This article was in my inbox today. Mrs. Shewmake makes some worthwhile points about charter schooling. I have a slightly different perspective on charter schooling than she does, only because I think as far as public schooling goes you can’t beat a charter school. I don’t think charter schooling is a sin, though I do think it is better, politically-speaking, for homeschool freedom’s sake — to stay away from charter schools. We did a charter school last year and are now loving being independent again. I’ll write more about my personal opinions on charter schooling at a later date — I’m too busy unpacking from our camping trip to Yellowstone at this moment. Please read Mrs. Shewmake’s excellent thesis for now.
Charter Schools: Trojan Horses of Homeschooling
You’ve all heard of the legendary ten-year battle between the Greeks and Trojans. It ended when the Greeks sent a huge gift horse with Greek soldiers secreted inside. While the city of Troy slept, the soldiers sneaked out and opened the gates to let in their comrades, and the city of Troy was taken captive.
The same thing is happening to homeschoolers today. Many of you are too new to homeschooling to know what the “pioneers” of the homeschool movement went through 15-20 years ago to secure the right to educate their children at home and to ensure this right for you today. Mothers were jailed, Child Protective Services removed children from their homes, and families fled their homes in the night. Talk to any long-time homeschool parent and you will hear how battles were fought in state legislatures and courts to obtain the right to homeschool. You’ll learn of the many hours that went into setting up support groups and organizations to help homeschoolers to be independent from government involvement and to learn how to homeschool. You’ll also find out how there was virtually no homeschool curriculum available. ABeka wouldn’t even sell materials to homeschoolers (until they found out how profitable it was!).
In the county where we live, the principal of the local public school along with the superintendent of education sent homeschoolers letters and tried to coerce us into the public schools with threats of dire consequences and pressure to conform to their interpretation of the state law. It was a long battle, but we didn’t give in. We sought advice, resisted the pressure, and helped in our small way to win the freedom to homeschool our children in the way that God had impressed us and our constitutional rights allowed. Many other more serious battles were fought at the same time around the United States.
Presently, it is estimated that 1.5 million children are being educated at home, and the number increases 15% each year. These homeschooled children are winning awards, their test scores are off the charts, and their accomplishments are in the news daily. Colleges around the country now covet these exceptional young people. The National Educational Association of teachers and their socialistic ideas of Goals 2000 are unable to control these 1.5 million homeschooled children. Or are they?
Enter the Trojan horse of homeschooling—the Charter School. Charter schools are public schools in disguise. Homeschoolers are lining up to enroll and get their “free money.” Charters offer you “free” money for signing up, “free” computers and Internet service, “free” textbooks, “free” horseback riding or gymnastic lessons, ski passes, courses, etc. The state gives around $5000 to the charter school for each child enrolled. About $1000 goes to your “Educational Facilitator” (a public school teacher who is your overseer); $1000 goes to you (of course not in one lump sum or to use at your discretion—more on this later); and the remaining $3000 goes to the charter school (for administrative expenses). A few schools divide the $5000 into thirds. Either way, someone is making lots of money!
The charter school is a public school and the students enrolled are public school students. Three years ago there were 17 state-mandated guidelines in California. This school year (2002-03) there are 250 guidelines.
By enrolling in a charter school you are:
· Inviting the government into your home. Your children are now public school students, and your children’s homeschooling records are now public information. When you bring government money into your home, you give the government control over the activities in your home.
· Agreeing to allow your assigned Educational Facilitator into your home to observe your family once each month. (Some are now asking for twice a month visits.) Did you know they are trained to look for abuse and neglect, to observe children’s behavior, and to read and analyze written answers on tests and papers? Did you know it could be just about anyone? The government is not as discriminating in hiring teachers as you would be!
· Permitting the government to dictate what resources you use to teach your children. You must file a purchase order that will be authorized before you receive your books. Usually the resources you order must be returned to the charter after you have used them.
· Encouraging the government to increase taxes to pay for all these charter schools to grow, as “needs” demand. More students create the need for more money, the need for more administrators and the need for more accountability. This encourages growth of government, not cutbacks.
· Affirming to the government that it has a say in how your children are educated, and that the charter schools are necessary.
· Consenting to governmental control of homeschoolers not just as of public school students. Their controls have only just begun.
· Letting the government dictate what you teach your children. The state laws prohibit religious instruction in public schools.
· Giving up your freedom to raise your children as God has instructed you.
Most states have a similar law: I’m quoting California Law, Article IX, Section 8. “No public money shall ever be appropriated for the support of any sectarian or denominational school, or any school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools; nor shall any sectarian or denominational doctrine be taught or instruction thereon be permitted, directly or indirectly, in any of the common schools of this State.” Translation: By law, if your children are enrolled in a public charter school, you cannot teach them using a Christian curriculum, neither can you teach Christian values or doctrine in your homeschool.
So you say to yourself, “I’ll buy Bible curriculum from my own budget.” That won’t work. Notice this part: “nor shall any denominational doctrine be taught…or permitted, directly or indirectly.” For now, charters want students (and the money that comes with them), so for now, they are ignoring Christian instruction. But there is the danger that the charter could get in trouble in the future. As the government gets more and more involved, the noose will continue to tighten on homeschoolers—it already has!
Trust God to provide finances for homeschooling resources and a computer. You don’t have to have gymnastic lessons and ski lift tickets or even a computer to homeschool successfully. It’s not so expensive to homeschool your children that you can’t do it without the government’s help. This just plays into their “cradle to grave” mentality.
I’m really not “anti-government,” because government has a purpose and a place in our society. I teach my children how our government works, about our right to vote and the government’s rightful place in our lives and in society. However, I am totally against the government telling us how to teach our children. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto to God what is God’s,” means that there is a dividing line. Charter schools cross over that line when it comes to my children.
It’s almost as if the fight for the right to homeschool 15-20 years ago was for naught, because now parents are running to the government and giving back all that was gained. Never forget how God has led homeschoolers in the past and know that He will be faithful to us in the future, if we are faithful to Him. It is our God-given responsibility and right to “teach them [God’s words] diligently to our children.” Prayerfully consider this Biblical advice with regards to the education of your children. Proverbs 23:1-4, Genesis 14:21-23, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Joshua 24:15, Isaiah 26:13, Hebrews 13:5, and 1 Timothy 5:8.
Pray for guidance and blessing, and “tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers” (Philippians 4:6). God never intended for the government to teach your children; He gave that wonderful privilege and responsibility to you, the parent (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
Ó 2002 Judy Shewmake, a homeschool mother since 1985, author and homeschool newsletter editor.
Permission granted to reproduce completely, in entirety, from title to copyright notice, without alteration, for non-commercial, homeschool educational purposes only.