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3/8/2013 4:57:13 PM
Scott Woodruff--HSLDA
Wisconsin: Virtual Academy is a "Bridge" to Nowhere

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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Wisconsin: Virtual Academy is a "Bridge" to Nowhere

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

On March 5, several Wisconsin media outlets breathlessly proclaimed,
"Families are clamoring" to get into the Bridges Virtual Academy (BVA)
"which delivers public education to home-schooling families."

BVA is a public-school-at-home program. The child becomes a public
school student upon enrollment (not eligible for HSLDA membership) and
is no longer in home-based private instruction. The family can then
ask BVA to buy their favorite Christian curriculum for them, creating
the mirage that it's just like homeschooling, only free.

Allow me to poke three holes in the mirage: (1) it's against the law
for any public school, virtual or otherwise, to teach the truth about
God; (2) children in virtual schools do poorly in academics; and (3)
it's unwise to give away your freedom to get free books.

(1) It's against the law for public schools--including virtual public
schools--to teach the truth about God. If BVA's teachers tell your
child the truth about God, or if BVA buys you Christian textbooks, BVA
is unquestionably violating the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment (as currently interpreted).

BVA will get away with it for a while. But sooner or later those who
oppose Christian instruction will notice that BVA is using tax dollars
to buy Christian books and pay the salaries of teachers who talk about
God.

Then they will have a fit and force BVA to stop. And if they don't,
they will sue BVA. Then BVA will only buy secular curricula for
parents and tell their teachers to stop talking about God--just like
in "real" public schools where the truth about God is treated like a
dangerous bacteria that must be hunted down and eliminated.

(2) Virtual public schools have a poor academic track record. The
national publication Education Week noted that students in public
full-time online programs in Colorado "typically lagged behind their
peers on virtually every academic indicator." Scores actually dropped
when students transferred from brick-and-mortar to online schools.
Read more: http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=15630

A Western Michigan University study showed that only 27.7% of
full-time virtual schools met federal academic progress goals, vs. 52%
of traditional public schools. Read more:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=15631

The Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes
reported that virtual students scored 13% worse in reading and 24%
worse in math than students in public brick-and-mortar schools. Read
more: http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=15632

An article in the New York Times described a public-school-at-home
program where 60% of its students were behind in math and nearly 50%
were behind in reading. The author believed there were "serious
questions" about whether full-time online public schools actually
benefit children. Read more: http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=15633

In a recent survey of California public-school-at-home programs, only
48% of students scored at the "proficient" level in English-Language
Arts. Elementary math proficiency was about 22%. The Algebra 1
proficiency was only 12%. The scores were so bad that a commentator
asked, "Why does the emperor have no clothes?" Read more:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=15634

The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado
Boulder reported that virtual school students in Idaho and four other
states "are falling more behind in math and reading than their
traditional school counterparts." Read more:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=15635

Compare this with the well-known success of homeschool students.
According to Dr. Lawrence Rudner's landmark study, homeschooled 2nd
graders scored one grade level ahead; 5th graders scored two grades
ahead; and 8th graders scored an astonishing four grade levels ahead
of others! See Figure 2 (about half way through the document):
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=15636

(3) Freedom is so abstract that it is difficult to define. But it is
so important that our nation has gone to war again and again to
protect it. But the most important battle for freedom is in your
heart. Anything that increases your love of freedom should be
welcomed. Anything that pressures you to give up freedom should be
treated like an enemy. Free books from BVA will result in pressure on
you to give up your freedom.

A family will get used to BVA supplying them with free Christian
books. Then BVA will announce that it will only buy secular books in
the future. Will the family dig into their wallets and start buying
Christian books again, or take the path of least resistance and accept
free secular books and hope for the best?

Even families who were previously committed to giving their children
an uncompromising Christian education may feel pressured to save a few
bucks. Sadly, this may send a message to their children that it's OK
to teach some subjects without God at the center.

And if it's OK to teach some subjects without God, it's a small leap
for the children to infer that knowledge itself does not really
require God. And from there it's only another small step for a child
to infer that God is not necessary at all. A stumbling block of
biblical proportions may now lie in the child's spiritual path.

All education is a form of discipleship. The only question is what
the child gets discipled into. Frankly, it's wiser to never grow
accustomed to free books in the first place.

BVA is a "bridge," but it is a bridge to nowhere. Parent-directed,
parent-controlled, homeschooling working hand-in-hand with the liberty
to incorporate the truth about God unashamedly into every subject--and
operated entirely without government "help"--is the gold standard of
academic education and family discipleship. It's also the best
guarantee that we will pass a robust love of liberty on to our own
children.

Sincerely,

Scott A. Woodruff, Esq.
HSLDA Senior Counsel

P.S. We greatly value you and your support--it is a privilege to serve
you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you
consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support
enables us to defend individual families and protect homeschooling
freedom for all. Join now:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=17504

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-> Can you call your attorney at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning?

Our members can get in touch with their attorney even after
business hours, when they have a legal emergency. Wouldn't you
like this level of service?

More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1100

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