December 4, 2020
What is School Choice?
Most people think “options” when they hear the term “school choice.” The ability of parents to legally choose homeschooling, for example.
But that is not what School Choice means. The phrase should actually be “School Choice Using Government Funds.” The basic principle of School Choice is to expand government education funding to private schools and homeschoolers, enabling parents to choose any education option without the barrier of cost.
School Choice always includes government funding for homeschoolers
Government funding for homeschoolers is a primary tenet of the School Choice movement. They refuse to compromise on it.
It is imperative for them to include homeschoolers because otherwise they would break their thesis that the government should finance all forms of education so that parents are able to choose how to educate their children without worrying about cost. Homeschoolers are a prominent piece of the strategy.
Government funding undermines homeschooling freedom
Government funds come with strings attached. And “just don’t take the money” does not work for homeschoolers. Alberta homeschoolers learned that the hard way.
Years ago, the Alberta government proposed to homeschoolers that they would give government funding to individual homeschooling families if those families accepted certain restrictions. The provincial homeschool organization agreed, and the law went into effect.
The next legislative session, the government turned around and imposed the restrictions on all homeschooling families, whether they wanted the funding or not. For many years, the Alberta government declined to give homeschoolers the option to live without restrictions by refusing government funding.
How could this happen?
Legislators often lump “homeschoolers” all together in their own minds. Differences which are obvious to homeschoolers themselves can escape big-picture-thinking legislators.
Here is an example of how such misperception works against us, from an email sent by former State Representative Cherryl Walker to the 2003 Oregon House of Representatives in opposition to the Oregon Home Education Freedom Bill (which did not pass):
I suggest that if they [homeschoolers] really want freedom from state control they stop accepting State Department of Education money. Currently many of the home-schooling “institutes” (e.g. Read Institute of White City) receive approximately $4,000 per “home-schooled” student they have enrolled. Taxpayers who are paying for home-schooling should have accountability from the students. Home-schoolers have the benefits of public educated students: e.g. Laboratories, athletics, arts, etc. If they have the benefits, why should they be exempt from accountability?
There are two forces acting in concert here against homeschoolers’ interests
School Choice advocates want government funding for homeschoolers in order to keep intact their thesis that the government should make all forms of education financially available to families.
Adversaries of homeschooling will use any tool available to restrict homeschooling, including legislators’ misperceptions about “those homeschoolers getting public money.”
That combination is what undermines homeschooling freedom.