After learning that Buxboro Independent School District would not re-open campuses until September 8th and dismayed that her children Digger (12), Trixie (9) and Hustler (5) would not receive personal instruction, Anna Nicole Pawlenty posted on a Facebook mom group “I’m in Buxboro, and I’m ‘podding up.’ Who’s with me?” . Can just anyone home school their children? What are the implications?
School in Texas
Under the Texas Education Code, Texas law requires each school district to provide the benefits of the available school fund to each person who, on the first day of September of any school year is at least five years of age and under 21 years of age. Each school district must operate at least 75,600 minutes, including time allocated for instruction, intermissions, and recesses for students. Unless specifically exempted, a child who is at least six years of age and who has not reached their 19th birthday shall attend school.
Homeschooling in Texas
Until the 1994 Texas Supreme Court case of Leeper et al. v. Arlington ISD et al., all children had to attend accredited public or private schools – homeschooling was not an option. Then, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that children taught at home are exempt from compulsory attendance requirements just as students enrolled in private schools; yet, they must follow a course of study that includes good citizenship, and they may be asked to provide written assurance that they intend to home school their child. The Texas Education Agency, in cooperation with educators, parents, business and industry representatives, sets state standards that those Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills students should accomplish and know from kindergarten through high school. Home-schooled students are not awarded a diploma by the State of Texas.
If Anna Nicole’s children are currently enrolled in a public school and she intends to homeschool them, they must be withdrawn from that school – except kindergartener Hustler who would be a new student. While the State of Texas requires no official form, the North Texas Home Educators Network proposes a sample Notice of Withdrawal and Intent to Homeschool.
While they may enter public school at any time, Anna Nicole’s children will likely be subject to policies and procedures to assess their mastery level of courses – often required for grade placement or credit or both – receiving the same treatment as students transferring from unaccredited private schools. Likewise, Texas institutions of higher education must treat home school graduates to the same general standards, including specific standardized testing score requirements, as other applicants for undergraduate admission who have graduated from a public high school. Anna Nicole can only imagine the difficulty of homeschooling her eldest son Digger (12), but add to him Trixie and kindergartener Hustler? The challenges of last spring pale in comparison. Even then, consider “Pandemic Podding” with other parents and their similarly situated children – the difference in quality, commitment and consistency that might, today, be a very attractive group of similarly situated parents who want to co-op their time, their homes and their teaching responsibilities on a rotating basis. But what about 6 weeks from now? Imagine what happens if one of the group gets COVID-19?
Tilting the Scales in Your Favor – Disrupt-Up
The public school system is often adjudged as lacking. One parent families depend upon the school system – both for education and, perhaps equally importantly, to babysit their children while they work. Both of those needs are now impacted by the uncertainties surrounding a mysterious viral enemy. The opportunities for disruption and change are monumental. Undoubtedly, there may be improvements. Yet, will only parents of means be able to take advantage of the disruption? Will public schools lose money? Will there be near and long-term inequities in the educational outcomes to the students? Will the long-term impact to all students of this generation be increased social and economic inequalities? Is it as simple as redirecting the available tax dollars to the discretionary use of the parents to choose where their children are educated? This pandemic period presents more questions than answers.