Parents petition the school district to support their sudden homeschool status - Must Read Alaska
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Parents petition the school district to support their sudden homeschool status

SEND PARENTS THE STIPEND THAT HOMESCHOOL PARENTS RECEIVE

By KELLY TSHIBAKA

On July 30, the Anchorage School District notified parents the COVID-19 risk level is too high to reopen schools for the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year. Administrators state that they are prioritizing school and community safety.

Parents with children in Anchorage public schools also prioritize the safety of our schools and communities. But, as a result of the district’s decision, thousands of us unexpectedly have become homeschooling parents right before school is scheduled to begin, even if, among other things, we missed the open period for the homeschool lotteries or don’t have the skills or resources to effectively educate our children.

We are unable to adequately serve as our kids’ teachers because:
• We work full-time during the day;
• We are unemployed and looking for work;
• We have kids with unique or special needs;
• We are teachers who have to provide digital instruction to other students during the day; or
• We do not understand the complexity of the material our children are learning.

Our reality as parents is that all Anchorage public schools have become “homeschools,” even though they’re not designated as such by the district. After being notified of the closure for the first quarter, some of us tried to enroll in Alaska homeschool options, but they are not accepting students or have long wait lists.

Others of us didn’t pursue homeschool enrollment, but there remains a significant burden on all of us to educate our kids for these reasons:
• The district hasn’t established standards for a minimum number of hours teachers are expected to provide online teaching;
• We received remarkably disparate (and often inadequate) support and interaction from teachers last quarter;
• We haven’t seen a plan for how the district will assess our student’s learning progress – which is absolutely unacceptable when Alaska has one of the lowest testing proficiency scores in the nation and we are increasingly concerned our kids are stagnating or regressing academically; and
• Anchorage School District engagement metrics showed an average of 25 percent of our students in 6th-12th grade didn’t submit their online school work last quarter, which means parents are critical to ensuring online learning is completed and submitted.

We refuse to be complicit in what amounts to the educational neglect of our children. We don’t believe we have to choose either to keep our schools and communities safe or to effectively educate children. We can partner with the school district in achieving both objectives, if we are adequately resourced to do so. 

Parents of students did not ask for financial assistance last Spring. We all understood the emergency situation the school district faced.

The Anchorage School District has had 5 months to develop a solution, however. If the solution is for children to learn at home, then the solution must involve resourcing parents to do the job.

We aren’t trained to be teachers. We did not choose homeschooling for a reason. We have been forced into homeschooling and we are expected to do the same work as homeschool parents in Alaska homeschool partnerships, but we haven’t been given the student allotment they receive. It’s not fair to our children.

Since local schools have unexpectedly been converted into “homeschool hubs,” placing the greater burden of teaching on parents, we are petitioning the Anchorage School District to send us the homeschool stipend amount for each of our ASD enrolled students: $2000/elementary and $2,400/high school student. We believe these funds can come from from the over $100 million non-instructional operational expenses that are not being used to run school buildings that currently are shutdown. This will help us to provide the educational resources we need, such as:
• Special needs providers;
• Tutors or assistants; and
• Supplemental or substitutional educational materials.

We have started a petition at http://chng.it/kLYDgV2r.   We are not requesting government handouts without accountability. This allotment would follow the same processes and procedures already in place for those parents in homeschool programs: ASD parents would submit receipts or invoices for authorized expenses, up to the total of the stipend. Not all families would need the full stipend, or the stipend at all. But those families who need supplemental assistance would have access to it.  

Sign the petition at this link if you are a parent of a student in the Anchorage School District.

We seek 1,000 signatures from Anchorage School District parents by the end of August. We cannot, we will not, fail our children.

Kelly Tshibaka is the Commissioner of Administration but is writing this column as a citizen and parent.

Donations Welcome

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Parents can provide an opportunity for their kids to take practice tests toward a 12th grade GED.com diploma and move on to college or trade school.

    • Parents aren’t qualified to be parents therefore aren’t qualified to be teachers. Fixed it for you.

      • Really Greg? So , Parents are not qualified? Sounds like an extremely arrogant comment. Given the absolute disaster that public education has become , I might question the qualifications of Teachers. Are you a Teacher Greg?

        • I was until 5 months ago. I know first hand about what I speak of.

        • If you think getting high with your kids, not knowing where they are at midnight, not helping teachers teach the value of education, helping with homework or holding kids responsible is good parenting, then I rest my case. I have seen all this in villages. No teacher can combat this. All they can do is their best. I’m surprised scores are as high as they are.

          • My husband and I adopted our granddaughter, I am educated and support our teachers 100%. I have patients to stand behind our little ones teacher with homework etc, however I don’t have the patience to be a full time teacher, so please Greg don’t lump everyone into the same category. Our property taxes pay for ASD and teachers should be considered essential workers, just like police officers, nurses etc. your comment sounds like a personal problem.

    • I forgot about the GED diploma. I was scared my kids would not be able to attend College but with a GED they can. Thanks again.

  • If the schools for do the job,
    Start an Education Pod:
    heritage.org/education/event/virtual-event-how-start-education-pod-civil-societys-response-covid-19

    [Live link removed by moderator]

  • Thanks, Kelly. I believe now may be the very best time to overcome the Alaska education tragedy we are experiencing. I know there will be a great deal of push back and probably will be impossible unless parents, yes, parents, have the intestinal fortitude to overcome the hostility towards the education changes needed desperately at this time.

    Dr. Thomas Sowells’ book, “Charter Schools and Their Enemies”, sums up the current disaster which in Alaska is, in my opinion, worse than just about every state in the nation. The unholy marriage of our politicians, the public sector unions and the education industry will fight tooth and nail against any change in the status quo, because public education money is the second largest revenue source in Alaska and it belongs to them, not your children.

    What is amazing to me with the Janus and Espinoza decisions, the State of Alaska is ripe for a simple solution for education. Parents, you are now empowered to take control of the education of your children. 1) The State needs to immediately bypass all resistant school districts and establish a custodial relationship and training program with parents and allow parents to select through negotiation the education for their children. Can the Governor do this through his power under Article 3, Section 23? I believe he can. We must remember today’s legal interpretations are tied to the “Golden Rule”. Those that have the gold rule. 2) The State needs to immediately bypass all resistant school districts and empower all teachers to develop their own curriculum in concert with empowered parents. 3. Tie all to education performance and outcome, instead of the current state foundation formula and Title IX funding. 3 simple steps will improve the future education of our children and reduce education costs to our state.

  • A valid, recognized, accomplishing home schooling program is, undoubtedly more efficient at teaching life improving, stabilizing and relevant subjects that will serve students for their lifetime, than the ‘public’ school doctrine into leftism. The state student funding must be placed with the actual teachers (parents), not the unionized, self centered, socialist curriculum being ‘taught’ in public schools, with monetary gain, not education of the basics, the ‘teachers” motivation. Like “strike or more money’ as the primary agenda for the ‘teachers’ perverting education into leftist dogma. The marxist saying “control this generation of schooling, control the next generation of government”, has never been more relevant than at this present time. And the “teachers” want more (money), to teach our kids their BS.

  • Why do you have to have a child enrolled in ASD to qualify to sign a petition regarding the Lock Down of the education system In Anchorage?
    As a Anchorage Tax payer all should be eligible to Protest the Lack of Planning and Preparation of ASD.
    Let s start at the top with Dr. Hide and Seek. After all summer where is the Public Outreach? Why was all of this dropped in every Parents lap.
    This is a classic example of the haves and have nots.
    Nobody at ASD has missed a pay check, Nobody.
    Then there is the rest of us.
    Hence the “let them eat cake” attitude of the ASD lock down Czars.
    If you are going to have a lock down then have a viable plan not tailored
    to the lowest common denominator, but somewhere in the middle.
    Further all Teachers continuing education programs need to be suspended. Word I here is stay at home teacher s are racking up the on line college courses. That way we pay PHD wages for a 1st grade teacher. After all them teachers don’t want a crisis to go to waste.

    • Many do take advantage of district paid online courses. The theory is if the teachers better themselves, then the students gain a better teacher. In reality, most teachers teach the same way they taught before the pay raise. This is a teacher unions negotiation that I never agreed with. Teachers can pay their own way. I once knew a PHD that taught 8 kids bush math for $70000 a year. To get a college teaching job, they would have had to take a pay cut.

    • Mr. Drayton,

      I am an out of work school district employee and a parent. I have gone without a paycheck since May. I am also not eligible for unemployment because work is supposedly guaranteed to me in the fall. Every summer, there is a lot of judgement because people think I’m on some gravy train. What a joke. One of my kids has been in summer school and I have been contacted several times by the district. In the fine print of a contract natural disasters shows up but pandemic does not. This pandemic seems very close to Hurricane Katrina, where people are doing the best they can under the given circumstances. 800.00 of my taxes goes to ASD and I’m not bitter. In third world countries parents go against the odds to make sure their kids get an education. There is no have or have nots. This is a case of parents doing some self-support on behalf of their children and not flailing their hands and saying, “Poor me”.

    • If you pay property taxes and support Alaskan students and parents, you should be able to sign the petition, I think that’s only fair considering you financially contribute to the future of Alaska.

  • Excellent article and effort Ms. Tshibaka. Here are the ASD funds: custodians are not working, contract bus drivers are not working, school security officers are not working, many administration folks have no work, principals have no job, etc

  • Kelly Tshibaka, you explained it all very eloquently. These thousands of parents did NOT choose to homeschool for all the reasons you listed, and they are being forced into it once again. They need access to education funds.

    As a teacher in Alaska and a parent who homeschooled (both independently of a school district and with a district program), I wholeheartedly support your efforts.

    Don’t give up!

  • Very well written piece and comments that follow.
    Anchorage SD will lead in the Race to the Bottom.
    I just hope other school districts don’t emulate this shameful behavior and understand the responsibility they have to the students they are entrusted with to educate.

    School districts in which students are not learning should be de-funded, sooner rather than later.

    • Most school district follow ASD’s lead. Their leadership is too uncertain to make a decision on their own. They make half a dozen phone calls around the region, then come up with a plan to do what ASD is doing. Poor leadership.

  • The whole premise that a virus should be cause to cancel school is absolutely baseless. The kids are, statistically immune. The teachers should be able to quit, if they wish, should they be so imbued with the illogical, hysterical fear of a virus, while going willingly into a petri dish of cold and flu virus for years without complaint. It is very telling how illogical the people teaching our kids are, with this unfounded terror.

    • Kids aren’t totally immune. They can bring it home to parents and gram. Kids need to mask up, social distance and was their hands repeatedly. They aren’t mature enough to do all this on their own so it will be a constant harping event to try and keep everyone safe.

      • You said you’re a teacher yet you’re going on about masks like they work haha. Shows our current state of public education.

        • Yep. They do work if everyone would wear one.

        • The government task force has already announced that there is no scientific evidence that masks stop the spread but to keep the fear going the left is going to push it anyways and now they’re targeting Anchorage children, the left has NO shame!

  • It might be helpful if the person responsible for safety at the Department of Education, which developed the statewide safety protocols, had a conversation with the Commissioner of Administration. Please follow up on that.

  • The Copper River School District in Glennallen is open for business with plans for fulltime in class instruction K-12 , a fulltime virtual option and a top notch home school program (Upstream Learning). So if the ASD doesn’t want to educate your children maybe its time for a move 🙂

  • As a homeschooling parent in MO, be glad there is even anything to petition for. The vast majority of home school parents in this country don’t get paid and instead must pay for quality curriculum. No one is gonna pay us to do what we are naturally responsible for. If the whole educational system crashed today, what would you do? Oh yeah, you’d teach your kids as best you could and make the rest work as best you could.

  • Wow, how entitled. Parents shouldn’t have been shopping their kids off to the government to learn anyway. Public school is a new concept and is merely used to brainwash the masses starting at a young age. I’m a mother with two two-year-olds and one on the way and it absolutely baffles me that parents are actually angry that they have to raise their OWN kids instead of the government doing it for them. How sad for those children, and how privileged of those parents for take public education for granted. Shouldn’t have had kids if you can’t afford to or be intelligent enough to raise them yourselves.

    • This is what I have been saying. Many parents aren’t qualified to raise kids.

    • You are out of touch when it comes to this situation. That’s apparent with your selfish comments.

  • Why not bring the Pell Grant, which is used to pay for college, down to the K-12 level? Then let parents and students decide what type of school they prefer: online, homeschool, regular public, vocational, military, religious, cooperative…and so on.

    • School funding should follow the student.

  • The first intelligent post I have seen Greg make. The funds should follow the student. School choice, the last thing the teachers union wants to hear.

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