District Makes Millions on Home Schoolers
Home School Legal Defense Associations investigation of a public school program found that students enrolled in Galena School Districts Interior Distance Education of Alaska (I.D.E.A.) program are generating tremendous revenues for the school district.
Students in I.D.E.A. are enrolled as full-time students in public school but are taught at home by their parents. The state sends Galena the same amount of funding per I.D.E.A. pupil as per on-site student.
According to Eddy Jeans, Finance Director at the Alaska Department of Education, Galena School District received $15,020,053 in state funds for fiscal year 2000. Of this amount, $14,093,136, or $4,104 per pupil, was received for the 3,434 students in I.D.E.A. The balance of the funds in the amount of $926,917 was intended for the 226 students who receive classroom instruction as regular on-site students.
Families who enroll their children in I.D.E.A. are provided curriculum materials, use of a computer with access to the Internet, and assistance from a certified teacher, among other services. Each student receives an allotment averaging $1,600 per year to cover curriculum and related expenses. Considering the $4,104 per pupil received from the state, Galena School District enjoys a gross profit of over $2,500 per pupil in I.D.E.A. for a total of $8,585,000 for fiscal year 2000. What amount of this profit is reduced by I.D.E.A. administrative expenses is unknown, but there is no question that this is a moneymaking enterprise for Galena School District.
Parents involved with I.D.E.A. have reason to ask why their children are not receiving more of this state money. In fact, every Alaskan taxpayer should ask what Galena is doing with the $8,585,000 it retains after paying I.D.E.A. allotments.
Besides receiving less than 40 percent of the state funds sent to Galena for their children, parents who elect to enroll their children in I.D.E.A. are subject to certain restrictions and requirements not imposed on those actually conducting home education under Alaskas excellent law. Public funds may not be used to purchase curriculum materials for teaching core subjects if the materials are distinctively religious in content. Additionally, students in grades 4 or 7 must take the California Achievement Test 5 administered by a certified teacher approved by the school district. In grades 3, 6, and 8, students must take the Alaska Benchmark Examinations in reading, writing, and math. Also, the student must pass the High School Graduation Qualifying Examination in order to receive a high school diploma. As further evaluation of the student, each parent must report to Galena School District the progress of all students each semester.
On June 4, 1997, Alaska enacted the best home school law in the nation. There are no teaching qualifications for parents, no regulation at any level of government, no notice to anyone of the parents decision to conduct the home education, no registration with the state, no reporting to anyone of any information about the home education program, no testing of the children, no required subjects, and no evaluation of the program by anyone. We encourage our member families in Alaska to take advantage of the tremendous freedom that they now have to teach their children at home without any government oversight or the interference inherent in government funding of education. Dewitt T. Black