Pushing Families Out of Public Schools
Increasingly public schools are pushing families out of their children’s education. This will only backfire on them.
In early July, the new Bedford High School principal said he wants to amend school policies to restrict parental involvement in their children’s education. He referred to their behavior as “snowplowing.” The Union Leader said the principal’s intention is to “keep parents from overstepping their bounds.”
So much for encouraging parental involvement.
While some parents may genuinely interfere in their child’s learning, it is extreme to apply a blanket policy that inhibits parental involvement.
But worse than one policy at one school, there is a growing trend among public schools to restrict parental involvement in their children’s education. It seems driven by fear that more parental choice and educational options will “destroy” public education. In fact, it may be what saves it.
At a time when education professionals are embracing individualized learning and families want more options, public schools and their unions are trying to preserve the one-size-fits-all model of education that in truth fits no one.
An innovative program called Learn Everywhere became law in 2018 and before it can begin, the state Department of Education must create governing rules that were recently approved by the state Board of Education. Late last week, the Joint Legislative Committee for Administrative Rules (JLCAR) voted against the department’s proposed rules. Now the DOE must rewrite their proposed rules and have them reviewed and approved by the state BOE before returning to JLCAR at a later date.
This year the Democrat-controlled legislature passed a bill, SB 140, that attempted to repeal the program. Fortunately, Governor Sununu vetoed it a couple weeks ago, but the legislature will have a session day this fall, date TBD, when they will try to override this decision.
JLCAR is another way the legislature can end Learn Everywhere before it can start.
Even the Concord Monitor recognizes that Learn Everywhere empowers families. In its July 20, 2019 article about JLCAR’s vote, it said “advocates of the program prefer a different metric: parental control” and “suddenly, a student’s curriculum could look very different from the one set by his or her school. And parents would be firmly in the driver’s seat.”
Learn Everywhere expands the successful Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) program to empower public high-schoolers to learn outside the limits of a classroom and typical school settings, and now, beyond school-district boundaries. It allows up to 30% of a student’s credits to come from other sources. The Department of Education would review and approve these programs so they are not limited to zip codes; it allows approved organizations to offer educational opportunities that cross multiple school district boundaries. Also, it is similar to the authorization already in place for chartered public schools.
Participation by students and organizations is optional and does not present a financial burden to the schools. Many of these programs are available for free or reduced fees like those available at the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, Civil Air Patrol, and other community organizations. Typically, alternative learning programs, like those available through ELOs, are at the family’s expense, not the district’s. For example, if a student enrolls in a dual enrollment class through Southern NH University, those courses are available at a discount, but the family is responsible for the tuition and materials, not the local district school. Learn Everywhere is fully consistent with this existing practice.
Learn Everywhere is also consistent with local control. District public schools have policies governing how many credits from alternative learning options may be applied towards graduation. While Learn Everywhere allows up to 30% to come from alternative sources, the majority of credits must be obtained within the local school’s system. It is a way to allow some customized learning for those students who want options.
At a time when more families want individualized learning and more options are available, Learn Everywhere allows public high schools to retain students that may otherwise leave to access these opportunities. The more unions, administrators, and other public-school officials try to limit educational options, the more families will be forced out of their local schools to access choices that provide better educational fits for their children. Learn Everywhere allows public schools to be responsive to this increased demand for customization and no longer require a one-size-fits-all education for local students.
NH’s public schools are facing increased financial pressures and declining student enrollment. It is time for innovation and Learn Everywhere may be just what public education needs to respond to competitive educational options that could draw more students away from them. Learn Everywhere can be a win-win for schools and students, if they give it a chance.
Read more about Learn Everywhere in these articles.