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?
When the government provides what may sound like gifts, beware. These FREE gifts often come with strings attached, and the hidden sacrifices outweigh these attractive 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 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 educational decisions. Many other strict requirements often include certified teacher supervision, a fixed schedule, and state testing.
Homeschool parents must know the truth about virtual public and charter schools to equip them to make informed and wise decisions for their children’s education and understand how these programs differ from traditional home education. At HSOK, we believe in and support the parents’ choice to educate their children in whatever method they choose. While we cannot decide 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 precisely that: public schools in your home. Whether charter or public, online schools are still ultimately public schools at home because the government, through your tax dollars, funds them both. Because these programs are government-funded, no faith-based curriculum is to be used, despite what some charters offer. 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 (note that we are not trying to endorse the 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 tremendous benefits from the $8,000 per student they receive. Only 5% of these funds go to the sponsoring school district itself for administration fees.
If you enroll your child in a virtual/online school, are you still considered a homeschooler?
In short, No. State law considers virtual public and charter schools public schools, not home schools. Homeschooling through charter schools or public school independent study programs is a form of public education and thus falls outside of Homeschool Oklahoma’s mission. While we are happy to help these families step into proper home education, we can’t offer information or support for these programs.
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, including restrictions such as excluding 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 also accept the bureaucracy and government supervision linked to receiving 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 defined homeschooling as privately funded 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 HSOK 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 the public school system controls virtual charter schools. 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).
HSOK 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 HSOK’s Position Statement regarding government-funded, state-administered public school at home.
HSOK defines the terms ‘home education,’ ‘home-schooling,’ and ‘homeschooling’ exclusively as the family-funded, home-based education and discipleship of children by their parents or guardians.
HSOK advocates parents’ rights to educate their children using public, private, or other means of education. HSOK considers education funded by the government and administrated by the state, without regard for type or location of instruction, to constitute public education and is therefore not home education or homeschooling.
Click HERE to view the educational choices available in Oklahoma and how each is categorized.
Click HERE for five myths about virtual/online schools.
These are Examples of Virtual/Online Charter/Public Schools in Oklahoma:
- Epic Charter Schools
- 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