Email sent to all Wisconsin Legislators January 23, 2008
Subject: Homeschools & Virtual Charter Schools SB 396 & AB 697
You may have heard from homeschoolers and others who want to ensure that virtual charter school legislation (including AB 697 and SB 396) does not give the DPI or others authority over the interactions of virtual charter school parents and children in their homes. The LRB responded to some of these concerns with an informal opinion saying they were unfounded. We disagree with the LRB’s opinion and remain concerned and watchful. Based on our reading of statutes and the proposed legislation, we would like to offer suggestions that include but are not necessarily limited to the following.
First, in an effort to ensure that virtual charter schools do not include in their definition or regulation either the private homes or the residents of the homes of virtual charter school families:
(1) Define the location of a virtual charter school as the physical offices of the administrators of the schools, rather than as the whole school district, as both bills currently do. This would prevent the homes of virtual charter school students who happened to live in the district governed by the school board that established the school from being considered part of the definition or location of the virtual charter school.
(2) Define the teachers, instructors, and staff of a virtual charter school in a way that explicitly excludes parents, guardians, other residents of the homes of virtual charter school students, or guests in those homes. (Exemptions could be provided for virtual charter school teachers who want to enroll their children in the virtual charter school in which they are a teacher.)
These two provisions help address our concerns that virtual charter school legislation could open the door for state regulation of the interactions of parents and children in their own homes.
Second, since virtual charter schools are public schools, establish some forms of accountability that are accomplished principally outside the home rather than in the home. For example, if consideration is to be given to measurement of pupil participation, contact time with students, a safe and secure environment, authenticity of pupils’ course work, etc., ensure that it does not violate the sanctity of the home but rather is restricted so that the reach into homes of virtual charter school students is via the Internet and telephone.
Third, establish a reasonable basis for ensuring that tax dollars are well spent.
Thank you for your work on this important issue and your consideration of these suggestions.
Wisconsin Parents Association
Post Office Box 2502
Madison WI 53701–2502
Voice Mail 608.283.3131