I spent some time engaging on the comments with some of the usual suspects saying the usual things – Dad29: "In the end, the Leftist State will have unfettered power and control over all its citizens. So the ideology is about control (power.)"; karl marx: "What a surprise!! Mike Plaisted is against children and for the UNION." There were also the K12 talking-points to deal with on mainstream radio (MSR) and the wing-nut blogs – you know, WEAC is just interested in money and protecting their union hacks in the classrooms; the opinion means we can’t help our kids with homework anymore; and blah-di blah blah.
In challenging the usual suspects about the decision, I asked a pretty good question, I thought. The right-wing completely ignored the part of the opinion that said the scheme failed because the teachers and students were not "located" in the district. On Esenberg's comment thread, I asked: if the Northern Ozaukee district created a charter school where the administrators were in the district and the teachers and students reported every day to a building in Milwaukee, do you think that would be in compliance with the statute? Niether Esenberg or anyone else answered that one, because apparently they couldn't. I asked them twice.
But the most interesting comments were from some newcomers who said they were WIVA parents. As you could imagine, they were appreciative of the scheme that allows them to use what is apparently the Cadillac of home-schooling support for free. I don’t begrudge their use of the service as long as it’s offered and not surprised they think it’s pretty useful and cool. They can’t help it if they have been put in the middle of the battle between the K12 profiteers and the usual Wisconsin public school destroyers on one side and the taxpayers, WEAC and the law itself on the other. The home-schoolers enrolled in the WIVA program have been sold a bill of goods, which is no less painful just because they aren’t paying for it.
But I do take issue with a false differentiation that they and the profiteers’ defenders attempt to make between WIVA and home-schooling itself.
Most eloquent on this point was a commenter named "borges":
- "...as a homeschooling family that has had one of my kids jump ship and join a public virtual school, I can confirm that the virtual school is completely different than real homeschooling. She answers to her teachers, who make the assignments, grade her progress and call all the shots. It is truly public schooling. If I have an idea for primary sources my kid should read in history, or an interesting experiment for Biology, too bad for me. Obviously I'm not enthusiastic about public education as a one way stream of information and expertise, but there you have it. Welcome to the big house. So don't anyone confuse virtual public schooling and homeschooling. They are completely different world."
In response, I would say that, just because you are not "calling all the shots" and you are taking direction from an actual publicly-employed teacher doesn’t mean what you are doing is any less home-schooling. (Oh, and, by the way, there is nothing stopping you from sharing your primary sources or the Biology experiment with your kid. In fact, any brick-and-mortar teacher would encourage it.) It is just the same as if you had purchased one of the more elaborate software/online home-schooling packages from, say, K12 directly. In such a scenario, you may even have to agree to have your student evaluated by an educator other than yourself. Just because you have latched onto a version of home-schooling that differs from your original conception – for good or ill, home-schooling is defined as whatever the home-schooler decides it is – that doesn’t make what you are doing any less home-schooling. You are still primarily responsible for making sure your child follows the lessons and does the work. You are a home-schooler, whether you know it or not.
There is no question that K12/WIVA thinks their market is home-schoolers. Try Googling homeschooling. What do you think comes up in the featured "sponsored links" box at the top of the page, a spot that is only allowed to those who pay fairly big money to get there? Sure enough – it’s WIVA. You get the same result if you try homeschooling books ("WI Virtual Academy has textbooks, materials, and loaner computers," the tag reads), homeschooling tools and, interestingly, Christian homeschooling ("Virtual Academy provides textbooks materials at no cost to you."). Your tax money at work – spending thousands with Google to make sure homeschoolers notice WIVA when shopping for support services. Free textbooks! Where do I sign up??
Or just go to the K12 website, which helpfully directs you to a "Virtual Academy" in your state (you didn’t think WIVA’s name was of local origin, did you?), not to mention "K12 Consumer Direct", for those poor slobs who haven’t been able to pry public funds out of their state for K12's expensive home-schooling products.
If you want Wisconsin to support home-schooling with public funds, go get a bill through the legislature. Surely, interested parties like WEAC will be there to try to stop it, just as the wealthy profiteers will bring their considerable assets to bear – including MSR squawkers and, no doubt, the Journal Sentinel’s tedious in-house wing-nut, Patrick McIlerhan (parroting the K12 talking-points on the decision, he unimaginatively offered: "They're unlicensed; ergo, the school's illegal. Let this be a warning when your tot asks for homework help." Why bother listening to Sykes when you can read the same crap from McIlerhan two days later?).
But let’s have that conversation straight up, eyes wide open, rather than allow the schemers to siphon more school funds away from the public schools with a phony bastardization of the charter/open-enrollment/school funding law. Maybe, while the interested parties are so engaged, the rest of us who are concerned about decent, accountable public schools can have some input as to whether home-schoolers should get public money (not to mention how much) to support what is essentially an elitist exercise that is only available to the increasingly-rare family that can have at least one parent at home all day to facilitate it.Knock yourself out, if you can pull it off, but you are -- or should be -- on your own.