Public Relations: Be Ready to Answer – An Answer Aptly Spoken

by George Clay

Making progress in the public relations battle continues to be very important to home schoolers. What is public opinion today often becomes law tomorrow. Often people have opinions about home education based on people they know who are home schooling. All home educators—through their lives, words, and actions—are making statements for (or against) the validity of home education as an educational and social alternative. Sometimes, however, people may have opinions based on things they have read, such as magazine articles or letters-to-the-editor. We should all be aware of opportunities to impact public opinion positively for home education. The following letter-to-the-editor and answer by a home schooler, featured in the Bowie News, illustrate one method of answering our detractors–nothing but the facts, ma’am!

Home Schools Worry Reader
Last year the Times Record News published a letter from me concerning students placed in home schooling for wrong reasons. I am very concerned that home schooling is becoming more and more prevalent and needs to be seriously curtailed and regulated instead of encouraged by offering vouchers to parents. Some parents who are not capable or interested nor even at home will certainly choose to do home school if they can collect money for taking their kids out of school.

How is this going to improve education? If education needs to be improved then time, effort and money should be spent on improving public education. Giving money to private schools and to parents for home schooling is going to contribute to mediocrity and likely disaster for all education. Private schools will begin to have the same problems public schools have now. Why do we think that uncertified teachers and administrators will be better able to deal with the problems? It seems absurd for Texas to have standards and requirements for certification in order to teach, then turn around and consider giving our school tax money to uncertified schools and teachers and to unqualified parents for home schooling.

Since my retirement from education in Wichita Falls, I find myself often times not wanting to get involved, but it seems we must all be involved and vote against those in favor of vouchers and make our voice heard by our representatives and our governor at the state level and our representatives and President on the federal level that vouchers are not the answer. Giving private schools tax money is not the solution and paying parents to take their kids out of school will create a whole new welfare system and encourage delinquency.
Betty Blythe

Home Schooling Not the Problem
I would like to comment on the recent letter from Betty Blythe about her “worries” over home schooling. Home schooling is becoming more and more prevalent. There are an estimated 1.28 million home school students nationwide—and that number is growing by leaps and bounds. That’s more than the combined public school enrollment in nine states (Wyoming, Vermont, Delaware, N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Montana).

In a nationwide study of nearly 6,000 home school students, it was found that home school students, on average, out-perform their public school peers by 30-37 percentile points across all subjects. When these test scores were segmented by whether or not the parents have ever held a teaching certificate, the data reveals a differential of only three percentile points—85th percentile for parents who were not certified, 88th for those who were (compared to 50th percentile for public school certified teachers) Furthermore, parents’ educational backgrounds have no substantive effect on their children’s home school academic performance. Home-educated students’ test scores remain between the 80th and 90th percentile, whether their mothers or fathers have a college degree or did not complete high school. For public schoolers, a parent’s education level does predict student achievement from 28th percentile (no high school education) to 63rd percentile (college degree). Remarkably, students taught at home by parents who never finished high school score a full 55 percentile points higher than public school students from families of comparable educational backgrounds.

A cost-benefit analysis reveals that an average of $546 spent per home school student yields an average 85th percentile ranking on test scores. Compare this to the average annual expenditure of $5325 per public school student to achieve an average 50th percentile ranking. The degree of regulation from state to state has no significant effect on the academic performance of home schoolers whether a state imposes a high degree of regulation or no regulation. Home school student test score averages are identical—the 86th percentile for both segments.

Mrs. Blythe, for your information, the voucher idea originated with public school parents who were disgusted and fed up with the public education system. This is not a home school issue. As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to bet money that a majority of home school families wouldn’t touch a nickel of any voucher money for fear of the “strings” that might be attached. Home schoolers are not in this for the money. You mentioned how absurd it would be to “consider giving our school tax money to uncertified schools and teachers and to unqualified parents for home schooling.” Mrs. Blythe, for seven years now, since we started home schooling, I’ve paid my school taxes and never received one dime of services for that money. “Our school tax money” is my tax money, too! If you’ve got a beef about vouchers, you go take it up with whomever you want, but leave us home schoolers out of it. We’re not part of the problem.

George W. Clay IV

George Clay, from Bowie, Texas, is the husband of Dana Clay and father of three homeschooled children, Elizabeth, William, and Dale. Mr. Clay also serves as the Finance Committee Chairman on THSC’s Board of Directors.