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FIRST-PERSON: Are school $$ at center of tussle facing home-schooling families?

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Recently, a high percentage of families seeking approval from the East Providence, R.I., school district to home school their children have been denied their request. Further, school officials have rejected the applications without any explanation.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association’s (HSLDA) Weekly Update, which is distributed via e-mail, the East Providence school district has refused 11 out of 14 families their application to home school. That is a rejection rate of 78 percent. “Even though Rhode Island recognizes home schooling as a constitutional right, the law requires families who want to exercise this right to apply to the district school committee each year for approval. In many cases, this is merely a formality….” the HSDLA Update reports.

Though the HSLDA has contacted East Providence seeking an explanation, as of Nov. 8 no communication had been received from the school district. Under Rhode Island law, families are allowed to appeal a local school district decision to the commissioner of education. HDSLA is representing several of the families in the appeal process.

What possible reason could have motivated East Providence officials to reject 78 percent of home-schooling applications? Could it have been for academic reasons? Possibly but not likely. Home-schooled children routinely outperform public school students on standardized tests. On a recent American College Testing assessment, home-educated students obtained the highest overall score.

If academics are not the reason for East Providence’s recent home-school rejections, then what could it be? Could it be the almighty dollar?

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average public school in the United States spent $6,584 dollars per student during the 1999-2000 academic year. Of that amount, 55.8 percent, or $3,674, was subsidized by state and federal governments. Both federal and state education funds are distributed to local school districts on a per-student basis.

When children are educated at home or placed in private schools, public education loses a tremendous amount of revenue. Could this be the real reason that some government school officials as well as national teachers unions are opposed to anything but public school? You be the judge.

In the case of East Providence, the 11 families denied the request to home school represent at least $40,414 in state and federal funds. The dollar amount could be even higher, significantly so, if any of the families have multiple school-age children. While there is no guarantee the families that have been refused the right to home educate in East Providence will enroll their children in public school, some might have little or no choice. If any of the families have two, three or more children, they might not be able to afford private school tuition for all of their children.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are on a local school district committee to review home school applications. In your examination of requests you notice several families with multiple school-age children seeking approval to home educate. You begin to do a little math in your head and realize a tremendous amount of money will be lost if these applications are approved. You also speculate, based on the size of the families, it is probable that some of them do not have the means to pay for private education. Hence, with each request you deny you are increasing the odds that the school district does not lose money. Stranger things have happened.

Only time will tell why the East Providence school district denied 11 families their request to home school. However, with the popularity of home education on the rise, and the amount of money that is at stake, don’t be surprised if similar rulings occur throughout the “land of the free” in the days to come.
Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press.

    About the Author

  • Kelly Boggs