YHSA Statement on Charter and Cyber Schools
In the early 1990’s, when YHSA began growing dramatically, home education was the only alternative to public (government) or private schools. Many families worked diligently toward the passage of Act 169 of 1988, a statewide law aligning home schooling efforts in Pennsylvania.
Now that the option of charter schools is available for Pennsylvania parents, there is much confusion over what is and is not home schooling.. This statement is to help clarify the option of charter and cyber schools and its relationship to YHSA membership.
Part of the problem is our use of the term "home schooling." This is not actually an accurate legal term in Pennsylvania. "Home education" is the term used in the school code in Section 1327.1, which governs a program of home education supervised by the parent or guardian of the student. Home educators abide by this section.
The York Home School Association, Inc. (YHSA) was founded on the belief that the ultimate responsibility for the education of children belongs to the parents (Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:1-25, and 4:1-4). Parents can more successfully carry out this responsibility with the support of like-minded home educators.
Our mission statement states;
a) YHSA is a Christian support group, and it strives through all efforts to bring glory to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as prescribed in the Nicene Creed.
b) The mission of YHSA is to encourage excellence and integrity in home schooling.
c) YHSA exists to serve the interests of parents educating their children at home under Act 169, the Pennsylvania Home Education Law of 1988; this does not include those enrolling their children in cyber or charter schools, which are part of the government school system in Pennsylvania.
d) YHSA is a volunteer-run ministry. Through the involvement and effort of all of its member families, YHSA can provide encouragement and resources for families, assist new home schoolers, and provide academic and social interaction with other parents and children with similar concerns and educational goals.
Membership is open to any family, though everyone understands that this is a Christian organization, and Christian practices are observed. In addition, as stated above, it is to encourage families in the home education of their children. This organization believes parents have the final authority and responsibility under God to teach their children, no matter how it is accomplished. It is the parents who will answer to God for how they have taught their own children.
Charter and Cyber Schools Are Not Home Schooling
One new option is cyber schooling. This is an education program completed at home under the direction of the parents and teachers of the cyber school. There are several court cases and hearings going on about the legality and costs of administering these programs. We anticipate a growth of cyber schools and charter schools, as they have a mission of allowing parents more input into the education of their children.
Cyber schooling is not home schooling. The cyber school is constituted under the charter school law, not Act 169, the home education law. Cyber schooling is not public home schooling or publicly funded home schooling--there are no such things in Pennsylvania.
Cyber schools appeal to parents because there is minimal paperwork, all dealings with the district are handled by the school (no affidavit et al.) and the supplies (computers, telephone lines, textbooks, testing, etc.) are given to the families at no fee.
When you complete a cyber or charter school enrollment form, your child is no longer enrolled in a home education program. He is no longer a "home schooler." He legally becomes a government school student. In a legal sense, it is not possible to be enrolled in a home education program and be enrolled in a cyber or charter school at the same time. Every student who enrolls in a charter school leaves home schooling to enter the government school system in Pennsylvania.
Cyber and CharterSchools Threaten Home Schooling
Home educators are being targeted successfully through marketing back into the government school system. Home educators in Pennsylvania are being heavily recruited by cyber charters. For example, cyber charter representatives have recruited at the various home schooling conferences and curriculum fairs across Pennsylvania this past year.
There are many reasons why home educators are enrolling their children as government school students in cyber charter schools, just as there are many reasons parents begin home schooling in Pennsylvania.
Even with the heavy regulations of Act 169, districts regularly intimidate home educators, impose unauthorized requirements and disregard the statutory limits of the home education law. This is one reason that home educators have left home education and are enrolling in the government school system via a cyber or charter school.
Many local school districts do not have an understanding of the statutory differences between home education and enrollment in a charter school. Some districts informed charter school parents that they must submit a home education affidavit, while other districts write confusing letters but do understand that these are completely separate issues.
There is a massive move from home education to government charter schools occurring now. HSLDA has documented that similar efforts that are further along in other states have already begun to erode the status and freedoms of families who continue to home school while many others switch to charter schools and cyber schools. HSLDA considers Alaska to have the friendliest home education law in the country, yet a majority of Alaskan home educators have left home schooling for the lure of government-funded charter and cyber schools (The Home School Court Report, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Jan./Feb. 2002).
HSLDA does not admit charter or cyber school families to membership in its organization, because they are not home schooling by law, and because of what it sees as the dangerous potential of this movement to bring pressure to erode home schooling freedom and be used as a tool to lure parents into giving up home education.
YHSA encourages parents to take an active part in the education of their children. We do not believe providing support for parents using cyber or charter schools, which are a form of government school, serves our mission of encouraging excellence and integrity in home schooling. We will continue to serve the interests of parents educating their children at home under Act 169 and open our membership to such families. YHSA will not restructure to promote or accommodate cyber or charter schools. We believe it is necessary to maintain the integrity of our mission and of home education in Pennsylvania to make this clarification.
Home educators have saved the state of Pennsylvania millions of dollars for years, since they shoulder the entire burden of home education themselves. Home educators get no financial assistance, and this is an appeal for many families because of the way government funding inevitably comes with strings attached. Beyond the freedom it affords, home schooling affords a superior education and what home schoolers tend humbly to believe is the best way to obey the Divine command. YHSA believes it is vitally important to the preservation of home educational freedom that government efforts to lure home schoolers back to the failed government school system be firmly resisted.
An example of how our clarified position should work in all of our efforts follows.
There are many requirements for maintaining a home education program in Pennsylvania, and families are working to reduce this burden. These include affidavits, objectives, medical forms, pre-approval evaluator forms for special needs students, evaluator forms, testing, portfolios and logs books, all paid for and maintained by the supervisor of the home education program. YHSA spends many hours educating its members in complying with the law via answering questions and holding several orientations each year. Regardless of other choices now available, the orientations will address the Home Education program under Act 169 and not offer advice on any of the newer options.