Home Schooling Wins Acceptance

Published November 1, 1998

When public school teacher David Guterson published his book, Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, in 1992, homeschoolers numbered just 300,000, and public reaction was decidedly negative.

Now, with homeschoolers numbering an estimated 1.5 million, people are much more receptive to the idea of teaching children at home.

“It is no longer perceived as a fringe movement,” says Guterson, noting that some school administrators are promoting cooperation with homeschoolers and designing support programs for them. “Home schooling has at last gained legitimacy among the educational alternatives available to Americans.”

Part of what has changed is technology-driven, with high-speed personal computers, the Internet, sophisticated educational software, videotapes, and special-interest newsletters and magazines. Homeschooling parents today are “reinventing the idea of school,” according to Patricia Lines, a senior research analyst for the US Department of Education.

The change has also been spurred by a greater awareness of choice in education. “Americans are becoming fussy consumers rather than trusting captives of a state monopoly,” says Chester Finn, a senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based Hudson Institute. “They’ve declared their independence and are taking matters into their own hands.”

The best explanation is that “homeschooling simply works,” says Guterson. “Homeschoolers, on the whole, are soundly educated, perform well on standardized tests, go on to attend good colleges and universities and, as adults, thrive variously,” he adds.
October 5, 1998

Vouchers Promoted for Philadelphia

Catholic schools in the five-county Archdiocese of Philadelphia save state taxpayers close to $1 billion a year by educating children at private expense, according to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. But Catholic parents who send their children to those schools carry a double burden: Paying tuition for their own child while also paying taxes to fund the public schools. Many parents often decide not to enroll their children in their local parochial school, noted the Cardinal, because they “cannot afford the twin costs of taxes and tuition.”

“Our families do not ask for special treatment,” said Bevilacqua, speaking at a rally on October 2 at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Pennsylvania. “All we ask for–all we demand–is equal treatment.”

Echoing a proposal he had made earlier this year to Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Public Schools Superintendent David W. Hornbeck, the Cardinal called for taxpayer-financed tuition vouchers to provide equal treatment to Catholic parents. His plan is modeled after a voucher measure approved last year by the Southeast Delco School Board, which approved the distribution of a tuition voucher of up to $1,000 to district students who chose to attend a nongovernment school.
Philadelphia Inquirer
October 3, 1998

Shortage of Skilled Workers in US . . .

Responding to industry concerns about the shortage of skilled workers needed to support the continuing growth of high-tech industries in Silicon Valley, Congress and the White House recently agreed to import the needed engineers from overseas. The agreement will allow 142,000 more highly skilled foreign workers to enter the US than permitted under current law.

“It’s very important that we not be inhibited,” Roger Coke, a personnel executive with Texas Instruments Inc., told The Wall Street Journal.

While the agreement satisfied the short-term needs of Silicon Valley executives, it raised concerns about the failure of the US public education system to prepare youngsters for work and to produce those skilled workers itself. It’s not just that “Johnny can’t read,” noted Los Angeles Times columnist James Flanigan, but that now he can’t do math and doesn’t know geography or history either.

“There is something seriously wrong with the public schools,” concluded Flanigan. “With more than $300 billion a year of public money spent on primary and secondary education, US students should rank better than dismal in comparisons with students of other countries, and US companies should not be crying out for competent employees.”

“Millions of poor American kids could qualify for these good jobs if only they got a decent education,” he said.
The Wall Street Journal–September 24, 1998
Los Angeles Times–October 4, 1998

. . . But Students Shun Computer Careers

At a time when manpower shortages in the computer and information sciences fields run into the hundreds of thousands, only about 3 percent of the approximately 1 million students who took ACT’s college entrance and placement exam in the past year picked those fields as their primary vocational choice, according to ACT’s 1998 National Data Release. The US Department of Labor predicts that the number of jobs in those fields will double in the next eight years, compounding the current shortage.

Instead, the students–representing some 60 percent of America’s entering college freshmen–want jobs in health care, business, education, and the social sciences, even though job growth rates and starting salaries are expected to be lower in those categories than in computer-related fields. Starting salaries for new computer science graduates currently average $41,500, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

“Students’ career aspirations seem to be somewhat out of sync with the jobs that will be available for many of them,” noted ACT president Richard L. Ferguson.

While part of this may be due to a lack of information about computer careers and the “nerd” image of computer professionals, the job market for college graduates in many fields is excellent right now.
American College Testing Service
August 26, 1998