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Is The Right To Homeschooling Under Attack?

Far beyond its recent renaissance, homeschooling has a long history in the United States. Countless luminaries — from George Washington and Benjamin Franklin to Mark Twain and the Wright brothers — gleaned the skills necessary to further the American experiment from their home education.

Thanks to the revelation of leftist agendas in many curricula and government schools closing their doors over COVID-19, parents are now homeschooling their children at record levels.

One report found that from March 2020 to September 2020 alone, homeschooling rates across the country grew between 5.4% and 11%. By the summer of 2021, 5 million American children were receiving their education at home — a figure that is sure to increase, especially in light of progressive hysteria over the most basic protections of parents’ rights to chart their children’s education.

Indeed, many leftists do not believe in such rights in the first place — and some are even expressing their willingness to ban home education altogether.

As schools across America closed their doors in the spring of 2020, Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet lamented that the United States has an “essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling” and “very few requirements that parents do anything.” She alleged that homeschooling violates children’s rights to “meaningful education” and protection from abuse.

In an earlier paper for the Arizona Law Review, Bartholet — who leads the prestigious law school’s Child Advocacy Program — pointed out that the vast majority of homeschooling parents are “descendants of the original conservative Christian wing” that “rejected many of the views and values reflected in public education and the larger society as inconsistent with religious beliefs.”

“Homeschooling activists have in recent decades largely succeeded in their deregulation campaign, overwhelming legislators with aggressive advocacy,” she wrote. “As a result, parents can now keep their children at home in the name of homeschooling free from any real scrutiny as to whether or how they are educating their children.”

“Many homeschool because they want to isolate their children from ideas and values central to our democracy,” she alleged, “determined to keep their children from exposure to views that might enable autonomous choice about their future lives. Many promote racial segregation and female subservience. Many question science.”

Do Bartholet’s worries have any bearing in reality? Most certainly not. 

According to the National Home Education Research Institute, 78% of peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement find that “homeschool students perform statistically significantly better than those in institutional schools.” This is the case regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or income. Plus, parents usually spend $600 per year on educating each homeschooled child — a mere 4% of the $15,240 taxpayers spend for each pupil in government schools.

What is Bartholet’s proposed solution to perceived lapses in the quality of homeschooling? “A radical transformation in the homeschooling regime and a related rethinking of child rights” — even a “presumptive ban on homeschooling” and placing “the burden on parents to demonstrate justification for permission to homeschool.”

In other words, with no grounding beyond her statist predilections, Bartholet believes that parents need to explain why their children belong to them, and not to the government.

Another outspoken voice against homeschooling is teachers unions — ironically, the same force that kept government schools closed and pushed millions of parents into exploring new educational options in the first place.

The National Education Association — a union that describes itself as “the nation’s largest professional organization” — believes that “homebound students, those educated in the home because of individualized student needs determined by established local school procedures, must receive instruction that follows the regular curriculum.” Furthermore, this instruction “must be implemented, documented, monitored, and assessed by a licensed teacher.”

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, has likewise expressed disdain toward home education. In response to a Washington Post article ascribing the rise in homeschooling among black families to racism, Weingarten said that such a decision is “not okay” — because “no child should choose homeschooling because of how they are treated at school.”

In comments made to The Daily Wire, American Federation for Children national director of research Corey DeAngelis affirmed that teachers unions are existentially threatened by “the fact that they protect an unsustainable monopolistic system at the expense of students.”

“The jig is up. Teachers unions overplayed their hand over the past two years and awakened a sleeping giant: parents who want more of a say in their children’s education,” he explained. “Parents are the new special interest group in town — and they aren’t going away any time soon. Parents felt powerless in 2020, and they’re going to fight to make sure they never feel powerless like that ever again. Politicians would be wise to listen to parents going forward.”

Likewise, Jeremy Wayne Tate — the founder of the Classic Learning Test, a standardized exam geared toward students with Christian and classical educations — told The Daily Wire that “whenever a conventional system is disrupted by innovation, the threatened stakeholders always do whatever they can to protect their own skin.” He observed that “the success parents are having with homeschooling their children exposes the failures of the education system.”

Nevertheless, teachers unions are hesitant to launch aggressive campaigns against home education.

As Competitive Enterprise Institute research fellow Sean Higgins noted in 2020, “teachers unions have never liked homeschooling, but until this year it has been a small enough niche interest that they could focus on other issues.” Attacking home education now “risks offending parents who may prefer traditional schools but nevertheless think such decisions should be theirs, not the union’s.”

Likewise, attacking home education would only “raise its profile” — therefore requiring teachers unions to “portray homeschooling as generally inferior” in subtle manners. One CNN opinion piece authored by Weingarten, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García, and soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden in the spring of 2020 exhorted parents to remember that “a strong partnership between teachers, parents, and students is always the best way for children to learn.”

DeAngelis told The Daily Wire that renewed attacks from teachers unions against home education may or may not occur.

“Teachers unions might come after parental rights in response to growing popularity in homeschooling. However, this would not be a major change, as teachers unions already constantly attack parental rights in education by fighting tooth-and-nail against any policies that threaten their monopoly,” he said. “This opposition is especially true when it comes to allowing families to take their children’s education dollars to the education providers of their choosing. The unions fight as hard as possible to trap low-income kids in failing government schools for 13 years without exit options.”

“At the same time, growing popularity of homeschooling will make the concept more mainstream, potentially decreasing the chances broader society will seek to regulate or otherwise attack homeschooling,” DeAngelis concurred. “Increases in homeschooling enrollment will help homeschool families build a bigger coalition to defend against any future attacks.”

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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