“The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness…” Part One of Two

The following two-part series is from the book Homeschooling in Alaska by Interior Alaskan Teresa Hanson, M. Ed.  It is copied here with her kind permission.  Part two can be read by clicking here.  Free copies of this book are available by e-mailing northstarindependents(at)gmail(dot)com. 

“The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness…”

From the Book Homeschooling in Alaska by Teresa Hanson

IDEA opened many doors of opportunity to the average home schooler, however, it also opened the door to a veritable Pandora’s box within the home schooling community. According to Dr. Brian Ray, President of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI):

As home schooling has grown to a now-estimated 1.2 to 1.7 million students, many new government-controlled and tax-funded programs have sprung up around the country that enroll home-school students. With these state-run programs in place, the lines between “public” and “private” appear to become blurred.[1]

Dr. Ray poses the question, “Do such programs serve the best interests of home education, or do they hamper its free operation and unique benefits?”[2]

Alaska Private and Home Educators Association (APHEA), as well as many independent home schoolers, believe the latter. State correspondence, and more recently, district correspondence programs were always a choice for the potential home schooler. Those that wanted structure and support selected one of the two public correspondence options. They were considered public correspondence students, educated at home, while the rest of the students educated at home were considered private home schoolers. The advent of IDEA, CyberLynx and other tax-funded home school assistance programs, that allowed the formerly private home schoolers to continue on in much the same way as they always had, blurred the lines between the public school students, educated at home, and the private home schooler.

In FY97-98, IDEA’s typical family had home schooled their children for at least three years without being a part of any district or state program.[3] Eighty-eight percent of IDEA’s families that joined the first year were, by this definition, private home schoolers. Although many families realized they signed onto a public home education option, it was so unlike the more institutionalized correspondence options, that they did not realize that by state law definition, they were no longer considered home schoolers. IDEA families were now considered public correspondence students and no longer had the benefit or protection of SB134 that completely deregulated home schooling and gave the parents the right to home school with absolutely no restrictions or requirements to fulfill and no attendance requirements, testing, or registration with the state.[4] These families could no longer gain membership in the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) because the organization does not represent public school students. IDEA students are public school students educated at home.

This was fine for many, but most of the veteran, independent home schoolers did not put any thought into what the long term effects might be as a result of giving up their freedoms and rights as home schoolers. One of the important points that Jack Phelps and APHEA lobbied for, and appeared in “The Resolution” passed by the 19th Legislature[5] was that the, “cost of educating children at home is borne by the parents, thus saving money from the state general fund.”[6] The independent home schoolers that joined IDEA’s ranks actually increased the cost of education for the State of Alaska. Galena’s funding level, from the state, increased from $1,426,647 in FY96 (before IDEA), to $14,261,308 in FY99.[7] That constituted nearly a 13 million dollar increase in funding for education in the State of Alaska from the IDEA program alone.

A few voices are speaking out, alerting people of the possible repercussions this might have on home schooling throughout the State of Alaska. The points against these public programs are substantial. 

Click here to read part two, which includes more information about public home education programs and finances.

[1] Ray, Brian D. Ph.D. “Research News,” The Teaching Home Magazine Vol.XVII No.6, p25

[2] Ibid.

[3] Rod Pocock, interview. 16 March 1998

[4] Lockner, Terina, What’s the Big I.D.E.A.? APHEA Newsletter v.7.no.4, November 1997 p10

[5] SCR 25, 19th Legislature 2nd Session 1996

[6] Ibid.

[7] Foundation Program FY88 through FY99 State Aid Entitlements, Department of Education, Juneau, Alaska


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