Government-Subsidized Home Schooling Programs:
Will Family Educators Dodge This Bullet

By Rodger Williams

A New "Educational Bonanza" For Home Schoolers

Across the entire country, home schoolers are striking it rich! They receive free computers. Classes are taught by school districts especially for home schoolers. Home schoolers are able to participate in regular school classes. Schools provide free curriculum and assistance to home schoolers.

The government school system has been losing valuable students to home education. These students could bring in state and federal dollars for the budget and for jobs. They aren't taking advantage of the system's services, including the latest programs for social engineering.

So the education system is trying to win these customers back. Of course, there are "no strings attached" to the new services. They are free for the taking. Home schoolers are, after all, an independent lot. They would not participate if they were required to trade their freedoms for this assistance. In fact, they are often heard to say, "If they start attaching strings, I'll just quit."

Besides, don't home schoolers deserve aid from the government just as much as anyone else? We pay our taxes. Our children need to be educated. Aren't we still saving the taxpayers money even though we may be utilizing some government educational services?

Sure, those of us who educate at home for religious or educational philosophy reasons may feel a little uneasy about establishing ties with a system who's basic principles are so much in opposition to ours. But those who came out of the school system to escape educational malpractice or the undermining of their values may see the new situation as an improvement over what they had before. In either case, isn't this the best of both worlds? Why would anyone want to restrict parents' options for educating their children? That's what home schooling is all about, isn't it?

Warning: Bridge Out Ahead

Unfortunately there is a grave problem with government-subsidized home schooling programs. Here in Oregon, the government is willing to leave home educators alone for two reasons. First, our children's standardized test scores show we are doing a good job. Second, we save the state $60,000,000 per year. In other states, religious freedom rights can be added as a reason for the government to leave home educators alone.

But home schoolers who participate in government-funded educational programs are undermining our savings-to-the-state argument. It will become very hard to talk about how home schoolers save state funds as legislators see how much money the local school districts are spending on their marketing towards home schoolers, as the $60,000,000 becomes more and more diluted.

The problem does not stop with removing the dollar savings argument from our legislative arsenal. By accepting funds from the government, home schoolers provide a strong rationale for government control of home schoolers, a rationale which overwhelms any remaining savings argument and also blocks use of the religious freedom argument. Here is why.

Government is responsible to track and control what happens to its money. You and I want accountability for how our tax dollars are spent, and other citizens do too. So when tax dollars are funneled into home schooling, it creates an intensified state's interest in the home school educational process. The state suddenly has a new stake in your and my children's education. The state assumes responsibility for outcomes when its money is involved. That translates into state control.

Religious freedom cannot be protected if we accept government funds for home schooling. The federal courts have established that colleges which take government student loan money are subject to accompanying regulations even if those regulations contradict the college's religious beliefs.

I know they said, "No strings attached." Maybe at the moment that's so. But the history of government money is that it is leverage to advance someone's agenda. It is not just a matter of refusing to accept the services if strings start being attached. If the perception is that home schoolers are being funded by the state, then it is an easy next step for the government to try to control the whole group of home educators. And the battle could well be over before the home schoolers have a chance to convincingly back away from the funded activities.

Home schooled students would become extension students to the school system. The children would be controlled by a central office, just like telecommuters in the workplace. And just as telecommuters are measured for productivity, so would home schooled students be measured by tests for conformity to school system values and regimentation.

Alternatives To Government Subsidies

So what should family educators do if we lack specific educational resources? Specialized subjects like sports, music, drama, chemistry, or advanced math, certainly can benefit from broader resources.

Co-ops, including teaching co-ops, have always been a mainstay of home educators. Join one or start one. Existing private schools are another option. They are increasingly becoming home education friendly, letting students take individual classes or offering specialized services for a fee. Sometimes you can arrange for tutoring by a moonlighting teacher. And there are private businesses which specialize in providing services for home educators.

But what if we just can't find a substitute for what is being offered by the school system? What if home schooled children are already taking individual classes from the school system? Do our children go without?

I have to be frank on this point. You have to decide whether you are going to be a home educator, or not. If you choose to be a home educator, then that means you take the unpleasant with the pleasant. Otherwise, you endanger the home education freedoms of everyone. There are tradeoffs. There have always been tradeoffs for home educators. But we have paid the price to attain the final goal. It's the long term that counts, and it is no different with this issue of government funding.

Will We Dodge This Bullet?

The reason we educate at home is because we can do a better job than outsiders can. We carry out the education process with our personal insight into our children's strengths and weaknesses fully operational. We are not arbitrarily constrained by the control of government officials. This independence from government interference is what makes home education so successful and worth the sacrifice for parents. Yet this freedom to do what is best for our children is precisely what is endangered by accepting government funds for home schooling, because it invites government intervention.

Will family educators dodge the government funding bullet? I think so. Once what is at stake becomes clear, parents who educate at home will do what is best for our own children and also best for our home educator friends' children. We will say "No" to education funds from the government. We will protect our home education freedoms.

Copyright © 1998 Rodger C. Williams. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

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