One *NSIH Member’s Public-School-at-Home (Charter Schools) Experience
We were looking for a homeschool support group when we moved to Fairbanks, AK. We were told that a particular public-school-at-home program was a local support group. Silly really that someone would call a public school a “support group for homeschooling.” We were enticed by the money and joined after some research. I promised myself if I ever felt over-taxed by the paperwork or if our freedom to use religious materials was restricted, we’d leave.
We were in the first program for a year when we learned their public school district was going bankrupt. They froze the funding accounts of the homeschooled students so no more funds could be spent. At the end of the school year any remaining funds are absorbed into the school district that sponsors the program. Guess who didn’t file bankruptcy? We didn’t know who the other families were to band together. We tried contacting the school district directly and after several weeks we gave up. We switched to another program after that.
The supervisor we were assigned explained that testing was required because our children were now “public school students”. We understood that the mandatory testing is a stipulation for receiving the funding. Our son scored fine, average all the way. Our daughter did, too. The problem with that is she confided in me that the testing was boring so she colored the bubbles in patterns down the columns. How could that come back as an average student’s testing results when it was actually her bored colorings?
Nearly 5 years after we joined the first program the laws had changed and my kids had gotten older. The required testing was not a big deal. However, the work samples became an issue. We are required to turn in one per subject. I was told that they wanted additional samples from both my children = more work to copy, turn in, and then amend the paperwork already filed. Okay, so I did that. Each year the school added more forms to fill out. When we quit there were daily grades, weekly grades, quarterly grades, and semester grades to report, for EACH student. Plus, two sets of Individual Learning Plans and ordering forms for each vendor were needed. Additional paperwork was required for things like sports, art, and music lessons.
There were limits put on the funds by the program on how much of the total budget could be spent on each subject. For reading tutoring we had used 25% of my special needs child’s total budget. No more money was left to use for reading for the rest of the year, mind you, this was September! This child has a proven reading disability documented by the testing they did and had in their files.
Our supervisor did not give us any viable options in our opinion. Our daughter’s ONLY option was to attend reading lessons in the special education department of our local elementary school. Her class would consist of physically, mentally, and emotionally handicapped students. Fine, if she was elementary aged and handicapped. She was 13 at the time and normal, other than a reading difficulty. We were given no other choice. We later received a letter that this child was truant from the public elementary school! The program was freezing the remaining funding in the child’s account. We had never enrolled her at the school and had rejected the offer. How could she then be truant??!
Their grades now went on transcripts because of their ages. We could not do Bible as a graded subject. Fine. We could not turn in or use any religious materials for the graded work samples. Okay, I could work around that. THEN, the law became that I could not use religious materials for several of the core subjects, to include HIStory, Science, Language Arts, and Math. I could not take God out of HIStory, it is HIS STORY.
I’m not sure if the new rules were due to how that program interpreted the recent law changes. I do know that we were no longer able to fulfill the needs of the state and the command of God to train our children for HIS glory. I know I’m coming off as a Bible thumper. I hope you can see our hearts were that we could not meet the needs of the school without lying and hiding what our homeschool was about. That did not sit well with us. It simply was a matter to us of our souls not being worth $1,800 per student.
This was our experience with several different “homeschool” programs run by Alaskan public schools in the Fairbanks area from 2002 – 2007. At no point since have we regretted becoming independent homeschoolers.
*This member family has moved to another state since sharing this, as the dad is in the military.