Homeschooling up 50%, public school choice in limbo

by Guy Page

HOMESCHOOLING TRENDING UP – Home schooling advocate Retta Dunlap (back row, third from left) told school choice advocates and legislators in Montpelier Jan. 27 that home school enrollment is more than 50% higher this year than pre-pandemic enrollment. National School Choice Week photo

By Guy Page

The number of Vermont students now being home schooled is 3,995 – down from last year’s Covid-related  school shutdown peak, but still about 50% over the pre-pandemic annual numbers typically hovering around 2,300.

The 2020-21 school year was uniquely attractive to home schoolers because public schools were closed much of the year due to Covid-19 restrictions. Learning was either remote or “hybrid” at-home and in-school learning. Many parents decided that if both they and their children were staying at home, they might as well home-school. As a result, home schooling enrollment peaked at 5,504, Agency of Education Secretary Dan French told Vermont Daily Chronicle last year. 

More than a third of parents seeking different schooling for their children cite Covid-19 pandemic and policies as a reason. National Center for Education Statistics, published by NH Journal.

However, Vermont’s public schools are instructing fully in-person this year (although a few districts have cancelled school during peak outbreaks). When this school year began, home school advocates were wondering how many of the first-time home schoolers would return to school. 

The answer was not long in coming. The data suggest that about half of them have continued to home school. 

As of October 21, 2021 there were 3643 enrollments, French said. That figure is now 3,995 – about halfway between the pre-pandemic average of 2300 and the pandemic peak of 5500. 

A bi-partisan home study ‘simplification’ bill, H608, has not been reviewed yet by the House Education Committee. The bill relegates the State of Vermont Agency of Education from an oversight to an advisory role. However, it adds an oversight role for a certified teacher or administrator, requiring “review and acceptance of the student’s progress based on an educational portfolio to a local area homeschool support group whose membership for this purpose includes a currently certified Vermont teacher or administrator.”

Meanwhile, there is concern over the lack of expected activity on public school choice. The State of Vermont educational bureaucracy seems to be dragging its feet on allowing local school districts to exercise school choice by leaving unified school districts – even when all the school districts involved agree. The following is a report received this weekend from Rep. Heidi E. Scheuermann (R) of Stowe:

“The quest for Stowe’s withdrawal from the Lamoille South Unified Union continues.

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe)

“As all might recall, on May 11, 2021, by an overwhelming vote of 1,068-464, Stowe voted to withdraw from the Lamoille South Unified Union School District. On May 28, 2021, the Vermont Secretary of State’s office sent a letter to the other two LSUU member towns, Elmore and Morristown, certifying the Stowe vote to withdraw. And, on December 7, 2021, both Elmore and Morristown ratified, by substantive margins, the withdrawal of Stowe from the Lamoille South Unified Union.

“Unfortunately, seven weeks have passed, and this legal withdrawal of the Town of Stowe from LSUU is in limbo as the State Board of Education has yet to take it up because the State Agency of Education is fighting it. As the State Representative for Stowe – one committed to representing our community – I am fighting to ensure we get the issue in front of the State Board, and/or clarify in law, the legality of our withdrawal.

“Toward that end, I am working on two fronts to advance our community’s interests. 

First, our legislative delegation representing Stowe, Elmore, and Morristown has requested of the State Board of Education to place the Stowe withdrawal on their February 16, 2022 meeting and approve it. 

“Second, I am working on ensuring that the legislature clarify in law that our vote, and the subsequent votes by Morristown and Elmore, were legal, and that the withdrawal may be approved by the State Board of Education. 

“I am very hopeful that approval of our withdrawal from LSUU will come to fruition soon.”

Categories: Education

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6 replies »

  1. Great reporting Guy, and sure to strike some fear in the hearts of the VTNEA teachers’ union, the State Board of Education and the Vermont Agency of Education. Home schooling gives parents the OPTION of deciding whether to teach their children that a boy can magically transform into a girl or that all white people are hateful oppressors.
    Rep. Scheuermann, please consider a run for statewide office.

    • Yes BIG Kudos to Guy Page for this and the many issues he brings right to the front for us to see; THANK YOU GUY PAGE!

  2. Stopping the government from forcing parents to send their children to schools assigned by where they live is one of the reasons why School Choice is so important. What the State does now is unconstitutional. Not only will School Choice improve schools, it will improve the school districts in which they reside. It will lower costs and improve outcomes.

    School Choice will make our politicians accountable. Without School Choice these politicians will continue to run roughshod over the people, as they’ve been doing since 1960 when the National Education Association (NEA) transformed itself from a professional organization to a collective bargaining union nested in the State’s public education monopoly.

    Enabling School Choice for all parents will improve everything that ails us. Everything! Again, as exampled in Vitale v. Vermont, this is the crux of the lawsuit.

    “Plaintiffs do not demand the taxpayers of Vermont provide them with town tuitioning out of thin air, as the court in Mason said they had no right to,” wrote the parents’ lawyers, from the Liberty Justice Center, a conservative, Chicago-based nonprofit. “Rather, plaintiffs demand equal treatment: if the Legislature has chosen to allow town tuitioning for some students, then the education and common benefits clauses bar the Legislature from picking winners and losers and discriminating in favor of some children while denying the same opportunity to others.”

    With the NEA controlling the public-school monopoly, Milton Freidman’s warning comes to fruition. “The combination of economic and political power in the same hands is a sure recipe for tyranny.”

    School Choice, including home schooling, is the single most important civil rights issue facing us.

    • working for a small private school so my children could attend for many years, my comment to any parent inquiring ..and still is; you get this chance to do what you feel is best for your child, when your child is thru school, you cannot go back for a do-over. the money should follow the child end of story.

  3. When are the numbskulls naming the school districts going to get smart? “Unified Union”? Come on! t’s illiterate. Does not instill confidence in these people.

  4. We should see school budgets decline as there is no need for big budgets with so many less pupils. Time to layoff teachers and adminstrators alike. They are no longer needed with such low enrollment.

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