FREE education, FREE curriculum, FREE computers, FREE Internet access all to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home! Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Online virtual schools can offer big incentives, but are they really free? If you enroll your child in one of these schools, are you still considered a homeschooler?
When the government provides what may sound like free gifts, beware, because these FREE gifts often come with strings attached. The hidden sacrifices outweigh these alluring benefits because the price may be higher than you think.
According to HSLDA, when parents enroll their children in a virtual charter school, they forfeit much of their parental authority in connection with their children's education. While the children may be at home, the parents are considered learning coaches and have little input concerning curriculum and other decisions regarding your child's education. There are often many other strict requirements, including certified teacher supervision, a fixed schedule, and state testing.
We need to make certain that homeschool parents know the truth about virtual public and charter schools so that they are equipped to make informed and wise decisions for their children's education and understand how these programs differ from traditional home education. At OCHEC, we believe in and support a parent's choice to educate their children in whatever method they choose.While we cannot choose for you what is right for your family, we want you to be aware that there are strings attached to these virtual charter/public school programs.
Virtual Charter/Public schools are exactly that, public schools in your home. Online schools, whether charter or public, are still ultimately public schools at home because the government, through your tax dollars, funds them both. Because these programs are government funded, faith-based curriculum is not allowed to be used in spite of what some of these charters are offering. Article II, section IV of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits public money from being used to directly or indirectly support a system of religion or a sectarian institution. That is not our rule. We are not trying to endorse separation of church and state, we are simply stating the written law.
Virtual charter schools have been aggressive in targeting homeschoolers. Many of you may have received mailings and marketing materials to convince you that this form of public education qualifies as “homeschooling.” In reality, virtual charter school administrators are competing with traditional public schools for the thousands of dollars per student in state funds that they receive when they bring more homeschoolers into the public school system. Most of these charters are operated by for-profit companies that reap huge benefits from the $8,000 per student they receive. Only 5% of these funds actually go to the sponsoring school district itself for administration fees.
If I enroll my child in an online academy or virtual/online school, will I still be considered a homeschooler?
No. State law considers virtual public and charter schools to be public schools, not home school. According to their Website, "the mission of HSLDA has always been to defend the rights of families who desire to privately homeschool their children. Homeschooling through charter schools or public school independent study programs is actually a form of public education, and thus falls ourside of HSLDA's mission. It is our longstanding policy not to accept as HSLDA members families whose children are enrolled in such public school option."
What is the downside of virtual charters and PS at home?
Children who enroll in virtual charter schools must follow all of the program’s policies and procedures, which include restrictions such as exclusion of religious educational materials as part of the formal curriculum. Parents who choose these programs must realize that in accepting virtual public schools into their homes, they are also accepting the bureaucracy and government supervision that is linked to accepting tax dollars.
What type of legislative impact will these schools have on traditional home educators?
HSLDA is concerned that virtual charter schools will negatively impact the public and American lawmakers’ understanding of what it means to homeschool. For nearly three decades, we have worked to define homeschooling as privately led and parent-directed education within the home. If virtual charter schools are accepted as “homeschools,” it will be much more difficult for traditional homeschoolers to separate the two in the minds of lawmakers and to obtain legal protections for their “class” of homeschooling. We thus advocate strict adherence to a narrow definition of the word “homeschooling.”
Where do HSLDA and OCHEC stand on this issue?
“HSLDA believes that a distinction between virtual charter schools and homeschooling is vital. While charter schools provide parents with another choice, we emphasize that they are still public schools in every sense of the word. HSLDA also strongly cautions homeschoolers against enrolling in virtual charter schools. Many homeschoolers are seduced by attractive marketing and forget that virtual charter schools are actually controlled by the public school system. HSLDA does not represent students enrolled in full-time charter school programs.
In addition, virtual charter schools still suffer from multiple accountability challenges. Having that group of schools lumped with homeschools can lower the homeschool “average” academic scores and undo much of our effort to demonstrate homeschoolers’ academic excellence.
Finally, we caution homeschoolers that participation in virtual charter schools counts as participation in public schools, and invites increased government regulation over the inner workings of their homes.” www.hslda.org
OCHEC is in full agreement with and supports the position of HSLDA in the matter of Virtual/Charter/Public School Independent Study Programs.
The following constitutes OCHEC's Position Statement regarding government-funded, state-administered public school at home.
OCHEC defines the terms `home education', `homeschooling', and `home schooling' exclusively as the privately-funded, home-based education and discipleship of children by their own parents or guardians.
OCHEC advocates parents' rights to educate their children using public, private or other means of education. OCHEC considers education funded by the government and/or administrated by the state, without regard for type or location of instruction, to constitute public education and is therefore not home education, home schooling or homeschooling.
Click HERE to view the educational choices available in Oklahoma and how each are categorized.
Click HERE for 5 myths about virtual/online schools.
Virtual/Online Charter/Public Schools in Oklahoma:
Oklahoma Connections Academy – Sperry Public Schools
Oklahoma Calvert Academy - (Pre-K - 8th) Graham Public Schools
One on One Charter - Graham Public Schools
Oklahoma Virtual Academy (K12) - White Oak Public Schools (K-8) and Wynona Public Schools (High School)
Oklahoma Virtual High School - Stringtown, Stidham, Pittsburg, Graham, Hanna, and Crutcho School Districts
Articles and Oklahoma Law regarding Charter Schools, Online Charters, and PSAH:
Conflict Arises Concerning Virtual Schools
Virtual Charter School Hits Snag
Liberating Learning Articles