For Immediate Release: Public-private partnerships serve students, but taxpayer funding must come with public accountability
05/11/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) supports the California legislature in its efforts to create responsible guidelines for charter schools that enroll homeschooled students. “Homeschooled children benefit from public-private partnerships that provide both financial reimbursement for educational expenses and accountability for their educational program,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children.
Assembly Bill 2990, passed by the Assembly Education Committee last Wednesday, was prompted by concern that such charter schools were reimbursing families for Disneyland trips and ski passes, among other things. One charter school network was closed after its leaders were indicted on fraud allegations. Coleman says that it makes sense that these questions are surfacing now; her organization has seen the number of public-private education partnerships serving students educated in the home rise. “State leaders have a responsibility to ensure that state money is used responsibly,” she says.
Coleman points to debates in Alaska nearly two decades ago: beginning in the late 1990s, district- and charter-run programs in that state provided homeschooling families with financial reimbursements for education expenses while requiring an annual educational plan, monthly check-ins with a teacher, and annual testing; these programs saw themselves engulfed in controversy in the early 2000s after some families used the money for vacations and some private school students enrolled in order to net public money for extracurricular expenses. The state’s board of education responded to these concerns by creating new rules barring reimbursements for travel, uniforms, or family passes to sports or recreational facilities and mandating that at least 50% of students’ courses be in core subject areas.
California’s AB 2990 takes similar steps, prohibiting funds from being used on private school tuition and mandating that charter schools and districts vet enrichment vendors before providing families with reimbursement. “We applaud the growth of public-private partnerships that provide support and accountability for homeschooling,” says Coleman, adding that “it is understandable that we are seeing growing pains.” Coleman says state legislatures and state boards of education should ensure that such programs center students’ educational needs, provide academic accountability, and ensure that taxpayer funds are used responsibly.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.