This July, North Carolina’s state legislature passed a bill to deprive the public school system of $10 million dollars, which is to be redistributed to private schools. The North Carolina law will provide low-income, public school students with up to $4,200 a year to use at private schools. Because of a weak system of classifying private schools, home schools may also be getting some of the diverted taxpayer funds.
The Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE), which is responsible for publishing an annual list of recognized conventional private schools in North Carolina, “does not have much recourse in making sure that private schools are actually private schools and not home schools,” NC Policy Watch reports.
The DNPE determines whether a school is a private or home school by the initial Notice of Intent given by the school, indicating whether they intend on operating as a conventional private school or a home school. Basically, a school’s status as either a private school or a home school is based on what those running the school decide to report.
Furthermore, there is little oversight of private schools to ensure they are complying with state laws such as fire, sanitation, safety, immunization, and testing standards. “Our office does not keep the annual fire and sanitation inspections or any immunization records or standardized achievement results on the individual Non Public Schools,” DNPE director David Mills told Policy Watch.
DNPE states that, based on the way the school voucher law is written, DNPE is not responsible for overseeing the Opportunity Scholarships voucher program, or determining whether a school is truly a private school and not a home school.
NC Policy Watch highlights one example of a home school that is classified by the DNPE as a private school. Even before it became a one teacher, three student “school” operating out of someone’s home, Paramount Christian Academy only had three teachers and 15 students. Now it is run solely by Carol Miller, who teaches her granddaughter, a neighbor’s child, and a special needs student out of her home.
Thanks to the new voucher law that goes into effect for the 2014 – 15 school year, students could potentially use taxpayer money to transfer from public schools to Paramount or other home schools like it, which are considered private and have no standards for curricula.
For example, at Paramount, Miller uses instructional materials from the A-Beka Book publisher and Bob Jones University Press, which are commonly used in Christian private and home schools, according to Policy Watch. Last year, Deanna Pan of Mother Jones examined some of the content of A-Beka and Bob Jones textbooks, which teach students Bible-based “facts” such as the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.
The books also say that, in some areas, the Ku Klux Klan “tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross,” that the “majority of slave holders treated their slaves well,” that only about 10 percent of Africans can read and write and that the country is “in need of the gospel,” that dinosaurs and humans were “definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side,” that the Great Depression wasn’t that bad and was propagandized by liberals, and that fetuses are like slaves, among other things.
The DNPE is required to give its list of legally-operating private schools to the NC State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA), which will use the list to determine which schools are eligible to participate in the voucher program. When asked by Policy Watch, the NCSEAA said it does not have plans to vet the list to determine whether any of the schools are actually home schools.
“If the Division of Non-Public Education has a private school on its list, then they comply with the statute and they are a legally operating private school,” Elizabeth McDuffie, director of Grants, Training, and Outreach at the NCSEAA said.
While research shows that school voucher programs do not increase student achievement, conservatives still push programs designed to divert taxpayer money from public schools to private ones under the guise of better educating our children. For-profit education is being spread throughout the country, and has been for at least two decades.
Many bills promoting the privatization of education have been designed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In the first 6 months of 2013 alone, at least 139 ALEC-designed education bills were introduced across 43 states. ALEC boasts that it began promoting vouchers in 1983, in response to Reagan’s “A Nation at Risk” study. At the same time, ALEC began promoting merit-based teacher salaries.
The for-profit education industry has significant influence at both the state and federal level. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the industry has spent over $40 million on lobbying Congress since 1998.