Revisiting the Issue of Charter Schools
to the editor
K12 is not a virtual charter school
February 26, 2002
Dear Editors and Parents:
We are writing this letter in response to concerns that have been expressed recently about K12's involvement with virtual charter schools. We understand that the discussion involves sensitive issues, deeply held beliefs, and, most importantly, real families and children. K12 welcomes an informed discussion.
Let me begin by pointing out that K12 is not a virtual charter school. K12 is an education company led by William J. Bennett, the former U.S. Secretary of Education. K12 has two primary goals. First, we are devoted to building a top-quality rigorous curriculum and learning program that benefits children. Second, we are focused on making this curriculum available to as many students as possible in as many different settings as possible.
K12 has made great strides in fulfilling our first goal. We are presently developing a curriculum for children in grades K through 12. Last September, we released a powerful curriculum for kindergarten, first, and second grade; and this coming September, grades 3-5 will be unveiled. Based on the many responses we have received from families, our curriculum is already helping thousands of children receive a world-class education. Homeschooling families from nearly every state in the country are now using our curriculum. We are deeply honored by this development, and very pleased by the fact that we have and continue to receive positive reviews from homeschoolers who report, overwhelmingly, that our program provides exactly what they need-a complete, rigorous, day-by-day curriculum comprising solid academic content, easy-to-use planning and organization tools, and high-quality books, videos, CD's, and other learning materials. All of this is part of an integrated program.
We are also making progress on the goal to make our curriculum available to as many students as possible. Many homeschooling families have chosen to use K12's curriculum in a private homeschool program. Many other families have chosen to use K12's curriculum in a virtual school setting. A broad array of choices makes it possible for more students to have access to K12. In some instances, we are providing our curriculum to innovative and reform-minded public schools and, in Colorado and Pennsylvania, we provide management services to these schools. In this way, we can help assure that schools are properly using K12's curriculum to provide a world-class education. Unfortunately, in a few instances, virtual schools have become the subject of unfair criticism-not only from select public school leaders who seek to limit options in education but also from a few homeschooling organizations who are using apocryphal arguments to speculate that virtual charter schools might be detrimental to home education.
We believe our association with these schools represents a significant increase in educational freedom. Our partner schools in Colorado and Pennsylvania are-right now-strengthening families, improving education, and working to spread educational opportunity and liberty throughout their states.
It is ironic and disappointing that some homeschooling groups oppose virtual charter schools given that the homeschooling movement has its roots in freedom and liberty. Some speculate the schools might intrude into homes. Others theorize that virtual charter schools might prohibit parents from instilling faith and religion in their children's education. And still others imagine virtual charter schools replacing homeschooling in America. Each of these concerns is unfounded.
Unsolicited home-visits, or any other intrusions into your home, are not a part of our partner schools' programs-nor will they ever be. Teachers come to a family's home only when they are invited. Remember, these schools are created to provide families with a powerful new choice that allows their child to obtain an outstanding education from an accredited school at no cost to the family. If a family believes that the school is not fulfilling its promise, they have the freedom to disenroll their child at any time. The key word is here is choice and, when it comes to enrollment and disenrollment in a virtual charter school, these decisions are the family's choice-not the school's choice.
To say that virtual charter schools limit a parent's right to teach their child their faith is simply not true. The families who are currently enrolled in our partner virtual charter schools will attest to this. Many, many parents who have a child enrolled in a virtual charter school supplement their child's education program with religious instruction. Since a virtual charter school is a public school, this religious instruction is not part of the school's curriculum and cannot count for school credit. However, parents can spend as much time as they like providing their child with religious training.
The third claim against virtual charter schools is that they somehow threaten homeschooling. The truth is that homeschooling is now a legal option in all 50 states, and we are not aware of any credible evidence that virtual charter schools will change that fact-or lead to the re-regulation of homeschooling itself. Homeschooling has been and always will be a cherished freedom for America's families, and K12 will fight vehemently to maintain this freedom.
K12's association with virtual charter schools is offered in the spirit of educational liberty. The option of enrolling in a virtual school and receiving a world-class curriculum, a computer, printer, internet connection, as well as access to a talented teacher to assist in the education of your child and a diploma from an accredited school is a powerful option. For some families, this is the right choice. To deny these families a choice is to limit their freedom.
The Home School Legal Defense Association-an organization that has done an extraordinary amount of good work for homeschoolers-has often pointed out that homeschoolers, above all, need the freedom and protection to make educational choices for themselves. We agree! This same spirit should guide the discussion about virtual charter schools; namely, families should be provided with a broad range of high-quality education options and the opportunity to decide what works best for their children.
We at K12 will continue to build the highest quality curriculum and to fight for educational freedom for every family and young person in America. For only by having equal access to an exemplary curriculum and the right to choose what is best for their children, can we, as parents, truly realize the freedom our country prides itself on.
Chief Executive Officer, K12
It's the system, not the school
My children have been in public school most of their lives. I always hated this but chose not to homeschool because I didn't feel I would do them justice, that I would fail them in some way. . . . Then I discovered "cyber schools". . . .
This is an answer to prayer for me. I understand other homeschoolers don't want to be told what to teach, they want freedom to do everything independently. I respect that. But for me, I don't feel the materials cyber schools provide are necessarily offensive. Surely, if they give me something which is offensive, I would opt out as they do give you that freedom. They do provide choices in materials.
Please understand the public school was a problem for me because of the deteriorating standards, the overpopulated classrooms which hinder children from getting the attention they need, the overwhelming diversities highly populated institutions provide which are primarily ungodly, etc. My kids were being failed simply because of the system of public schools.
The teachers and materials, however, cannot be so strongly blamed for the failing system. I believe if the teachers were teaching 8 to 10 students per class as opposed to 25 to 30, academic statistics would improve right there. And then, if the schools themselves weren't overpopulated with students of great diversities and standards and the school could raise standards, steering the students back to caring about academics and away from the popularity, social, and materialism contests, that would make a huge difference as well. . . .
As to government control, yes, it is there. Charter schools are at liberty to implement regulations as to what material to cover, testing, etc. But, why is this such a negative? They do not come into my home and tell me what time to start class, they don't give me daily deadlines, they don't dictate my child must do his multiplication lesson when I know he has already mastered it. So, the issue of "control" seems to be somewhat misrepresented in the report. . . .
Another thing I wish to point out is that when IDEA came into being in Alaska, many "free" homeschoolers resorted to it. Maybe they did so in respect to financial freedom, however, they also willfully welcomed state involvement since they still had freedom to work in their own homes which was their primary goal. It appears that most people don't fear government regulation so much as they just want to personally be involved with their children's education. . . .
What it boils down to is personal preference. For those of you who have the ability to homeschool with minimal regulations and maximum freedoms, you still have legal rights to do this. Don't fear that these rights may be hindered as a result of rising charter schools. . . .
I share all this to encourage you to consider that charters are not something to stand against, rather to appreciate the advantage of having them made available for people like us in our country.
— Paula DeValerio
Not the only option
Dear fellow home schoolers:
On February 20, I was
honored with a personal telephone call from Christopher J. Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association. . . . in response to a letter I sent to HSLDA regarding the cover article of the Jan./Feb. 2002 . . . Court Report. . . . To me, the article suggested HSLDA's stance on the issue is that the practice of shared schooling with charter schools is a significant threat to the future of the home school movement . . . Mr. Klicka, who wrote the article, called to assure me that he did not intend to convey that shared schooling at "brick and mortar" charter schools is considered by HSLDA to be detrimental. He explained that HSLDA warnings against charter programs pertain specifically and solely to participation in virtual charter schools (as described in this article); these are dangerous because by bringing government programs into your home school, they promote dependency on government money and make participants subject to increasing government regulation. Mr. Klicka agreed that the issues surrounding virtual charter schools are completely unique and separate from those surrounding shared school at an actual charter school. He went on to say that HSLDA members may use some services of public schools through options like shared schooling without forfeiting their HSLDA membership. . . .
We all recognize that education is not a "one size fits all" proposition. None of us, as we strive to fulfill our parental obligations in obedience to God, would suggest that all families would be best served by adopting the method(s) we've chosen, with God's guidance, for educating our children. . . .
I strongly encourage all Christian parents to consider home education as the best and number one option in planning and carrying out their child's education. I would not go so far as to say it is the only option; let's not limit God. His ways are not ours; He uses avenues to carry out His plans which we cannot even conceive of.
— Liz James
Before our children were fully adopted, we asked permission of the social workers
to homeschool them. They agreed to the public school charter system only. When we first enrolled, we were told we could use any curriculum we wanted to use even if it was "religious" as long as we purchased our own.
About halfway through the year we were told that we could not use curriculum that was "religion-based" because they could not give our children credit for their work even though we had chosen Alpha Omega and Abeka programs, which are both educationally sound. I went to the person who had given us permission, to question "why," and she told me I could use my own curriculum for the remainder of the year if I could write out my daily planner without using any religious terms and act like I was using their books. I was also informed if they did a home audit, then nothing our children had done all year would count and they would have to repeat. I didn't even know they did home audits.
Needless to say, we were very relieved when our adoptions were final and we enrolled in Heritage where freedom was real freedom.
A change of address, I'm sure, is the only way we got out without trouble. Thank you for the article.
— Lawrence & Virleen Fenske
Last year before we joined HSLDA, we (for a brief moment) believed we were not meeting our daughters' needs. Hence, Friends! So we put them into the new charter school in Wilmington, NC. It was supposed to allow them to learn at their own rate. Both girls are very bright.
After two weeks, we were so disappointed and could not believe the level of incompetence we were seeing. They were re-inventing the wheel, and everything they promised was an empty promise. One child's teacher we learned had one year of experience, and had no self esteem. She would cry every day in class. Her idea of spelling was to put words you did not understand on a wall and look them up. No reading, writing. Math was a foreign language to her. No history or science. We could not see what they were doing for six hours. One night she sent home graph paper, for my daughter to count out and learn her times tables. This child could already do this.
After speaking to both teachers and watching the class in action for an hour, I spoke with my husband and we brought them home to be taught. I will never question whether I can provide a better education for my children again. This experience, if it did nothing else, reaffirmed my decision to home school.
Now after reading more articles on home schooling, we agree that friends are not the reason for school. In fact, the more time spent with the parents, the better adjusted the child will be.
The children are doing great at home, and have told their brothers, "Don't even think about public school-it is not for us."
— Mary Smith