Monday, May 02, 2005

Don't Open School Doors

Interesting take on the homeschool bill being proposed this session. -

Bill benefits public system, not Texas home-schoolers
by Stephen Lunsford
10:01 PM CDT on Sunday, May 1, 2005

State Rep. Brian McCall's proposal to open public school classes and extracurricular activities to home-schooled students in Texas, while it looks good on the surface, could backfire in a big way on the same people it purports to help.

Mr. McCall's proposed legislation, House Bill 368, would blur the well-defined line between public schools and home schools. Under current Texas law, children taught at home are considered private school students, so their instructors, usually their parents, have much more leeway in how to teach them.

Mr. McCall's legislation would create a whole new legal definition of home-schoolers, which could put at risk the private school designation as confirmed by the Texas Supreme Court in its June 18, 1994, unanimous decision.

By taking certain classes in public schools, such as foreign language or chemistry, or participating in public school activities, such as band or a sport, home-schooled students would, of course, become part of the public school system. Currently, public schools have no authority over home-schooled students, but once the home-schooled student enrolls in even one public school class, that question of authority becomes much less clear.

Not to be alarmist, but home-school families should realize that once a public system has some authority over home-schooling families, there is a strong probability that more authority and control will follow.

While the McCall bill purports to offer benefits to home-schoolers, we at the North Texas Home Educators' Network believe that its primary purpose is, first and foremost, to benefit public school districts, which would be able to count those part-time students in their enrollment figures and claim additional state funds.

Home education is clearly a lost revenue stream for the Plano Independent School District, and it is obvious that the recouping of that lost revenue is the driving force behind this legislation.

Most home-schooling families either left the public system or never became part of it for very good reasons of their own, and this legislation would do nothing in terms of addressing those reasons.

Many home-schooling parents disdain the atmosphere of the public school system, with its greater risk of physical harm, its false sense of true socialization and its inability to use teaching methods based on the learning style that is best for the student rather than the instructor. Others want to be able to reflect their own values and religious beliefs in their teaching, which the public schools could never do.

We also doubt that a significant number of home-schooling parents see a real need to take part in specialized classes or extracurricular activities. With the large number of home-schooled students throughout North Texas, there are already home-school cooperatives and enrichment programs that share teaching responsibilities to leverage instructors' expertise, and these same groups offer many extracurricular activities as well.

Yes, a few parents might take the chance and put their child into one or two public school classes, but we don't believe many will be interested. Plano schools would be better served by focusing on other revenue enhancements and leaving the home education community alone. We're doing just fine.

Stephen Lunsford is vice president of administration for the North Texas Home Educators' Network. His e-mail address is


  1. I've never been a huge fan of homeschooling. In this article, the author talks about the potential harm it may cause homeschoolers (increasing authority of the public school system over them).
    While I don't really see this as a problem, I would like to point out problems for the public school system. Why should public school students have to share their classrooms with students who aren't full time students at their school?
    I am past the delusion that funding would be budgeted for more classes and am well aware that classes for subjects like foreign language would increase in number. We all know the correlation between learning and class size. This seems to be especially important in classes like foreign languages (the type class homeschoolers would be most likely to register for). If the homeschoolers are against it, and it would go against the public school students best interest, then why is it being considered? Yes, this is a rhetorical question. I and everyone else knows why. It is the same motivation behind every piece of legislation: Money!

  2. *Disclaimer--I am not generalizing for all homeschoolers, only try to explain what I have seen*

    As someone who has studied homeschooling from a non-religious perspective, I have to say that this article highlights many concerns that I heard while I did my research. Homeschoolers in the state of Texas are not held to many standards--they need to teach their children language arts and civics, but there is not an advisory board that reviews homeschooling families or requires documentation(for a comparison, I offer New York--there are certified teachers who review "grades" and "portifolios" from every homeschooloing student twice a year and keep very detailed records of all homeschooling families--Texans don't even have to tell their local school district). These loose regulations are generally credited with the large amount of Texas homeschoolers. Many prefer to keep their children out of the school because of deficiencies that they perceive exist within the school--too much testing, too many worksheets, too little experiential learning. I am, of course, not speaking for all homeschoolers, but these are recurring themes that I noticed. A bill similar to this was proposed in the 2003 session, and it had split support in the homeschooling communities. Some favored a bill that would allow them to enroll their children for a few classes--often science courses and athletics. Others opposed the bill for a few different reasons. One, they did not want to blur the line between homeschooling and public schooling. Like this article argues, once the line is crossed, it is harder to maintain autonomy and preserve the freedom that homeschoolers enjoy in Texas. Others opposed the bill because they felt that it was unfair to public schools students and may further cause inequality in public schools. Schools would receive ADA money for homeschoolers--even if these students only attended one class. Since many, although not all, who homeschool are middle-class, those schools would receive more funding. Some did not want to contribute to the growing inequality in schools by providing schools with funds for "phantom" students. As we can see, this is a complicated issue that does not receive holistic support from any one group.

  3. I believe Stephen Lunsford, in his article entitled “Bill benefits public system, not Texas home-schoolers”, is missing the bigger picture. Lunsford should be focusing on the fact that House Bill 386 resolves discrimination; discrimination in the sense that, home school families are required to pay millions of dollars a year in property taxes. With that said, families are denied the ability to freely take advantage of the resources of a public school. This what Texas Representative Brain McCall had in mind when he created HB 386. Opposite to what Rep. McCall has proposed, Lunsford places an emphasis on the terminology used in the bill by stating that, “Mr. McCall's legislation would create a whole new legal definition of home-schoolers, which could put at risk the private school designation”. After looking at the issue from both perspectives, I feel that the intended purpose of the bill supersedes Lunsford’s critical analysis of how home schooling is defined.

    In Jennifer J’s response to the article, she states, that in 2003 there was a “split support in homeschooling communities”. This split is still alive and well in the 2005 79th Legislature. On one side of the spectrum, there are those that feel that a change in definition will bring “a strong probability that more authority and control will follow” from the public system. Public interests groups like Mr. Lunsford’s North Texas Home Educators' Network and Home School Legal Defense Association are among the groups that are against HB 386 for this reason. On the other side, proponents of the bill, like Tim Lambert of the Texas Home School Coalition, feel that ultimately both the public system and the home schooling community benefit. Lambert’s opinion is centered on the general premise that giving the home schooling parents the choice to enroll their students will prove to be beneficial to the student’s learning and at the same time maintain local control and provide additional funding for school districts. In an article posted on the Texas Home School Coalition website, in response to the debate, Lambert makes the claim that, “In 1999, 2001, and 2003, the legislature adopted laws which clarified that home school students should not be discriminated against in one area or another. In each of those cases, the term ‘home school’ was used. We have not seen an erosion of our freedoms, as some feared, as a result of the use of that term in state statute, but rather an expansion of those freedoms.” If Lambert’s statement is in fact true, then I think Lunsford’s argument is invalid; there won’t be a “strong probability” that the public system will end up regulating home schooling.

    Unfortunately, proponents seem to be currently pressured not only by those within the home school community, but by outside groups like the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Texas State Teacher Assoc., and the Texas Federation of Teachers. These groups are opposed to HB 386 for other reasons. Teachers from each of these organizations all gave testimonies against the bill during the Public Education Committee meeting on April 19th, 2005. They stated, exactly what Celeste proposed in her post; public schools lack the proper resources and room to accommodate the would-be influx of home schooled students.