Friday, February 6, 2009

Yes, Homeschoolers Are Under Attack.

Hat Tip to a fellow homeschooler for giving us a heads up to the following article which appears on World Net


Homeschoolers under attack – again!
Proposal would require review by 'credentialed educator'
Posted: February 05, 2009
12:00 am Eastern

© 2009 WorldNetDaily

Homeschoolers in recent months have weathered the turmoil of a California court opinion that appeared to ban the activity, and while the threat later was removed, proposals that would hinder parents who want to teach their own children remain pending.

That's according to the Home School Legal Defense Association, which monitors the situations closely. The newest warning, the organization said today, comes from New Hampshire.

Pending in the state legislature is a plan by Rep. Judith Day that would "radically" rewrite the testing and assessment demands under the state's existing laws.

"If passed, New Hampshire would have one of the most restrictive homeschool laws in the nation," said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney for HSLDA.

WND reported just weeks ago the homeschooling movement is sweeping the nation – with 1.5 million children now learning at home, an increase of 75 percent since 1999.

The Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics reported homeschooling has risen by 36 percent in just the last five years.

"There's no reason to believe it would not keep going up," NCES statistician Gail Mulligan told USA Today.

HSLDA noted homeschooling is thriving "since all the research shows that homeschoolers significantly outperform their peers on standardized tests."

In New Hampshire, the existing law already is more burdensome than many other states, because in addition to an annual notice to school districts, homeschoolers must give an annual statement of academic progress and maintain two years' of records.

But the new proposal, HSLDA said, would "require all homeschoolers to take both a test, and to submit to a portfolio evaluation by a 'credentialed educator.'

"It then places subjective authority in the hands of a superintendent or non-public school principle to terminate a family's homeschool program," the HSLDA said.

"It’s amazing that New Hampshire is considering these kinds of additional restrictions when it already requires parents to provide annual assessments," said Donnelly. "This new law is unnecessary. It would simply waste taxpayers' money and parents' time."

He said hearings on the issue are scheduled in Concord Feb. 11. Such battles have become common in recent years in the state, Donnelly told WND.

"There is a concerted effort by a group of legislators in the state House to try to impose more restrictions," he said. "We're always having to fight that."

In a 2007 survey, parents cited providing religious and moral instruction as the most important factor in the decision to teach their children at home (36 percent). The second most important issue was concern about the school environment (21 percent), while the third reason was dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (17 percent).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Money Will Not Help Failing Big Business, Big Government or Big ED

Oh, I just love it when I can use the teachers who get it label. The following piece appears on the website Family Security Matters. The following is from a teacher who understands more money will not solve education problems.


February 5, 2009
Exclusive: Bailing the Failing
Tom McLaughlin
Similarities between federal government “helping” the economy and “helping” public education haunt me. Government bails out failing businesses now the same way it’s been bailing out failing students and failing schools. Will Democrat Big Government fix our economy? I’ll answer that question by asking another: Has it fixed public schools? I rest my case.

Although math has always been a weakness for me, I’m fairly good at geometry. Why? Because I failed it in 10th grade. I didn’t fail because I couldn’t understand it. I failed because I goofed around in class, didn’t do my homework, and didn’t study. I had to take it again in summer school and I had to pass, so I did. I paid attention. I did my homework. I studied. Failure was good for me.

However, “Failure is not an option” has been a slogan in many public schools for a while now. If students fail courses, it’s the teacher’s fault for not doing enough to prevent it. Even if students goof around, don’t do assigned work, and don’t study, the onus is on the teacher to do more or expect less. Worse, if there’s a discrepancy between a student’s measured intelligence and his actual performance, a student can even be called “Learning Disabled,” or LD, and demand extensive government services. The LD label implies a perceptual difficulty and most lay people understand it that way, but that’s not how government defines it. That the discrepancy exists is enough, even if it’s due solely to lack of effort. There are certainly students with perceptual difficulties and it the LD label was designed for them. They work hard, but they’re forced to share expensive educational resources with the willfully ignorant who are often disruptive, but are enabled by government regulations. When government subsidizes something, we tend to get more of it.

Under our free enterprise system, we should all be free to succeed or fail. However, government is applying the “failure is not an option” philosophy to greedy individual investors who bought more house than they could afford, and to big corporations. Some are banks that squandered their capital on risky investments. Others are automobile companies that design poor vehicles, make them shoddily, and pander to bloated labor unions. They’re failing because they’re lazy, greedy, and out of touch with consumer wants and needs. They don’t like competition and they deserve to fail. What may save them is being forced to face the reasons they failed. Government bailouts only postpone that. Throwing money at the problem doesn’t solve it. Admitting failure and going into bankruptcy reorganization would force the issue.

Trouble is, union contracts would be suspended in bankruptcy court and auto workers would have to compete as individual workers the way their fellow auto workers in American Toyota plants do. Toyota makes excellent vehicles in the United States, and that’s why they outsell Ford, GM and Chrysler. Competition is good for workers, good for corporations and good for consumers. If the big three can’t compete, they should fail. We won’t run out of vehicles.

The federal government didn’t step in when big airlines were going bankrupt in the ’80s and ’90s. They couldn’t compete with newer, low-cost, low-frills airlines that started up after government deregulated the industry. Their bloated labor unions would not accept reduced pay and benefits to help their companies avoid bankruptcy and went out on strike instead. Eastern Airlines and others folded, but we can still fly wherever we want to go.

For decades, public schools have said they need more government money to fix themselves - and they’ve been getting plenty of it. See much improvement? Look around. School systems like Washington, D.C. that spend the most ($13,446 per student versus $9,138 per student nationally in fiscal 2006), and have the most big-government intervention, produce the poorest results. They’re beholden to bloated teachers’ unions – the biggest unions in the country – and they hate competition. Even the liberal Atlantic Monthly says: “For decades, an establishment of Democratic politicians backed by union leaders has ruled the Washington public schools, which by almost any measure – test scores, attendance, safety – are among the worst in the country.” No wonder Barack Obama won’t send his kids there. He’ll send them to private schools, but he won’t allow less-fortunate D.C. residents that option because the teachers’ unions and the Democrat Party would go ballistic. For teachers’ unions, enemy number one is competition in the form of education vouchers or school choice. Obama is the most “pro-choice” politician in Washington, but not when it comes to education.

Success and failure are both good teachers and one cannot exist without the other. If we think we can eliminate failure by spending money on it that we don’t have, we’re all going to fail.

Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Tom McLaughlin Tom is a history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam. E-mail him at

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for our readers. Cathy

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Homeschooler Wins 1st Place With Speech

To to view Sara's speech click here. The piece below is from the John Birch Society.


Homeschooler Wows Audience at Speech Contest
Written by Mary Benoit
Monday, 02 February 2009 12:38

“What do you think about when I say the word ‘freedom’?” This question was asked by 11-year-old Sara during a recent speech contest. This peppy homeschooler wowed her audience by not talking about Americans’ rights, or what it means to simply be free. Instead, Sara’s talk was about “how Americans are slowly loosing their freedom.

Watching Sara’s presentation on YouTube, one would think it she was actually an adult in disguise. After all, what 11 year-old understands the concept of government seizing private property in the name of environmental protection, current threats to the freedom of speech, or violations to the Second Amendment?

Watch this video to see Sarah’s complete presentation.

What was Sara given that others her age seem to be lacking in today’s society? Sara was taught form a young age to love liberty and appreciate the sacrifices made by our Founders who established our form of government.

If only more young people were in-tune with our political system and the gradual decay of American liberty!

Not surprisingly, Sara won 1st place for her excellent speech and became a source of inspiration for all who have viewed it (just read the comments left by viewers).

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for our readers. Cathy

Monday, February 2, 2009

Will there be a coming war against Homeschooling here in the U.S.?

I think so I think HB 367 and 368 is the second shot from the bow for Representative Judith Day. The following piece appears in the Mail Online - Peter Hitchens Blog.

My favorite lines of Mr. Hitchen's post are..."
If all the plumbers in your area were no good at fixing leaks, and kept flooding your kitchen, you'd teach yourself plumbing and do it yourself. The results couldn't be worse. Why not take the same view with schools?"

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for our readers.

The Coming War Against Homeschoolers by Peter Hitchens

I knew this was coming. The inflamed, all-seeing red eye of political correctness, glaring this way and that from its dark tower, has finally discovered that home schooling is a threat to the Marxoid project, and has launched its first open attack on it.

Before long, those who wish to declare independence from the state system (and cannot afford monstrous private school fees) will face endless interference, monitoring and regulation.
How do we know this? On the 19th January, an obscure person called Delyth Morgan levelled what I regard as an astonishing smear against people who educate their children at home. She suggested that such parents might be abusers, saying (I have taken these words directly from the Education department's own website): 'Making sure children are safe, well and receive a good education is our most serious responsibility.
'Parents are able, quite rightly, to choose whether they want to educate children at home, and a very small number do. I’m sure the vast majority do a good job. However, there are concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need.
'And in some extreme cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse. We cannot allow this to happen and are committed to doing all we can to help ensure children are safe, wherever they are educated.
'This review will look at whether the right systems are in place that allow local authorities and other agencies to ensure that any concerns about the safety, welfare or education of home educated children are addressed quickly and effectively. The review will of course talk to home educating families to ensure their views and experiences are heard.'

The nerve of it is amazing. She first suggests the existence of abuse, then produces no evidence for this claim, then says that one purpose of the inquiry is to see if there is any evidence of such abuse. But if they haven't any evidence, on what basis do they think they have the right to launch such an investigation? It is sadly true that, if you want to wreck someone's reputation, you accuse him of child abuse. Everyone will immediately back away, and guilt will be presumed.

There's another point here. What's the logic? Even if a small number of parents were found to be using home schooling as a cover for child abuse, which so far as I know has not happened in Britain, that would not warrant an inquiry into home schooling as such. You might as well investigate all primary schools, or all nurseries, on the basis that some children who attend them are abused. There are many places apart from schools where children may be observed by doctors or others who might detect abuse.

I haven't any evidence that any members of the House of Lords abuse their children, because there isn't any. But on this logic, that state of affairs would presumably entitle the Department 'For Children' to probe their Lordships' House for evidence of such abuse, at taxpayers' expense.

Talk about having it both ways. One thing or the other, but not both - as Bertie Wooster said to Roderick Spode, when he discovered him combining leadership of a fascist movement with a ladies' frilly underwear business.

The precise terms of reference, if you want to know them, are these :"The Elective Home Education Review will investigate:

• Whether local authorities and other public agencies are able to effectively discharge their duties and responsibilities for safeguarding and ensuring a suitable education for all children.

• Whether home educating parents are receiving the support and advice they want to ensure they provide a good, balanced education for their children.

• Consider what evidence there is to support claims that home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude.

The guidance on children missing education is the first step in clarifying expectations in respect of the current system for supporting and monitoring home education. It also makes clear that parents’ right to home educate is not being altered and that suitable home education can take many forms.
Home education is just one area highlighted in the guidance, as it describes many circumstances which can lead to children missing education. The guidance describes how important it is for local authorities to tackle all problems around children missing education, in order to meet the vision set out in the Children’s Plan, particularly keeping all children safe from harm.
Graham Badman, former Director of Children’s Services at Kent County Council will lead the review, which is expected to conclude in May 2009. "

Oh, and look who else is along, our old friends the NSPCC, who you might have thought had enough to worry about elsewhere. But no. Diana Sutton, Head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, is quoted on the same Departmental website, saying:
“We welcome the Government’s decision to review the guidance on home education. We believe the existing legislation and guidance on elective home education is outdated. We support the view set out by the London (LA) Children’s Safeguarding Leads network that the government should review the legislation to balance the parents’ rights to home educate their children, the local authorities’ duty to safeguard children and the child’s right to protection. We welcome the fact that this review will look at where local authorities have concerns about the safety and welfare, or education, of a home educated child and what systems are in place to deal with those concerns.”

You work out what that means, or why an organisation supposedly devoted to stamping out cruelty to children should be involved in this, standing, metaphorically, at the minister's side. I will, as they say, move on.

Who is this Delyth Morgan? Well, technically, she is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families. This means she is Junior Minister for what used to be the Ministry of Education, in the House of Lords.

But who else is she? Officially, she is Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, raised to the peerage at the unusually young age of 43. Why? I think what follows helps to explain. She has a degree, as it happens in physiology. She was educated at a comprehensive school (unlike me), a College of Further Education (like me) and London University. She is married with a daughter. She seems to have spent much of her adult life toiling for right-on pressure groups : She was Campaigns Coordinator of Shelter for two years, then Director of the Workplace Nurseries campaign for four years; then she switched to an interest in health - the national Asthma Campaign, the long-term Conditions Alliance, a cancer 'taskforce' and various NHS committees. She was a very active chief executive of a body called Breakthrough Breast Cancer. I'm not sure if she was a paid employee in any of these posts. She is plainly a committed Labour activist, not just someone made a Labour Peer because the government liked the look of her. She drove a busload of Labour politicians round the country during the 2005 election. She was a mainstream candidate for Labour's National Executive in 1999, which suggests some deep roots in the party.

Why should she be less than keen on home education? Why is she even interested in it? English law since 1944 has allowed parents to educate their children at home without any state interference at all. In this, we are quite unlike Germany, for instance, where it is a criminal offence to do this - a law, I believe, dating from 1938, when Hitler wanted everyone brought up as a National Socialist, but somehow not repealed by the new Germany. I'd be interested to know the legal position in other countries, but I think it's illegal in China, legal in most European and Commonwealth countries. Many of the 50 United States used to have legal restrictions on home schooling, but most if not all have now been repealed, thanks to a powerful popular campaign, supported by huge numbers of parents who now reject the US state system - mainly on religious grounds.

That development, unlikely here, may still haunt leftists in this country. In that very funny movie 'Mean Girls', Lindsay Lohan plays a Chicago teenager who has till now been homeschooled by her globetrotting academic parents. There's a hilarious fantasy clip, when her schoolfriends discover this, illustrating what most urban liberal Americans think "Homeschooling" means - a group of stump-toothed, unwashed boys in some West Virginia trailer park talking, very, very slowly, about how Jesus lived at the same time as the dinosaurs (or something like that).

This is of course rather unfair. Certainly the home education movement is largely Christian, and Christian in a pretty uncompromising and Protestant way - that's why it has rejected state schools from which Christianity has been expelled thanks to an absurd misreading of the US Bill of Rights. Roman Catholics tend to use the network of parochial schools instead. But the education achievements of homeschoolers have been considerable, and they regularly capture many of the best scholarships at Ivy League universities. There are also a lot of them, sharing many non-school activities, which disposes of the cliche (invariably trotted out by opponents, and based on nothing) that home-schooled children do not have any social contact with others of their own age. What they do have is much more contact with adults who think it worthwhile to say 'no' to them when it matters, who read to them and converse with them and teach them morals and manners. But let that be, I'm sure we'll have a chance to debate this.

What the modern left really don't like about homeschooling is that it is independent of the state, and threatens its egalitarian monopoly from below. If it became a mass movement, it would be very dangerous to their project of enforcing equality of outcome, while using the schools to push radical ideas on sex, drugs, morality and politics.

They can (just about) tolerate the super rich in tiny numbers sending their offspring to schools that cost £30,000 a year plus extras - though the growing refusal of such schools to use the government's diluted exams may lead to a severe clash here too. More and more are opting for International GCSEs, similar to the old 'O' levels, which state schools are effectively barred from using , instead of GCSEs. They are also dropping the discredited A-levels in favour of the 'Pre-U' and the International Baccalaureate. This has happened, just as the Charities Commission, under the quangocrat Dame Suzi Leather, has been given a brief to make things tough for such schools, who would become even more expensive, and probably impossible to maintain, if their charitable status went. It will be interesting to see what happens.

And as long as it was just a matter of a few retired hippies and eccentrics keeping their young at home, which it was until very recently, home schooling didn't matter. But what is happening now is that many parents are taking their children out of state schools because a) they are being horribly bullied in anarchic classrooms and playgrounds and b) they have begun to notice that many of the schools aren't teaching them anything much anyway. - despite years of propaganda, stunts, gimmicks, 'specialist status', absurdly glowing OFSTED reports and allegedly improved (but fiddled) exam results.

If all the plumbers in your area were no good at fixing leaks, and kept flooding your kitchen, you'd teach yourself plumbing and do it yourself. The results couldn't be worse. Why not take the same view with schools? Why not just keep them at home and do a better job yourself? Of course this is impossible for couples who both trudge out to work every day. But one way or another there is now a significant minority of households where this isn't the case, where homeschooling looks like a serious option and may take off. I suspect the left-wing establishment want to nip it, hard, in the bud. Though of course I'm not prejudiced, and will wait with interest for the report.

Homeschooling Rights Must Be Protected.

The following piece appears on The Hertitage Foundation website. Homeschooling is on the rise and because of this homeschoolers rights need to be protected. The following article explains why and how this can be done.

I found the picture on Dang It Bill.


January 28, 2009
Homeschooling Sees Dramatic Rise in Popularity
by Lindsey Burke

In December, the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics released new estimates on the number of American families homeschooling their children. The new report shows the growing popularity of homeschooling. In view of this trend, it is important that federal and state policymakers safeguard families' right to educate their children at home.

Growing Homeschooling Movement

The report shows that approximately 1.5 million children (2.9 percent of school-age children) were being homeschooled in the spring of 2007, representing a 36 percent relative increase since 2003 and a 74 percent relative increase since 1999.[1] One private researcher estimates that as many as 2.5 million school-age children were educated at home during the 2007-2008 school year.[2]

The homeschooling survey also reveals the most common reasons cited by families as the basis for their decision to educate their children at home. The most frequently referenced reasons included the ability to provide moral or religious instruction (36 percent), concern about the environment at other schools (21 percent), and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction provided at other schools (17 percent).[3] The number of parents reporting the ability to provide moral or religious instruction as a rationale for homeschooling their children increased by 11 percentage points (from 72 percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2007).[4]

Additional reasons parents homeschooled their children included "other" reasons (14 percent), desire for nontraditional education (7 percent), special needs (4 percent), and physical or mental health problems (2 percent).[5] There was a 12 percentage point increase in the amount of respondents choosing "other" reasons, from 20 percent in 2003 to 32 percent in 2007. This increase could indicate an expansion in the types of demographic groups homeschooling their children.[6]

Benefits of Homeschooling

The available evidence suggests that homeschooling students perform as well as their non-homeschooled counterparts. In general, homeschooled students perform as well as--and in some cases outperform--their non-homeschooled peers.[7]

Homeschooled students succeed academically regardless of family income or teacher certification of parents.[8] Top-tier colleges and universities also recognize the academic abilities of homeschooled students, with Stanford, Yale, and Harvard among the institutions with the most homeschool-friendly policies.[9]

An additional benefit of homeschooling comes in the form of savings to taxpayers and school systems. Analysts have estimated that homeschooled students save American taxpayers and public schools between $4.4 billion and $9.9 billion annually.[10] Other estimates are as high as $16 billion.[11]

Trends and Anticipated Growth

Homeschooling may be the fastest growing form of education in the U.S.,[12] rivaled only by charter schools.[13] The 74 percent increase in homeschooling since 1999 alone suggests continued future growth. The homeschooling movement has also gained traction among minority students, which represent approximately 15 percent of homeschooling families.[14]

The continued growth in homeschooling is facilitated by organizations that assist families with needs ranging from curriculum and instruction to advancing legislation that ensures the freedom to educate children in the home. These burgeoning networks demonstrate that homeschooling is becoming an increasingly viable option for families.

Homeschooling continues to broaden and grow because of the vast array of education options and flexibility it provides for families. This crucial component of education reform creates an additional alternative for parents and students. It is estimated that more than 1 million children attend charter schools or benefit from voucher programs in the United States--a figure on par with the more than 1.5 million estimated homeschooled students. Economists have found that the competitive effects of school choice programs have prompted improvement in public schools.[15] While more research is needed, the homeschooling movement could be taking part in the same trend.

Protecting Homeschooling

Legal rights to homeschooling have been established nationwide, facilitating the growth of home-based instruction. Presently, homeschooling is legal in every state. Policymakers should protect parents' rights to homeschool their children and enact reforms that remove barriers to homeschooling. In order to provide meaningful protections to homeschooling families, Members of Congress should avoid restrictive regulations at all levels of schooling and offer tax relief to homeschoolers through education tax credits or deductions. Homeschooling families provide a valuable contribution to American education, often while incurring a significant financial burden in addition to their taxes paid toward public education. Policies should recognize the educational contribution of homeschooling and ensure that the freedom to homeschool is permanently protected and fostered.

In view of all the benefits that homeschooling provides to homeschooled children as well as society as a whole, lawmakers should enact policies that give more families the opportunity to participate in homeschooling. Federal and state policymakers should work to guarantee that families have the freedom to educate their children at home in the future.

Lindsey M. Burke is a Research Assistant in the Domestic Policy Studies Department at The Heritage Foundation.

Please go to the The Heritage Foundation website to view the footnotes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Children Can Understand Taxes

There were two points in the Concord Monitor article below that really disturbed me. The first statement that disturbed me was, "Children in elementary school don't understand taxes. How could they?" I totally disagree with this statement, children as young as 18 months understand the concept of "Mine!" My four year old understands taxes, she also understands the more taxes the government takes the less money Mommy and Daddy will have for toys, going on vacation, saving money for college, etc., etc., etc...... Taxes can be explained plain and simple, instead of explaining taxes in terms of money it can be explained in terms of toys for younger children. By age 5, I would hope taxes could be explained with money, there is no reason why a five year old should not understand the concept of money...wait unless he or she is mentally handicapped. Please don't tell me children do not learn about the "Boston Tea Party" by the end of elementary school.

The second statement that disturbed me was "The girls didn't grasp the nuances, but Farrelly says they knew something was different at school." What the heck are "professional teachers" doing airing their emotions about the contract with the students in their class. Shame, Shame, Shame.

Teachers, district settle on contract Details under wrap; vote set for Monday

Monitor staff
January 31, 2009 - 12:00 am

With little fanfare, the union that represents hundreds of Concord teachers has agreed to a new contract.

Details such as cost, terms, concessions, even the contract's duration, remain private. School board members, administrators and a representative from the Concord Education Association wouldn't comment yesterday, something that's not surprising in a round of negotiations notable for its silence.

A vote on the contract is part of the school board's agenda Monday night. Should the board approve, the deal will require formal signatures from both sides before it's official. The contract applies to 400 teachers and a handful of school nurses. Many of the district's other employees are represented by three different unions. Negotiations with those groups will soon be under way.

This winter's hushed haggling is a far cry from the last round of contract negotiations, which devolved into public spats between the district and the union and left teachers on the brink of a strike. The district spent more than $100,000 on mediation and legal fees, and parents still remember how their children reacted to the dispute.

The last round of negotiations lasted 17 months. Before talks ended in 2006, teachers had threatened to strike, curtailed after-school activities and stripped personal belongings from their classrooms. Neither teachers nor the school district wanted a repeat this year, so both sides agreed to a list of ground rules, including a pledge to keep negotiations out of the press.

The prospect of a quick, quiet deal had parents pleased.

"That's good news," said Shawn LaFrance, whose two children attend Kimball and Concord High. "The last time around, it was not pleasant. There was a lot of acrimony between the union and the school board. I think the children suffered."

Sue Farrelly's two daughters were students at Walker Elementary School at the time. The girls didn't grasp the nuances, but Farrelly says they knew something was different at school.

"They love their teachers," she said. "Children in elementary school don't understand taxes. How could they?"

Negotiators came close to a deal at the end of last year, close enough for the school board to schedule a New Year's Eve vote. But that meeting was canceled, leaving the contract in the hands of a school board heavy on new members who took their seats at the beginning of the month.

The contract came up last Saturday at the school board's annual retreat, held in the professional development room at Conant Elementary School. Before participating in a group-building activity called "Zoom," the board "discussed and agreed upon a rationale for voting on the proposed CEA contract . . . at its regular February meeting," according to minutes from the retreat.

Salaries and benefits make up about 80 percent of the school district's $60 million budget.

More People Fighting for Accountability and Against Big Ed

Jim and I started fighting for education reform and education spending reform six years. There were not a lot of us out there. I am glad to see more and more people fight against the NEA and AFT propaganda line "It's for the kids." If education dollars were truly for the children they would follow the child and not the institution and the NEA and AFT would not fight so hard against school choice and vouchers.

The following piece appeared in the Washington Post.


Well-Connected Parents Take On School Boards
Web-Savvy Activists Push For Educational Change

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 30, 2009; A01

For a new generation of well-wired activists in the Washington region, it's not enough to speak at Parent-Teacher Association or late-night school board meetings. They are going head-to-head with superintendents through e-mail blitzes, social networking Web sites, online petitions, partnerships with business and student groups, and research that mines a mountain of electronic data on school performance.

These parent insurgents are gaining influence -- and getting things changed.

In recent weeks, parent-led campaigns helped bring down a long-established grading policy in Fairfax County and scale back the unpopular practice of charging fees for courses in Montgomery County. They have also stoked debates over math education in Frederick and Prince William counties.

In Loudoun County, parents are gearing up to topple a grading scale similar to the one overturned in Fairfax. Another Fairfax group is making headway in a drive to push back high school start times.

What binds them is impatience with the school establishment and an aptitude for harnessing the power of the Internet to push for change.

"We are not our moms, who were just involved in the PTA," said Catherine Lorenze, a McLean mother who helped organize Fairgrade, the parent-led campaign to change the Fairfax grading scale by lowering the bar for an A from 94 to 90 percent.

"We worked for a number of years before we had kids," she said. "We know how to research and find information and connect the dots. To expect us to show up and just make photos or write checks does not sit well with this generation. If you are going to invite parents in the door . . . it should be more of a partnership."

School officials say they welcome the heightened interest in public education, because parent involvement often leads to student success. But they also warn that the wildfire Web-based campaigns can spread rumors quickly and tend to benefit affluent, well-connected parents. They can also distract school officials from budget deficits or other pressing issues.

Sometimes such parent groups, whose agendas tend to be limited to helping their own children, fail to carry the day against administrators, who must balance the needs of huge and diverse school systems. Thousands of Fairfax parents last year mounted a sophisticated, costly fight against a county plan to redraw high school boundaries to help fill an under-enrolled school that had higher rates of poor and minority students. Despite their protests, the School Board approved the change.

Still, school officials acknowledge the growing challenge to their authority.

"It used to be that the superintendent and the School Board made decisions and said, 'This is how it's going to be,' and the community would accept that," said Barbara Hunter, assistant superintendent for communications and community outreach for the 169,000-student Fairfax school system.

No longer. Many of today's parents are more skeptical of government and have new ways to engage with schools besides showing up for night meetings. They can make political statements by forwarding e-mails or signing petitions, all possible to do on a BlackBerry while idling on Interstate 66.

The No Child Left Behind law also has given parents more ways to challenge the official line. Since 2002, it has required schools to publish more information than ever about student performance, teacher quality and school safety. Parents back up their positions with bar charts and extensive analyses.

Former Fairfax superintendent Daniel A. Domenech said outspoken, savvy parents can be crucial allies in the fight for school funding. "The other side of the coin, of course, is you have to produce, because they are going to hold your feet to the fire," he said.

Officials caution that the new technology has turned up the volume for select parent voices. It can be especially apparent in parts of Fairfax or Montgomery where well-educated parents are not afraid to throw their weight around and register complaints with a phone call to the superintendent or the media. Blast e-mails and Web sites give these parents even more of an edge, compared with others who lack time or resources, some observers say.

Schools need to be more concerned about the digital divide than ever before, Hunter said. "We don't want to create two levels of power, those with access to information and those without it," she said.

Administrators across the region are looking for new ways to encourage traditionally silent parents to work with schools. In the District, efforts are underway to encourage parents to organize their thoughts into a short speech for the school board or to approach their children's teachers if they are concerned about a grade or a problem.

In Montgomery, the five-year-old Parent Coalition manages an e-mail list with more than 300 members in which parents raise concerns about high school exit exams, school board contracts and other issues in the 139,300-student system. It also maintains a Web site stocked with public documents.

The coalition has claimed two victories in recent weeks. It successfully lobbied the school board to eliminate hundreds of course fees, and its concerns about loose credit-card spending practices among school staff were validated by a state audit.

Brian Edwards, chief of staff for Montgomery Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, said the coalition is run by a "small cadre" of parents who have been longtime critics of the system. In the past, he said, their complaints would have been registered through phone calls or e-mails. Now, organized on the Web, they attract more media and public attention.

Other Montgomery parents are organizing online around issues such as gifted or special education, and they keep close tabs on pending program changes.

Sharon W. Cox, who served on the Montgomery school board from 2000 to 2008, said parents often get news out to the community before the school system does. Sometimes she learned of controversies first from parents. School officials "are always in the position of having to be defensive and to correct misinformation because they are not proactive," she said.

Kitty Porterfield, a former communications director for Fairfax schools and author of the book "Why School Communication Matters," said many school systems "are still responding to 21st-century parents with 20th-century approaches."

A strategic communications team in Fairfax monitors the blogosphere and online message boards for misinformation or rumors, seeking to update the school system Web site and drive traffic there. The school system also is trying out new ways to include parents in important or controversial decisions from the earliest stages.

Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale, whose recommendation to keep the 94-point benchmark for an A was reversed by the School Board after parent lobbying, said it is a challenge to stay on top of the daily avalanche of electronic communication from parents.

But he is trying to meet it. "That is what they expect from us," he said.

Another Homeschooling Mom Speaks Out Against HB 367 and 368

The following LTE appeared in the Concord Monitor.

I love it when I see homeschoolers sticking up for their rights. Democrats are big on people having a right to choose any lifestyle they want without government interference. The right to homeschool is a civil right just as the right to choose to have a civil union is for gay people. Democrats who deny the right to homeschool are bigots and are discriminating against homeschoolers. It is time to put the rights of homeschoolers ahead of pandering to the NEA, AFT and educrats. Rep. Day Kill the Bill do not stomp on our civil rights.


Bills divert resources from public schools

Deb Baker, Concord

February 01, 2009 - 12:00 am

House Bills 367 and 368 divert resources from public schoolchildren waiting for a solution to school funding and improvements in the quality of their educations.

These bills do two things: require SAUs to spend scarce resources on redundant home-schooling paperwork and force home-schoolers to have two year-end evaluations instead of one.

New Hampshire home-schoolers are already required to report annual progress, either with standardized tests or portfolio review by a certified New Hampshire teacher.

Department of Education officials were unable to provide any evidence of home-schoolers not making progress during legislative hearings last year. The state's own dismal data on proficiency in basics like math, reading and writing shows that public schools are not providing "adequate education" for every child that legislators crow about.

Legislators generally grant that home-schooling works but worry about "outliers" - people who use home-schooling to avoid truancy. Educators claim poor parenting causes truancy, not poor schools. Blame game aside, existing laws already protect both the state's interest and children's well being.

I urge taxpayers who are sick of government dithering over public education and who are tired of educators blaming parents for schools' problems: Call your representatives and members of the House Education Committee and tell them to oppose these wasteful bills.

Why squander precious education dollars doubling expenditures on home-schoolers, a small group whose educations are already highly regulated? Legislators must devote their energies to New Hampshire's thousands of public school students and to taxpayers waiting for a sensible plan to make living here affordable and schools successful.