Sunday, June 21, 2009

In my ongoing search for information and studies on the impact of home-schooling, I found an interesting study by John Wenders and Andrea Clements called “Homeschooling in Nevada: The Budgetary Impact.”

This study, sponsored by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, an independent research organization that neither seeks nor accepts any government funding, is fascinating for a number of reasons. The one that really caught my eye is it found that home-schooling actually benefits the school systems’ budgetary bottom lines.

One of the frequently voiced complaints against home-schooling by the educational establishment has been that it “drains resources” from public schools. You see, each district receives funds based on the number of pupils enrolled there, so fewer pupils equals less money, according to this concept.

What Mr. Wenders and Miss Clements found, however, was that home-schoolers save the state of Nevada between $24 million and $34 million per year, decreasing schools’ expenses far more than the decrease in revenues, thus creating a net gain for the school districts.

In addition to dispelling the myth that home-schoolers — who pay taxes for schools that they don’t use — are somehow costing schools money, the authors cite studies by other researchers that show the value of home-schooling in other areas: home-schoolers have higher self-esteem, fewer behavior disorders, better academic performance, and more college attendance than their peers in public and private schools.

A similar study by the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education found that students educated at home or in private schools saved North Carolina taxpayers $1.3 billion in 2006-2007. Private school students there numbered 98,000, but home-schoolers were a healthy 70,000 — about 42 percent of the students not in public school. The savings created by North Carolina home-schoolers alone totals about $546 million in a school year.

Home-schoolers’ significantly better academic results help taxpayers in another way, by eliminating the loss of revenue and increase of expenditures caused by imprisonment.

The U.S. Department of Justice tells us that “the typical offender is undereducated, unemployed and living in poverty before incarceration.” Researchers report high rates of illiteracy (19 percent) and functional illiteracy (60 percent) among inmates.

Forty-two million Americans are unable to read and another 50 million are unable to read well enough to function, according to the National Right to Read Foundation. Combine that with high unemployment due to the economic downturn, and our prison population is likely to increase. Not only is a prisoner not working and paying into the tax base, but each prisoner costs taxpayers more than $22,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Home-schooling can prevent the loss of human potential by giving kids solid academic skills and enabling parents to transmit values and faith to their children, and to give them solid life-skills training. This can translate into savings for the taxpayer, both in the costs of education and the costs of educational failure.

Of course, parents may not think of home-schooling as a way to lower the tax burden or reduce the rate of incarceration. Most just think, “I want the best for my children.” But it’s interesting to see how what’s good for the family often also ends up being good for society.

• Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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