Thursday, January 21, 2021

Heath Brown's "Homeschooling the Right"

Heath Brown is an associate professor of public policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. He has worked at the US Congressional Budget Office as a Research Fellow, at the American Bus Association as a Policy Assistant, and at the Council of Graduate Schools as Research and Policy Director.

Brown applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Homeschooling the Right: How Conservative Education Activism Erodes the State, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Homeschooling the Right contains a table that shows how state homeschooling laws vary from tightly regulated to largely unregulated in comparison to how charter school laws vary. So, for example, Arkansas has a low regulation homeschool law but a high regulation charter school law, while Pennsylvania has a higher regulation homeschool law and a low regulation charter school law. In Pennsylvania, parents are required to have a high school diploma to be a homeschool teachers whereas in Arkansas there are no minimum education requirements.

A reader would get a very good idea of the whole work. One of the central arguments of the book is that these two school choice policies, homeschooling and charter schooling, that appear so similar actually function very differently. This is the result of very different coalitions of supporters of each policy, but also the consequence of the design of each, homeschooling which allows near total freedom to parents, even in a high regulation state, compared to charter schooling which remains largely embedded in the public school system. Page 99 shows this contrast in a clear way that a reader would appreciate the longer argument of the book without even reading another page.

If you read just page 99 of the book, you'd understand an analysis later in the book about the relationship between homeschool organizations and public policy. What makes homeschooling policy so unique is that it has created this vast network of state and local organizations, providing everything from curricular help, teacher mentoring, and lobbying. This is because the laws are designed to disconnect homeschool parents from many of the services they'd receive from a conventional public school. In contrast, charter schools remain connected to the public school system, so parents have fewer needs to be filled and are lest apt to form organizations.

This matters in the book because it seems like it is related to the state laws that I summarize on page 99. I find that homeschool organizations are more numerous in low-regulation states compared to high-regulation states. Arkansas, a low-regulation state, has around five homeschool organizations per 100 students, while Pennsylvania, a high-regulation state, has just under two.

It is this dense network of homeschooling organizations that has sustained the policy overtime, allowed homeschool activists to exert pressure on state legislators, and even to influence presidential campaigns. These are political dynamics largely absent from charter school politics, also because homeschoolers have faced much less organized opposition than charter school advocates, who confront strong opposition at every turn.
Learn more about Homeschooling the Right at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Immigrants and Electoral Politics.

--Marshal Zeringue