The following article was written collaboratively with Craig Allen, who is the Superintendent of Breitung Schools. The opinions expressed here are our own.
Our tax dollars are increasingly paying for boutique classes attended in segregated settings for homeschooled families. Homeschool parents, who do not want their children to attend school with children in their communities, are being catered to by public school districts who are finding workarounds and loopholes in Michigan’s school funding rules. The result of this is that funds are being drawn from the school aid fund to create these classes, which impacts what neighborhood public schools are able to offer.
Take a few minutes to browse what is being offered to homeschool families in Michigan districts like Gull Lake (http://www.gulllakeschools.net/online-catalog), Hamilton Public Schools (http://www.hamiltonschools.us/academics/home-school-partnership/community-partner-classes/) , or Iron Mountain Schools (http://imhp.weebly.com/courses.html). When a few schools receive money from the school aid fund they are drawing from the tax dollars designated to fund public K-12 education in Michigan. Remember, these are families that choose to remove their children from the public system. Their reasons for doing so vary widely and range from religious convictions to other personal reasons. (I wrote about how some parents have used lax oversight of homeschool families to avoid legal intervention due to truancy and worse here: http://lousteigerwald.com/education/home-schooling-child-neglect/).
Within a few minutes of cruising around the sites mentioned above, you will find that many of the courses are hobbies that you and I pay for with our children. The school aid fund is being drawn down so that homeschooled children can take tumbling, tae kwon do, guitar, horseback riding, and so on. It is surprising that folks who wish to avoid mingling their children with most other students believe that we should subsidize their children’s field trips and pastimes. Perhaps the state should start a separately tax subsidized hobby fund for everyone who does not homeschool!
You might think that the state would seek to shut down such spending of tax dollars. You would be incorrect. In fact, the state is seeking to expand this sort of thing. The legislature ordered a study done to clarify the rules around these “classes.” The group convened to do this is made up almost entirely of folks who would have an interest in seeing this expanded. Private school administrators, homeschool group representatives, and religious school leaders have been working in Lansing to change the language in how schools can receive payment for homeschooled kids.
Defenders will say that the beneficiaries are the public schools who partner in this mockery of meaningful schooling. It is true, the districts indicated above are padding their accounts by offering the classes you’ll find in the links. However, it is also true that in doing so they are drawing down funds from the money designated for all public school children.
Parents who choose to remove their children from the public school system should not receive public school funds. The State of Michigan should not seek ways to divert funds away from public schools in order to bankroll the hobbies of self-segregated programs.