Homeschooling continues to grow, according to a recent white paper by researchers at the Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts think tank dedicated to free market principles and individual liberty and responsibility. 

The study’s authors, William Donovan and William Heuer, call homeschooling, “the country’s fastest-growing alternative educational option.”

An estimated 1.8 million students, or about 3.4 percent of all K-12 students, are attending homeschools, according to 2012 statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics. 

That translates into about 17,323 homeschooled students in Kansas, according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education.

Kansas doesn’t track the numbers of homeschooled students, but home schools are supposed to register with the state as non-accredited private schools. And those non-accredited private schools can educate more than one child. The Pioneer Institute study revealed homeschoolers tend to live in larger families, and home educated students are more likely to live in two-parent homes. There are more than 50,000 non-accredited private schools registered in the Sunflower State, but according to the Kansas Department of Education, some likely are inactive. Nationwide, homeschooled students are more likely to live in rural areas than in suburban areas. In urban areas, the percentage of homeschoolers is similar to that of traditional students, researchers said.

According to the white paper, homeschooling also is becoming more diverse. White students comprise about 68 percent of the homeschooling population. Hispanics make up about 15 percent of those homeschooled and black students account for 8 percent.

“Though alternative schools have been castigated for lack of diversity compared to traditional public schools, homeschooling has actually been rapidly closing some of these diversity gaps,” the study reads.

According to researchers, homeschooling has reached critical mass.

“Rather than marginalize homeschoolers, the traditional education community should grant them a seat at the education reform table,” they write. “As learning, rather than schooling, becomes more the norm there may be much that traditional schools can learn from homeschoolers.”

They note that families incur the costs of homeschooling, paying for their own books, technology, and supplies. A 2017 analysis by the Minnesota think tank, Intellectual Takeout, estimated that Kansas taxpayers saved approximately $145 million thanks to home educated children. Their estimates total about $6 billion in savings nationwide, but the report acknowledged their estimates are conservative and say the savings could be as high as $22 billion annually.

The Pioneer Institute research concludes with a list of recommendations to policymakers, including providing homeschooling information to parents, teachers and district officials and allowing homeschoolers access to extracurricular activities.

The researchers recommend that policymakers acknowledge homeschooling as a valid educational tool.

“Lending unbiased recognition would increase parental choice and potentially save financial resources for publicly funded schools,” they write.

They caution policymakers about voucher programs for homeschooling families.

“As counterintuitive as it may seem, many existing homeschoolers are not in favor of being included in any voucher initiatives that would provide monetary assistance for their educational expenses,” they write. Some fear vouchers would come with strings attached. 

“Any legislation must be cognizant of this diversity of opinion and ensure that in the spirit of choice there would be an opt-out provision,” the researchers conclude.

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