by Guy Page
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.
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.
“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.”