for excellence in public education to blunt the drive to divert resources away from it.

But private schools are not the only threat, home schooling has now become a major factor in American education.

Who needs teachers?

Three decades ago home schooling was illegal in 30 states. It was considered a fringe phenomenon, pursued by cranks, and parents who tried it were often persecuted and sometimes jailed. Today it is legal everywhere, and is probably the fastest-growing form of education in America. According to a new book, “Home Schooling in America”, by Joseph Murphy, a professor at Vanderbilt University, in 1975 10,000-15,000 children were taught at home. Today around 2m are—about the same number as attend charter schools.

Yes, some parents will home school no matter what, but the growth in home schooling is largely a result of a lack of faith in public education.  In general this is bad for children, who need the community of a school to get maximum benefits from primary and secondary education.  But when parents feel they can do a better job because schools are not doing a good job, they will take their children out of the public schools.  And more are doing so, and it is not only wealthy or religious conservatives.

 In 2007 a report found that Muslim children were one of the fastest-growing groups; black-home schoolers are around 4% of the total and comprised 61,000 children. 

And no, restrictions on home schooling will not work, that horse has left the barn a long time ago.

State laws vary widely in how much regulation they impose on home-schoolers and how much accountability they require. Pennsylvania, California and New York are stricter than most, but parents are not deterred. Mr Murphy says the movement is all part of the breakdown of American schooling from public monopoly; home schooling, he says, “is the most radical form of privatisation”. Public schools can do little but co-operate these days, and most offer access to school facilities, websites, books and other materials.

 The only thing that will work is the same thing that will defeat the movement to provide private schools for a few lucky children at the expense of a large majority of children.  That thing is commitment by teacher’s unions to putting children first.  And if they do, they will have the added benefit of reaching their goals also.

Are teachers and their unions smart enough to see this?  Evidence so far, not really.

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