Recently I've been hearing the Tea Party speak of a bloated Department of Education. There are complaints that students are not performing as well. Questions are raised about how the Catholic Schools are performing better than public schools and for less money. So of course the Department of Education and Big Government are the problems. This, and homeschooling in general, is about religion.
By the numbers, Catholic schools appear to cost less and get better results than public schools. In 1995, The Seattle Times did a piece that showed that Catholic schools cost 4000 per student per year whereas similarly placed public schools cost 6700 per student per year. Sure seems like the Catholics have it figured out and we have something to learn, right? If you dig further into the numbers, you'll find that the reality is that when you take away the costs of transportation ($271 per student) , the Superintendents Office ($776 per student), and food services ($231 per student) you'll find that the numbers close in to a closer $5422 disparity. So what could account for the difference? How about the education of Special Needs students at a cost of $13,700 (1995 dollars)? In the end, the closer look showed that actual costs for just the education portion were less when apples to apples were compared. Moreover, what does it cost have a parent stay at home to home school teach each year? Depending on where you live, $35,000 a year is the cost of a parent not working. Might be 200k, might be 10k. Either way, it's an added cost that Home Schoolers don't want to factor in. So don't let them tell you that it costs less for a private education.
Citing better test scores amongst the Home School Crowd or saying that since the Department of Education came into being the test scores have dropped is another common argument. It's also a myopic viewpoint. SAT scores have moved down since before 1979 when the Department was implemented. Over the 40 year period, reading scores are down by an average of 20 points. But math is up by 10. In fact they have been climbing since the implementation of the Department of Education until the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented by George Bush when we see a drop off in both scores. Clearly the Department wasn't the cause of the problem prior to 1980 since it wasn't a cabinet position, so why call for it's dismissal? It would seem that they are holding or improving except when it's meddled with. But do Home Schoolers perform better. That all depends on the test used, which is chosen by the parents. In reality, it becomes a narrow measure as you can simply choose to test on what you taught. It doesn't measure the whole of education which is much broader than reading and math. Success in higher education and life depends on more than these two areas. Socialization, computer science, science in general, etc are all critical to succeeding in life. Higher Education recognizes this and many institutions give a preference to students whom attend traditional schools.
When Tea Partiers cite these standards, recognize it for the attempt to indoctrinate your child that it is. When the Department of Education asked in 2003 why parents home school, "72 percent cited "to provide religious or moral instruction" as an ...". There are other listed motivations, but when 72% say that religion and morality is the motivation, what more do you need to hear? 72% of people agreeing on something is pretty compelling. They really don't want to teach science in an honest manner. They don't want their children to evolve with society but rather to hold on to an ideal that their parents pushed on them. That's fine, but don't ask me to pay for it with vouchers or the abolition of a Department designed to standardize education in a manner that allows a kid in Alabama the same opportunities in life as a kid from Vermont. The argument is a sham and we should be openly calling it that.
Education is changing. Math is no longer about showing your work. It's becoming about making your algorithm work in software. A parent educated 18 years ago that barely recalls finding the area of a isosceles triangle is going to be left behind. A parent strong in science, might be weak in English. A parent strong in English might know nothing about Current Events and how to tie the stories in to historical perspective. Anyone who knows anything about education will tell you that making the connections and finding relevance is critical to helping children understand importance. If you don't think that the date for the signing of the Magna Carta is relevant, why would you remember it? But if your instructor can tie that into the beginning of the building of Western Democracies and the establishment of rights, 1215 becomes a date to remember.
Home Schoolers may perform well on a few tests. If you focus on just one line item, it looks cheap. In the big picture, they are left behind socially, and with education as a whole. Be sure to speak up and stand for keeping religion out of school. These latest chants to end the Department of Education are just latest way to wedge religion into schools. Quash the speech before it gains any headway.