April 2, 2007

Nelson Plan Turns Homeschools into Public Schools

Next year Virginia’s government education system will make an unprecedented push to draw homeschoolers into their system.

The General Assembly gives money to public schools that enroll homeschoolers as part-time students. This gives them a powerful cash incentive to “reach out” to homeschoolers.

Nelson County is even more ambitious and aims to turn homeschools into public schools. Homeschoolers are being invited to join the “Nelson Academy of Virtual Learning” (NAVL). Public school at home programs like this cost far less than building-based education, but Nelson county public schools receive full per-pupil funding for every homeschoool student who joins the program.

Making it perfectly clear that money is their main objective, Nelson County has said that “…students who are not currently enrolled in our school division are welcome to sign up for this program,” (emphasis added).

Their target is you—the free, independent homeschool families of Virginia. Their bait? Free books, and other incentives. And if they act like public school at home programs in other states, they will eventually try to entice you with free computers, Internet access, and musical instruments! If you take the bait, your children will automatically become public school students, and your right to control their education will vanish.

Even the state Department of Education is seeking to enroll homeschoolers via their “Virtual Advanced Placement School.” Advanced Placement (AP) courses can be excellent preparation for college. However, when a government agency controls the content of a particular AP course, the wishes of parents are disregarded.

Parents in Palmdale, California, recently learned a bitter lesson about losing control of their children’s education by placing them in public school. They filed suit against the public school system after their children were given a shocking “survey” containing questions of a sexual nature (e.g., asking children if they thought they were “touching their private parts too much”). 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).

If your child enrolls in NAVL or a part-time public school program, the public school system has full power to decide what information your child is exposed to!

If the pattern we have seen in other states repeats itself in Virginia, NAVL or another program will ramp up recruitment efforts to draw in as many homeschooled students as possible. Respected members of your homeschool community—even your friends—may be paid to influence you to abandon homeschooling in favor of operating a public school at home.

You will face a choice: free stuff—or a free way of life. We urge you to choose a free way of life.

Public school students—including those who become public school students by enrolling in NAVL or who enroll more than half time in any public school program (including the state’s virtual AP school)—are not eligible for membership in Home School Legal Defense Association.

For more information about public virtual schools, including their bait and switch tactics, visit the HSLDA issues library entry on virtual charter schools.