The Home School Court Report
No. 4

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Virtual Instruction Program: Ticket to mediocrity

Homeschooling is so successful that the State of Missouri wants to do it—but without the parents. At a recent homeschool conference in St. Louis, a representative of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s “Virtual Instruction Program” handed out a leaflet touting the state’s new public-school-at-home program. Less than candid, the leaflet was entitled “Free Course Curriculum Opportunity.” However, the courses are “free” in the same way that government services are usually “free.” You, the taxpayer, pay for them.

Breathlessly warning parents that they would have only a three-week opportunity in May to sign up, the flyer created the impression that the parents would be missing out on something really good if they waited. Astute parents should not be fooled: Public-school-at-home programs are an educational flop.

For example, according to statistics available to the public, students in Idaho enrolled in one of that state’s four virtual schools scored even lower than students in traditional public schools at every grade level! Since parents are an unnecessary component in public-school-at-home programs, these results come as no surprise. There is no substitute for parents.

The flyer said the courses would be “recognized for credit toward graduation requirements.” A more candid statement would have been that public schools will grant credit toward public school graduation requirements. (Homeschooling parents not involved in a public-school-at-home program can determine on their own what to give their students credit for and what is required for graduation.)

The flyer says that “quality private curriculum providers” will be involved. However, government-funded “free” curriculum must usually be religion-free. The mere fact that a private company publishes a book does not mean the book will have a different agenda than government schools. Textbook publishers must abide by government guidelines in order to sell books to government-funded programs. Some companies even publish two versions of textbooks: one for homeschooling customers, and a “revised” version for government programs.

Parents in Palmdale, California, recently learned a bitter lesson about how little control of their children’s education they had as long as the children were enrolled in a public school program. They filed suit against the public school system after their young children were given a shocking “survey” containing questions of a sexual nature. In rebuffing the parents, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said, “. . . parents have no . . . right . . . to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students.” 427 F.3d 1197 (9th Cir. 2005). That quote bears careful rereading.

Unless you intend to read every page of every free book, you will not know what content you are exposing your children to through government-approved and funded textbooks.

The flyer ends with a bid to earn your trust: it says there are “home school families” on the advisory board for the public-school- at-home program. This is a time when great discernment is necessary. People you know and respect may trade their liberty for the chance to save some money.

The government’s virtual school program offers you a choice: free stuff—or a free way of life. We urge you to choose a free way of life.

— by Scott A. Woodruff