Summary: As homeschoolers we may be contacted by local school officials for a variety of reasons listed below. It is up to us to see that our responses are appropriate and do not cause problems for us or other homeschoolers. Here is information to help you deal effectively with school officials. Also included is a copy of a letter WPA is sending to all public school district administrators. Please keep these to refer to when a school official contacts you. (Note: Many homeschoolers keep their WPA newsletters in a file folder or three ring binder for easy reference.)
As homeschoolers, we need to know what our rights and responsibilities we have under Wisconsin law. We cannot count on school officials to know what they should do or to act in our best interests, especially since our interests sometimes conflict with theirs. To maintain our homeschooling freedoms, we need to ensure that school officials do not exceed the authority they have under the law or act in other ways that undermine our freedoms. However, we homeschoolers often know more about homeschooling laws and regulations than public school officials do. That's not surprising. We've had more experience with homeschooling than they have, and we have stronger reasons to care what laws and regulations say and how they are enforced. Therefore, we often need to educate officials.
As recent newsletters have shown, public school district administrators (also called superintendents) have increasingly been acting in ways that are detrimental to our interests. (For specific examples, see Newsletters #60, p. 11; #61, p. 10, p. 16; #62, p. 3; #63, p. 14; # 64, p. 11, p. 12.) Therefore, WPA sent a letter to all administrators in August, explaining Wisconsin's homeschooling law and how it works. See p. 4 of this newsletter.
Here are suggestions for ways homeschoolers can effectively deal with public school officials in each of the following situations:
When families want to begin homeschooling-See point (1) of the letter to school district administrators.
When school officials claim homeschoolers are truant because they began homeschooling before the school officials received their form PI-1206: See point (1) in the letter to public school administrators.
When officials contact homeschoolers requesting information for the school census. The simplest approach is to give the official a copy of form PI-1206 that is sent to the DPI each year or give them the same information that you put on the form. For background information and more details, see the WPA handbook, pp. 212-213.
When school officials send surveys or questionnaires requesting information about homeschoolers' families, approaches to education, etc., that are NOT part of the school census. See point (3) in the letter. It is important to know that such requests exceed district administrators' authority under Wisconsin law. WPA strongly encourages homeschoolers not to answer such questions, since this gives public schools more control over homeschoolers. It is not consistent with the principle of doing the minimum that the law requires to minimize the growth of the power and authority of the state. Homeschoolers who have tried to cooperate with their local school districts by answering such questionnaires have found that the districts respond by demanding even more information.
If you receive such a questionnaire, you can either ignore it or write a letter to the official who sent it explaining why you are not completing it. You can include a copy of WPA's letter to administrators with the appropriate sections highlighted. Also, please send WPA a copy of the questionnaire. As a grassroots organization, WPA relies on people like you to keep it informed about what is happening in local communities.
For more information, see the handbook, pp. 195-202.
When school officials invite you to a meeting to discuss ways the school district could help you and other homeschoolers: Some district administrators are holding meetings with homeschoolers or sending them surveys to get ideas for programs they could offer that would draw homeschoolers into the public schools. The bottom line here is money. The more students who are enrolled in a district, the more money the district gets from the state.
However, most homeschoolers do not want to participate in public schools. We prefer to maintain the flexibility we have when we don't have to attend classes every day, we don't want our children to be required to take the state-mandated tests that are required of public school students, and we don't want our children strongly influenced by the culture and values of public school. We also realize that the more homeschoolers participate in public schools, the more opportunity the schools have to increase their power and authority over us.
Many homeschoolers who are invited to a meeting with their school district administrator decide to go to the meeting to explain clearly that they don't want public school services. This is important. If the only people who attend such meetings are the few homeschoolers who do want to participate in such activities or are new to homeschooling and don't understand the consequences, school officials will assume that most homeschoolers want such "opportunities" and will increase their efforts to provide them. If you receive such an invitation, please seriously consider attending to explain your opposition to public school control of homeschooling.
Conclusion: Remember that homeschooling is a grassroots movement and WPA is a grassroots organization. If we are going to maintain our freedoms in spite of goals and schemes of the educational establishment, we each need to take responsibility for knowing what our rights and responsibilities are and acting in ways that maintain them when school officials make moves or offers that would undermine our freedoms.