In North Carolina, Home Schools Can Get Taxpayers' Hard-Earned Tax Dollars For Jesus
Here's a fun one for you separation of church and state folks (remember,"It's not in the Constitution!"): In North Carolina, the state's exciting new voucher plan pays public money to private schools, just like in Louisiana. Even better, because the state regulates "private schools" so loosely, a chunk of that voucher money, at $4200 per student per year, will end up going to what anyone would call home schools as well.
For instance, that photo up there is Paramount Christian Academy in Thomasville, NC. It used to be housed in a Baptist church where it had 15 students and three teachers; now it's in the home of its one remaining teacher, Carol Miller, who teaches her granddaughter and two other kids, one of whom has special needs. Paramount Christian Academy is still on the state's official list of recognized private schools, so it could conceivably qualify for vouchers, too. It is a "recognized private school" with three students. And North Carolina has one person who does site visits to the state's 700 private schools. It's that kind of freedom that's sure to provide the best results for the state's education dollars.
As NC Policy Watch details, there's not a lot of difference between how North Carolina defines a private school and a home school. We usually think of homeschoolers as parents teaching their own kids, but recent changes to the North Carolina law allow anyone to teach a home school, regardless of whether they're legal guardians of the kids, as long as the teacher has a high school diploma, keeps attendance and immunization records, and administers a standardized test once a year. "Private schools" have slightly higher requirements; they also have to meet minimum fire, sanitation and safety standards, handle driver's ed for 15- to 17-year-olds, and "provide protective eyewear to students who are in laboratory settings." No minimum number of students, and certainly no burdensome curricular requirements or requirements that teachers have anything beyond a high school education.
The whole mess is "regulated" by the state's Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE), which seems to consist of a couple of guys and a desk, we think. They don't so much force a designation of "home school" or "private school" onto a school; instead, they just go with what's on the application paperwork -- the operators tell the DNPE whether they're a home school or a private school, and that's pretty much all they need to do. And maybe that one inspector will get out there some time, or maybe not. It's all about choice. You wouldn't want to limit parents' choices, now would you?
Of the 700 "recognized conventional private schools" that the state lists, 83 have enrollment under ten students, which sort of sounds like they may be home schools, but the head of the DNPE, David Mills, isn't too worried: “They’re just starting out. They’re not home schools. They’re probably catering to kids with learning disabilities or accelerated learners.” And again, no particular need to look too closely, because Freedom.
There are also no plans to look especially closely at schools receiving voucher funds when the program ramps up in 2014 -- as long as a school is on the DNPE's list of "conventional private schools." The agency administering the voucher program can't vet schools any further than that, and the DNPE goes with what's on the application from the school. In its first year, the voucher program will take some $10 million away from public schools, and that amount is likely to expand. You know, to improve education.
See, your government schools are ineffective, because unions have allowed teachers to be lazy. So the solution is to make sure that anyone can run a private school: stick the kids in front of the teevee, have the gardener's kid check on them once in a while, and if you're feeling ambitious, pop a couple of educational videos in. Like Veggie Tales -- those are educational. And voila! You have a school -- and if you file your paperwork right, you can even get paid for it.
Gosh, there's no way any of that could possibly go wrong, is there? As long as everyone has protective eyewear.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.