By DAVID BOYLE
If there was one good thing that came out of the Covid “pandemic,” it was that parents became aware of what their children were being taught in our public schools. They also knew that their children were not benefitting from remote learning by the school districts.
Parents were basically left to their own devices when school doors were closed and kids were shut out. Students fell way behind academically.
The masking of students and “social distancing” left emotional scars on the kids and impacted their mental health.
Parents were disappointed, disgusted, and just plain angry when they noticed that the public schools were pushing inappropriate sex education down to the lower grade elementary school children, hiding gender identity/transgenderism from parents, allowing access to pornographic books to elementary kids, and pushing political philosophies in the classroom.
Consequently, parents have become more actively engaged in what their children are learning, and many have taken on the teaching task themselves.
The Washington Post recently published an article titled, “Homeschooling is the Fastest-Growing Form of Education,” in which it cited that homeschooling surged by 45% from the school years 2017-18 to 2022-23.
But the Washington Post only looked at data from 32 states and the District of Columbia.
It did not look at data from Alaska where homeschooling has flourished for decades.
Since the pandemic, the number of students grew from 12,503 to a whopping 18,972 in Alaska’s 12 largest homeschool programs.
This is an increase of 52% from the pre-pandemic school year (2019-20) to the 2021-22 school year. The total for the same schools for school year 2022-23 is 18,561 students, an increase of 48% over the same number of students in the home school program pre-pandemic.
The Legislature broadened the homeschool (correspondence) program in 1974. In 2014 lawmakers enhanced the program by allowing parents to choose non-public schools and be reimbursed for certain courses. They could not use state money for any sectarian (religious) courses.
A parent/guardian may purchase nonsectarian services/materials from a public, private, or religious organization with a student allotment, if they are consistent with the student’s Individual Learning Plan.
The current law requires an Individual Learning Plan for each student that is developed by a certified teacher, parent, and student. Student progress is monitored by the teacher through the plan. So, it is a contract between the student, teacher, and parent.
The Individual Learning Plan can be tailored to the student’s needs, unlike a traditional school which is unable to meet each individual student’s needs.
The State does fund correspondence students to a maximum of $4,851, which is 90% of the usual student allotment. So, a correspondence student is worth only 90% of a traditional student, by law and by budgeting.
The parent does not receive the entire allotment. Some of the allotment goes to administering the program. In the case of the Family Partnership Correspondence School, the parent could receive a maximum of $4,500; in the MatSu Central Correspondence program the parent could receive a maximum of $3,000. Parents need to be aware of the administrative overhead costs before enrolling their children in any correspondence program.
Remember, Alaska law gives parents the right to direct the education of their child (AS 14.03.016).
Alaska has a flourishing and comprehensive homeschool program—correspondence schools. There are 34 correspondence schools in Alaska, which can be found here.
Here are some of the largest correspondence schools (homeschools) and their student populations:
Note that Family Partnership Charter School was the school that recently lost its charter from the Anchorage School Board. As a result, parents have removed more than 600 students from the school, which is now under the control of the district. Some have placed their students in Frontier Charter School (correspondence) and the MatSu Central correspondence school.
Homeschooling parents save the State loads of money because their children don’t need bus transportation, large and expensive-to-maintain buildings, meals, large bureaucracies, and large salaries and benefits. Here is a list of the per student costs for some correspondence schools:
|School||Per Student Cost|
Note that the State’s overall per student cost is $18,300, per the US Census. This number includes local and federal funding as well as State funding.
And the correspondent students are only entitled to State funding, no local funding nor Federal funding. Some districts do provide local funding to correspondence schools.
It is very difficult to compare a correspondence school’s state test scores to the more traditional K12 schools because parents can opt their students out of standardized tests in Alaska. For example, in the MatSu Central correspondence program only 8 of 1,194 students took the State’s AK STAR standardized tests, less than 0.67%. In contrast, 79% of the students in the MatSu District took the AK STAR tests.
Parents know what fits their children best when it comes to learning styles. Parents are also sick of the traditional school wanting to take away parental rights and “educate” their children in all sorts of social issues instead of the three Rs.
So, if you are intimidated by homeschooling and don’t know where to turn, here is a link to a source of information for parents who are thinking about choosing a homeschool option for their child. It provides a list of many homeschool support groups that can really help you navigate the homeschool options/paths for your child.
If you don’t want your child bullied at school, try homeschooling.
If you don’t want your child to have access to pornographic books in school, try homeschooling.
If you don’t want your child to have to share a bathroom or locker room with a student of the opposite sex, try homeschooling.
If you fear for the safety of your child, try homeschooling.
You, the parent and not the State of Alaska, are responsible for your child’s education and welfare.
David Boyle is the Must Read Alaska education writer.