Online Virtual Academies Mislead Homeschoolers

Online Virtual Academies Mislead Homeschoolers

Or “What About COVA?”

I can’t count how many times a week I get this question.

My answer is, sure, enroll your child if you want, but it’s not homeschooling. Don’t call it homeschooling, and don’t for one minute think you’re protected by Colorado’s home school law. These are just online public schools. I’m not here to support public schooling. I’m here to support homeschooling.

Read COVA’s website. See how they describe themselves:

“Because they’re part of the public school system, Online Public Schools are always tuition-free. The entire curriculum is provided free of charge, and in many cases a loaner computer, printer, and Internet access* are also provided.

The Colorado Virtual Academy uses the K¹² online curriculum …

Why are online virtual academies free? They’re not. Every year a majority of your property taxes goes toward supporting the local public school system, whether you have children in school or not. We won’t even go into the other ways you pay for public education (mill levies, bond issues, state revenues, federal dollars, etc.), we’ll just concentrate on the biggest chunk of change you’re required to pay out of your pocket each year. So, let’s look at this. You pay taxes to support the virtual school, just as with any other brick and mortar public school in your county. On top of which, when you enroll your child in an online school, they receive matching government funding on “head count day”, same as any other public school. Ergo, your child is not a homeschooler. S/he’s a public-schooler. All you’ve done is change the location.

Once more, let’s read the definition of what constitutes homeschooling by Colorado law, either by using a Notice of Intent or an umbrella school:

(2) As used in this section:

(a) “Nonpublic home-based educational program” means the sequential program of instruction for the education of a child which takes place in a home, which is provided by the child’s parent or by an adult relative of the child designated by the parent, and which is not under the supervision and control of a school district. (Emphasis mine.)

1. C.R.S. 22-33-104. School Attendance Law makes school attendance at a public school compulsory unless the child “is enrolled for a minimum of one hundred seventy-two days in an independent or parochial school which provides a basic academic education”.

… Neither the State Board of Education nor any local board of education has jurisdiction over the internal affairs of any nonstate, independent, or parochial school in this state. (Emphasis mine.)

Current Threats To Homeschool Freedoms

Are you giving up your rights to homeschool? Many of you are … without even realizing it. If this trend doesn’t reverse itself, the only way you’ll be able to homeschool is by doing it illegally, under the cover of darkness, hiding your children from the truant officers during the day.
by Treon Goossen, co-author of our Colorado Homeschool Law.


What Do Virtual Teachers and
Non-Homeschoolers Say?

Education In Two Worlds: Myth #5 —
Cyberschools Are The Wave of The Future

Even public school advocates don’t like these online virtual academies. The reasons will shock you.
By Gene V. Glass, a Senior Researcher at the National Education Policy Center and Regents’ Professor Emeritus from Arizona State University.

15 Months In Virtual Charter Hell: A Teacher’s Tale
“With the kind of technology, systems and process management needed to keep the enrollment machine running (and the machine is priority), there is never much time to actually teach.
By Darcy Bedortha, MS, MA, former K¹² teacher

COVA, K¹² Inc. To Part Ways As New Online School Is Proposed
June, 2013. Community Radio for Northern Colorado reports that Colorado Virtual Academy and K¹² Inc., the for-profit management company that oversees the school’s day-to-day operations, will be parting ways after the 2013-2014 school year. Brian Bissell, head of the COVA board, confirmed the change that will go into effect during the 2014-2015 school year. COVA has struggled with poor academic performance in recent years amid questions about K¹² Inc.’s management of school resources—including teacher understaffing. COVA will seek approval for a new multidistrict online school named Colorado Preparatory Academy (CPA).


The second question I get is:

So why do other homeschool websites and organizations list these virtual academies as “homeschooling”? Well, after wondering this myself and asking the owners personally, I got an array of answers. Some just don’t understand Colorado’s home school law. Others think online public schooling is really a viable homeschool option. Or, it simply comes down to money: they want the traffic you provide by visiting their sites, and the advertising dollars that follow. As for me, I’d shut RMEC down first. I’m just as tough ‘n scrappy as the Bohls family back in the 80’s. I stand up for real homeschooling in Colorado, for my children, your children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I’m not into whitewashing, being politically correct or caving in to “what’s popular”. I couldn’t give a rat’s fanny about “what’s popular”. What you’ll hear from me is the straight-from-the-hip, unvarnished truth:

All these [cough] “home school programs” are nothing but smoke and mirrors, purposely designed to reel us in with enticing carrots like “a free computer”. You know now that you’ve already paid for that computer. And that your taxes (and mine) have paid your “free tuition”. So what, exactly, is “free” about it? Nothing. There is no free lunch. And if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Get your mom on the phone right now; she’ll back me up.

These pseudo-freebies are quietly absorbing homeschooling back into the government-run system we’re all trying to get away from. In 2013 and 2014 we’ve already heard rumblings in the Colorado state legislature about these online schools. Many politicians are saying, “Wow, look at all the homeschoolers who’ve enrolled! Virtual Academies must be homeschooling, because homeschoolers would know the difference, right? Public-school-at-home must be what they want!” And there go the Senators and Representatives, peering at our homeschool law, wondering how it has to be tweaked to include such garbage.

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling
by John Holt (1927-1985), widely known as “the founder of unschooling.” He poses the question, “Imagine the potential of our world if each child spent 11,000 hours out in the real world, hungrily soaking up all that life has to offer, instead of sitting all day, being fed information to regurgitate with no apparent and immediate relation to their needs, their interests or their lives.”

Have you ever asked yourself why so many of these money-mill programs exist in the first place? 10-12 years ago you never heard of such things. Today there’s at least one in most states. They’re backed by investors, Wall Street types — people who go where the money is. Alternative Education, including homeschooling, are buzzwords. Buzzwords equal money. These interlopers invented a clever ad campaign ‘to make homeschooling easier! to help your child excel!’ And we busy busy homeschooling parents fall right into the trap. Do you really think these corporate types care about our children’s education? Or the inadvertent changes that’ll happen to our homeschooling laws because of their scorched earth policy? Get real — they’re into making money, lots of it, as quick as they can. Their partners, the public schools we left, have been panicking for years because they keep losing more and more students to homeschooling. The system doesn’t like change. It IS a bureaucracy after all. It’s also the one of the largest employers in the USA. You’re talking a lot of jobs, a lot of support industries, a lot of salaries, a lot of tenure. So these two forces join together, one hoping to make lots of money, the other crossing their fingers that if they erode our educational choices quietly, slowly and under the radar, by ‘watering down’ the essence, the philosophy, the very freedoms homeschoolers fought so many years to legalize, ‘homeschooling’ will end up being nothing more than just another flavor of public-schooling … and one day, home education in Colorado will cease to exist.

Then we will no longer be a threat. They’ll have the playing field all to themselves.

You might also be interested in:

Say No To Homeschool Tax Breaks:
The Bacon You Save May Your Own

Nothing illustrates the power of a seemingly “free lunch” quite like the story of “The Wild and Free Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp.”
by best selling author Linda Dobson

Homeschoolers Against Tax Credits
A Facebook page to share information for families that homeschool (or support homeschooling) who know that taking bait from the state is a quick way to reduced freedom in their children’s education.

Colorado Umbrella Schools for Unschoolers
Real independent private schools for unschoolers and relaxed homeschoolers.

RMEC’s Colorado Homeschool Law in a Nutshell.
Every legal thing you could ever want to know about Colorado’s home school law … in plain English.

The Answer Sheet:
A School Survival Guide for Parents (And Everyone Else)
Valerie Strauss with The Washington Post reports on public education and homeschooling news across the nation.