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State Superintendent: It’s the Homeschoolers’ Fault

by Mike Donnelly • November 15, 2019

The latest attempt by West Virginia public school officials to scapegoat homeschooling was reported in the Metronews at the monthly State Board of Education meeting.

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine told board members that a recent decline in public school enrollment was due in part to students withdrawing to homeschool.

“Attendance officers and superintendents are telling us that a lot of these folks are bailing out because we’re putting a lot of pressure on them to go to school and behave,” said Paine. He added, “I have respect for people who want to homeschool their kids and do it the right way.”

People are bailing out of public schools because they are among the worst performing in the nation and cannot keep children safe. I previously responded to attendance directors here.

Dr. Paine’s remarks that parents are opting to homeschool because of a pressure on their children “to behave” is condescending and misses what is really going on. Parents are starved for an educational environment that is safe and delivers what they want for their children. To minimize the reasons parents are choosing to homeschool means that Dr. Paine and his fellow establishment bureaucrats have misdiagnosed the problems in their own backyard. And trying to point the finger at homeschoolers as costing the schools money or homeschooling just because they won’t “behave” is insulting to the families and children of the state.

Although I don’t see a growing homeschooling population as a problem, Dr. Paine certainly won’t solve it by insulting parents and children. There are serious and dramatic problems in West Virginia schools, not the least of which is its perennially bottom-of-the-cellar rankings on NAEP testing as well as the increasing reports about abuse of children—by other students but also teachers. Who wouldn’t want to escape a situation like that?

Paine wasn’t finished however, calling for “more accountability.”

“I would really like to see us address that through state Board policy and, perhaps, legislative actions as well,” he said.

Is it ironic that one of the highest-paid state level education officials in the country overseeing one of the lowest performing school systems would like to see more “accountability” from homeschoolers?

I’ll give Superintendent Paine the same advice I gave to Harrison County officials.

“Spend more time worrying about your own schools and students and less about families who choose not to be part of the ‘system.’ ”

What legislators really need to do is make it much easier for parents in West Virginia to escape a struggling system. I’m calling on the West Virginia Legislature to remove burdens and obstacles for parents who would homeschool or choose a private education. Parents are the ones who know what is best for their children, and the legislature has a duty to remove unnecessary hurdles from parents pursuing other options for their children’s education.

If Dr. Paine makes good on his threat to impose more burdens on homeschooling families, he will not find the homeschooling community unprepared.

Michael Donnelly

Senior Counsel, Director of Global Outreach

Mike is an attorney, writer, adjunct professor of government, and frequent media spokesperson on homeschooling, freedom, and parental rights. Read more.

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