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I attended a forum last night for Parents for Educational Freedom in Durham, NC. I was truly and utterly disappointed with the whole experience. The group offered a scholarship, and in order to qualify, families were mandated to attend.
The entire presentation was a "Christian" religious program with a right-wing political agenda. The evening began with a preacher praising "Jesus Christ" and getting an "AMEN!" from the audience. It went downhill from there. Throughout the program, attendees were pressured to vote for the Republican candidate for Governor, who spoke later in the program. I watched the candidate throughout the program, and he did not once clap for anyone who spoke, school groups who sang, or even the young children who MCed the event.
Once he came on stage, he spoke VERY briefly about "THEY" and how "THEY" wanted to "CONTROL" your child's education. Isn't the "THEY" the Republicans who created NCLB?? Isn't he lumped in the same group as "THEY"!?!?!?! He talked maybe 5 minutes and said absolutely nothing. THEN, they had a town hall style Q&A---of course, the questions were pre-printed with pre-chosen askers. There was no opportunity for the regular public to ask any questions.
He sat up there and talked about how he was going to let homeschoolers use public school facilities and make schools provide textbooks and materials to homeschooling familes (How's he going to pull that one off??) This would create huge liability risks for the state and county governments as well as increased costs on an overburdened system.
One lady asked about what he was going to do about caps and waiting lists on Charter Schools. His answer was to build more Charter Schools in more counties. How is that going to do anything about a cap or waiting list? If you build a charter school two counties over, there's still going to be a waiting list and a cap at the pre-existing school.
Then, he talked about how he wanted to give limited scholarships to families of special needs children whom the public school is unable to serve. WHOA! Schools are Federally mandated to serve ALL students. What public school do you know is going to say they "can't" provide for a special needs student? None that I know of, unless they want a lawsuit on their hands! Then, there's the question of who is deserving of a scholarship? What determines need? Very unrealistic.
I could go on, but I'll stop there. What I'm really disappointed in is that after this candidate spoke, the president of this group stood up and said that they invited both candidates---one declined, and one accepted. He referred to the other candidate as "that other one" (never by name) and dismissed her by blatantly saying the audience should vote for the candidate that came. No mention at all that the other candidate already had another speaking engagement for the same evening.
Here's the last qualm I have about the event. I'm not complaining about not receiving the scholarship. There were many deserving families there. The application required us to write an essay in 200 words or less. They gave out two scholarships. The first lady who won read her essay, and it was an entire page long. (Not to say she didn't have a compelling story, mind you.--I'd have given her money, too, however, the application clearly stated "200 words or less".) She should have been disqualified for not following the instructions. The second woman who won read her essay. She said she was a single mom with two sons. One had already graduated, and the other was a senior in high school. She went on to talk about her monthly income and broke down her expenses--mortgage, car, utilities, etc. She did not say one word about academic need. (The essay was supposed to show both financial and academic need.) What both women wrote in their essays was about how Jesus Christ had worked miracles in their lives. The first lady said that her boys had accepted Jesus as their savior, and the second one talked about how her boys were saved...
I had originally written in my essay how angels had led me to the school where my son attends and that we had prayed for an answer, and after showing it to several professionals who are experts on scholarship essays, all had said to remove those words and focus on the academic and financial need. I wonder if I had left those words in if my application would have been given a second glance?
You know, it's well and good to have a religious and political rally, but it should really be advertised as such beforehand. What about the families and private schools who aren't "Christian" organizations? What about Jewish, Muslim, Buddist, Hindu, Wiccan, Pagan, and all the other people who believe in private education being the best option for their children? I know how uncomfortable I felt at this forum (if you can call it that). I can only imagine what it must have felt like for them.
At the end of the "forum" they asked everyone to fill out a card that had a big check mark on it and said, "Yes, it is time for North Carolina to put Parents and Children First! I was there on October 28, 2008 to support equal opportunities in education for all families across the state." I couldn't get a clear answer on the purpose for this paper from anyone I asked. It looked like a petition to me. I decided not to fill it out for fear that my name would be added to their narrow-minded political agenda.
Thank you for letting me vent (and reading this far!). I have one child in the public school system that is learning and doing well. My son, however, has always had problems and is a "special needs" child. His sleep disorder (which the school system automatically labeled ADHD) and his learning disabilities have led me to a private education path. I took out a 20-year loan just to pay for one year of boarding school, because I couldn't find a local school to meet his needs. I luckily found a special education teacher the following year 20 miles from my house willing to take him on as a private student while she built a private school. I signed up as a homeschool, and he continued to blossom. Her school is now in its second year of operation, and he is a happy 8th grader. Yes, he'll always have learning problems, and he stilll struggles, (And I still struggle to pay for his education..) but seeing him happy and learning has made the biggest difference in our lives. I believe that children learn differently and that public school is not the answer for every student. I believe that every parent has the right to enroll their child in the school they think is best for that child's learning style, be it public, private, religious, or homeschool. However, I think the organization that presented the forum last night only gives lipservice to anyone who doesn't profess to love Jesus and is as narrow-thinking and as out of touch as the Republican candidate for governor.
I feel your pain on this issue. I went to our state homeschool conference this past year and felt sick to my stomach most of the time because of the political issues. It was listed as a Christian conference so I did have a good idea of what I was in for, but I felt very uncomfortable. It got easier when I could see it as a cross-cultural experience. We are a Catholic, non-traditional family and I honestly felt that I would have been run out if folks were aware.
Some of my favorite moments - a quote in the conference brochure that stated that fewer than 10% of their children were staying with Jesus after they left home. (Don't yell at me - I have no idea where this stat came from), another speaker who said that fewer than 10% of the families who homeschool are "real" Christians (again - not my numbers), a woman who told me that she is very liberal because she believes that Catholics are Christians (unlike her friends), and my favorite...the keynote speaker who told us that we should be raising our daughters to follow their husbands no matter how poor their decisions and acts are and no matter what harm might come to them.
I went to see the vendors and I did hear a great presentation on entrepreneur education, but otherwise it was very hard to hear that there is only one view and one way to go. I think it makes it harder for people to take homeschooling seriously when there is only one very conservative vision presented to the world.
These comments are just agreeing with you about your political canidate.
The use of public schools - under federal law, public schools already have to make their service available to students of non-public schools and homeschooled students. They don't do it, but they are supposed to. When my sons transfered to Catholic school, I tried to keep them in speach therapy, and the public schools just 're-evaluated' them and decided they no longer needed services. (actually, what they said in the diagnoisis was 'any remaining speach pattern problems are clearly 'Twin Syndrome'.' What does it matter what's causing it? if they need speach therapy, then they need it. sheesh.)
Many counties have 'book warehouses' where discarded text books are avialable to any member of the public who wishes to pick them up - you just wander through and pick what you want.
As to 'scholarships for special needs' - you are right. The law does already require that ALL children have an education provided for them. What the law requires is that, if a county can not provide a program for a particular need, they must pick up the private school tution where it can be provided. This is what parents 'win' when they sue the county for not providing for their childs education. However, again, unless they loose a lawsuit, they seldom do it. They just fail to recognize the need. In my hometown, it is well known that the public schools evalution team never diagnoises Dslyxia, because the public school has no program for it. There is a good private school for it, and the private school runs a saturday school for public school parents who can't afford full tution at their school - and all the parents talk about trying to get the public schools to recognize their child's dyslexia. My sister had a step son years ago so Dyslexic that in fifth grade he was essentially a non-reader. She had to fight to get him evaluated, and the evaluator told her - He has low self esteem, because he is a big child. Not fat, just solid - a football players build. His self esteem is sure to go up in high school, if he gets on the football team. In the mean time - do not even BUY peanut butter. There is no reason that there should even be peanut butter in your house. My sister was incredibulus. She said, 'are you telling me my son can't read because he eats peanut butter? If you are talking about his weight or size - I have to point out, there are an awful lot of very fat kids who read pretty well.'
Oh, I whole-heartedly agree that homeschooled students are still supposed to receive services based on special needs. What he was talking about was students using the gym and athletic equipment, I'm assuming band equipment, too. He also talked about them using the school libraries. I think school systems would shutter at the thought of the liability issues that would bring up and would be wringing their hands over the potential law suits looming over them.
The private school in your area sounds like a true blessing. I wish all areas had such a great resource. I'm truly appalled that your sister was told her child was fat. I'd have gotten someone fired over that comment!
Hi ritarene. Your experience sounds like it was very unpleasant. As a longtime homeschooler, I understand completely. But to clarify something, not all public school districts will provide special education services for homeschooled students. There have been lawsuits and districts have won. Also, even in districts where services may be available legally for homeschoolers, many parents may be reticent to approach the public district in fear of what oversight may be suggested.
Homeschooling in many places is synonymous with believing in certain religious tenets. However, there are as many types of homeschooling families as there are types of families. I hope you won't be left with a sour taste about homeschooling simply because this meeting was offensive to you.
Oh, I'm not the least bit criticizing homeschooling families. My qualm is with the organization that supposedly encompasses "ALL" parents for educational freedom not recognizing that there are more than "Christian" families out there. That was the purpose for my rant in the first place. I was highly upset that I was brought to this "forum" under false pretenses.
I do have discourse with what the politician stated he would propose in office not for the fact that he believes in what he says but for the fact that he is so naive in his thinking. I expect someone running for Govenor to understand the laws surrounding their positions and not make impossible "promises" to constituents. In many of his statements on what he would do in office, Federal laws are in place that completely nullify his proposals. Yet, he has now put ideas into the heads of homeschooling and private school parents that if he is elected, they will be getting to use facilities at public schools and will get tuition subsidies.