Public school at home serves a great number of families in Oklahoma and we are pleased that the opportunity is available to these families. However, we have been bombarded with questions from people asking how they can “homeschool” using the public school system and the term “publicly-funded homeschooling” has even been mentioned. Either of those terminologies shows a total lack of understanding or perhaps even a disregard about the purpose and even cause of home education. In fact, we believe either of those terms to be an oxymoron which Merriam-Webster defines as “a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings.”
In our nation’s early history, families either taught their children at home, or they were taught in private brick and mortar schools. Public schools were basically non-existent and our nation’s literacy rate was very high.
"Under our form of government . . . the home is considered the key stone of the governmental structure."
In the early days of Oklahoma and Indian territories, four choices of education were available: subscription- privately funded and run by parents; mission- funded and run by the church; tribal- funded by government appointed agencies, and home schools -funded and controlled by the parent. The type of school one attended was limited by the availability and proximity of where one lived with home schools being the exception. As a general rule, American Indian children had accessibility to all types of schools, with blacks and whites having access to subscription, home, and mission schools. Subscription schools were privately funded by a monthly tuition the parents would pay to the teachers. In addition, the students were responsible for furnishing their own books and slates. Because the teacher was responsible for securing a location for the school, it was not uncommon for classes to be held in a tent, dugout, home, or church in new towns and communities across the territory providing thousands of students with a quality education.
In 1890, the passage of the Organic Act marked the beginning of the end of subscription schools in Oklahoma Territory by providing for the establishment of public school districts in the organized counties. In Indian Territory some subscription schools continued until the passage of the Curtis Act of 1898, which authorized the establishment of free public schools. In 1907, at statehood, the Oklahoma Constitution called for the establishment of free public schools for all children funded through taxes and bond revenues as well as recognizing private and other means of education as viable methods to educate children.
Section 4, Art. 13 of the Oklahoma Constitution guarantees the home education exemption by stating that the legislature "shall" provide for the "compulsory attendance at some public or other school, unless other means of education are provided, of all children in the State who are sound in mind and body, between the ages of eight and sixteen, for at least three months each year."
[Note: This is original wording from the Oklahoma Constitution.]
It seems quite evident that the "other means of education" language is directly applicable to homeschooling since it was added for the specific purpose of protecting the right of parents to choose homeschooling. In 1907, during the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, one of the delegates, Mr. Buchanan, proposed that the phrase "unless other means of education be provided" be added to Article 13, Section 4. Favorably responding to Mr. Buchanan's proposal, another delegate, Mr. Baker stated, "I think Mr. Buchanan has suggested a solution. A man's own experience sometimes will teach him. I have two little fellows that are not attending a public school because it is too far for them to walk and their mother makes them study four hours a day."
As a result of this discussion on home education, the "other means of education" language was added to Article 13, Section 4.
Under our form of government . . . the home is considered the key stone of the governmental structure. In this empire, parents rule supreme during the minority of their children . . . they may . . . withdraw them entirely from public schools and send them to private schools or provide for them other means of education. Oklahoma Supreme Court, School Brd. Dist. No. 18 v. Thompson, 103 P. 578, 24 Okla. (1909) Numerous other cases support parental rights as well as the First Amendment that protects the religious liberty of faith-based home educators.
“The nine scariest words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
We understand that whoever funds education controls the education and vehemently oppose public funding for homeschoolers so that parents can maintain control of their child’s education. If the state wants to cut taxes to allow families to keep more of our money, we believe that would be a wonderful idea that would help many families. Unfortunately, once tax dollars funnel through the government, it must be viewed as tainted. Taxpayer dollars must accompany taxpayer accountability as we have seen evidenced in states who have chosen to use a voucher system. In fact, bills have been filed this session to increase accountability and regulations on those who are using the virtual charter schools in Oklahoma.
Home educators need to be very wary of any politician or lobbyist who wants to “help” us with government funding. That is the type of “help” that Ronald Reagan warned us about when he said, “The nine scariest words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Home educators have proven that we can provide a superior education at a reasonable cost, allowing families of all income levels to home educators. It takes motivation, commitment, and perseverance and those are qualities that money cannot buy.
Will you stand with the Constitutional Home Educators Alliance as we work to protect and maintain a parent’s right to direct the education and upbringing of their child apart from government involvement? Doing so will ensure that we can pass the baton to the next generation of home educators.