The Home School Legal Defense Association is telling Ohio parents to think twice before enrolling their children in online charter schools. HSLDA says in a recent message to members:
Although there may appear to be some similarities, particularly as to where the instruction takes place, i.e. in the home, HSLDA sees homeschooling as a distinct educational approach in contrast to enrolling in an online public school. Homeschooling enables parents to have much more influence on their children’s education.
Publicly funded virtual charter schools are really just “schools at home” and parents are simply “monitors or learning coaches.” In these schools the government is in the driver’s seat—parents are just along for the ride. HSLDA encourages parents to count the cost before enrolling in “free” publicly funded virtual charter schools.
In fact, the homeschooling association “strongly cautions” all homeschoolers from enrolling in online charter schools. But the message is especially relevant in Ohio, which has more students enrolled in full-time online schools than all other states except Arizona.
The HSLDA and other homeschooling advocates say there’s a difference between children learning at home (through, say, an online school) and “real” homeschooling. Often, the lines between the two options are blurry.
For example, former Pennsylvania Senator (and former GOP presidential candidate) Rick Santorum often discussed how he and his wife homeschooled their children. Yet his children were enrolled in a Pennsylvania online charter school for a time.
Ohio currently has 26 online charter schools that enroll more than 30,000 students in grades K-12. The vast majority of those students are enrolled in Ohio’s seven statewide online charter schools. Those statewide online charter schools accept students regardless of where in Ohio they live.
Last year’s state budget lifted a 2005 moratorium on establishing new online charter schools. It allows up to five more online charter schools to open in 2013.