Statistics on home education in Pennsylvania for the 2004-2005 school year have been released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). This report includes students ages 5-18, but excludes those students under age 8 who do not need to do affidavits, portfolios, etc., as well as those following the private tutoring law or the cyber charter law. Those statistics show that this year only 3 school districts are reporting no homeschooled students. Therefore, for the 2004-2005 school year Austin Area (Potter County), Bristol Borough (Bucks County) and Clairton City (Allegheny County) are the only three of the state’s 501 school districts to have no homeschool students of reportable age.
The school year’s total number of students following the Home Education Law numbered 23,287 which is a statewide decrease of 789 students from the prior year. This is more than double the loss of the prior year. The largest number of home-educated students was in 2002-2003 when the total was 24,415. Decreases in the growth of home education have only occurred in three of the past four years. Cyber charter school growth is presumed to be affecting the slower growth.
Students under the Home Education Law
Elementary 10,352 + Secondary 12,635 = 23,287
Cyber Charter School Students
Elementary 4,523 + Secondary 3,179 = 7,702
Therefore, homeschooled students represented only 1.1% of the state’s 2,119,481 students (which also represents a drop in the state’s total student population of 4,387 or a total of 10,311 in the past two years). In 41 of the state’s 67 counties there were decreases in the number of home-educated students, with 40 of the 67 counties reporting 250 or less homeschoolers.
The five counties with the largest homeschool populations are Lancaster (2,558 students), York (1,573), Berks (1,256), Allegheny (1,198), and Chester (1,055). Lancaster, York and Berks Counties alone accounted for 23% of the home-educated students. Nearly 1 in every 11 students resides in Lancaster County alone, which has reported the largest homeschool population ever since passage of the current law in 1988. The largest overall concentration of home-educated students is in the southeastern part of the state extending from York to Bucks Counties and in Allegheny County (the Pittsburgh area). The five counties with the smallest homeschool populations are Cameron (12), Forest (17), Sullivan (17), Elk (23), and Fulton (33).
The age with the largest number of students was age 9 with 2,415 students. The prior year’s largest age group was age 13. In the 2004-2005 school year students ages 11 and under represented 44.5% of the homeschoolers. For the same year 58.7% of the students in cyber charters were elementary aged. In the 1988-1989 school year, almost 70% of all students were below age 12. Now 55.5% are aged 12 and above. Otherwise, the increased number of co-ops for high schoolers, colleges welcoming homeschooled high schoolers, reports of successful transition to college, and any other number of factors including disappoint-ment with the institutional junior highs and high schools could be responsible for this shift.
In 2004-2005, 2.74% of homeschoolers were identified as special needs students. As typically reported, one-fifth or 138 of the 639 special needs students received services from their district. This report does not specify whether the other four-fifths chose to receive services elsewhere, needed no special services, or were denied services by their school district.
In this report, 245 (an increase of 8) of the 501 school districts (48.9%) permit homeschoolers to take some academic courses at district schools. Also, 290 (an increase of 20) of the 501 public school districts (57.9%) permit homeschoolers to participate in extra-curricular activities. This type of ‘homeschool friendli-ness’ has continued to improve steadily without any legislative requirement to do so. However, reports of all other forms of harassment continue to increase each year. Despite this, the first change in the Home Education Law in 18 years was to deal with access to public school sports, not improving the problems with the current law. Please see issue #60 for more details.
The number of students receiving curriculum from their district was 13.8%. There is no information on the number of students who were refused curriculum versus the number who received it despite the law’s very clear mandate that districts provide ‘copies of planned courses, textbooks and other curriculum materials’ to those who request it.
Most importantly, if the appropriateness of the home education program is deemed inappropriate, then the current home education law stipulates that the program for that student is to be challenged with a due process hearing. Only 0.06% of all home education programs in the state reportedly went to due process. However, we are not aware of any such cases that year. Those home education programs deemed inappropriate by evaluators was five times greater than the number reportedly challenged by due process. Those home education programs reported to the PDE as deemed inappropriate by the superintend-ents was more than 14 times greater than the number known to have been actually challenged by due process. The reason for this discrepancy is not known, but it could reflect harassment on the part of hostile school districts and/or evaluators who try to impose demands beyond those required by law even though an appropriate education may be taking place.
Affidavits returned by superintendent 26 (0.11%) Procedure not provided for in Law
Students deemed inappropriate by evaluator 62 (0.27%)
Students deemed inappropriate by superintendent 203 (0.87%) 5 times more than evaluators allegedly reported
Due process hearings 15 (0.06%) only 1 in 14 allegedly deemed inappropriate by superintendent are reported
to be taken to a due process hearing
Requests for curricular materials (books, etc) 3,226 (13.8%)
As reported, those public school districts who claimed challenging home education programs with due process hearings are listed below: Butler County—1 Mars Area SD (same 2nd year in a row); Clarion County—1 Keystone SD, 1 Redbank Valley SD; Delaware County—1 Penn-Delco SD; Elk County—Saint Marys Areas SD; Erie County—1 Corry Area SD; Forest County—1 Forest Area SD; Indiana County—1 Homer-Center SD (same 2nd year in a row); Perry County—3 Susquenita SD; Susquehanna County—1 Forest City Regional SD (one less than last year); Venango County—1 Titusville Area SD (same 2nd year in a row); Wayne County –1 Wayne Highlands SD. Therefore, all of the due process hearings took place in 12 of the 501 districts. In other words, only 2% of all districts claim they found students with a home education program which they challenged with legal proceedings. That also means that 489 or 98% of the school districts found no reason to challenge the students’ home education programs. These districts averaged 41 home-educated students per district. The results of those hearings are not given. The city of Philadelphia with 514 homeschoolers (the most of any district in the state) reported no hearings. We would like to hear from anyone who has been challenged with a due process hearing to confirm their occurrence and outcome.
For a free copy of this report and the district-by-district statistics, see the PDE’s report available on the internet at the PA Department of Education website.
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