June 25, 2002

Wyoming Offers Services With Strings Attached

Home schoolers in Cody, Wyoming were recently surprised to receive a letter that boldly states, "The new federal legislation for funding federal programs includes requirements to offer services and inclusion in federally funded activities on a pro rata basis to all private and home school students." A few days later, home schoolers in Fremont County, Wyoming, received a letter with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Each family was asked to sign a statement indicating, "we are aware that the U.S. Education Department General Administrative Regulations, 34 CFR 76.650-76.662, require that subgrantees shall provide students enrolled in private or home schools with an opportunity for equitable participation." In both cases, the letters were careful to explain that any family chosing to participate in federally funded public education programs would be required to participate in the statewide assessment programs mandated for all public school students.

Home schoolers have long been aware that government benefits come with strings attached. These Wyoming letters are refreshingly explicit about the entanglements of participation in these programs. The Fremont County letter makes it clear that families must provide financial information in order to verify their free lunch eligibility, educational evaluations to verify eligibility for special education services, and full participation in the Wyoming Comprehensive Assessment System (WyCAS) testing. Few home schoolers are eager to give up their privacy so quickly. We would advise home schools not to participate, nor encourage their students to participate and receive government benefits or funds for educational purposes. With money and/or benefits will come control. These controls inevitably limit the freedom that has made home education a successful educational movement.