Benjamin Franklin acknowledged a great truth when he published, in his Poor Richard’s Almanack: “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”
Years ago my daughter took an interest in matters of the mind: the chemistry of the brain, the external influences on our development, and the like. One day she left a book that focuses on the impact that birth order has on our personalities on the kitchen counter. I opened it, scanned the table of contents for the chapter that deals with the youngest born, and skipped to that chapter. I was greeted, rather sarcastically, with an introductory sentence that anticipated the actions I had just taken. I was amused and taken aback, as I do not like to be predictable, but, of course, the author of the book knew that.
To know yourself and others is helpful in many ways. It can sharpen your awareness of what you value, provide a tactical advantage in business, and serve to guide a course of study for a student, to name a few. Hopefully, I’m not stretching the analogy too far. Just as it is valuable to know ourselves and others so we can deftly navigate humanity, it is also valuable to know who we are as homeschoolers so we appreciate how we are distinguished (and can remain so) from the other education options recognized in Arizona.
Arizona offers six education options. I will briefly describe each and draw attention to points of interest as well as common issues AFHE has seen as they relate to homeschooling.
The six education options Arizona offers are:
- Public School
- Charter School
- Arizona Online Instruction
- Private School
- Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA)
ARIZONA ON EDUCATION
Arizona Revised Statutes §15-802(A) states: “Every child between the age of six and sixteen shall attend a school and be provided instruction in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science. The person who has custody of the child shall choose a public, private, or charter school, or a homeschool as defined in this section to provide instruction, or shall sign a contract to participate in an Arizona empowerment scholarship account pursuant to section 15-2402.”
Note that this statute does not explicitly mention Arizona Online Instruction, which is also commonly known as Virtual Charter Schools. Arizona Online Instruction is managed by the Arizona State Board of Education and the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.
ARS §15-802(G)(2) defines a homeschool as a “nonpublic school conducted primarily by the parent, guardian or other person who has custody of the child, or nonpublic instruction provided in the child’s home.” In section (B)(2) of the same statute, the parent or custodian is required to file an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool stating that the student is being provided with instruction in a homeschool.
Homeschooling has been legal in the state since Arizona was admitted to the union in 1912. ARS §15-802.01(A) establishes the requirements that, if met, allow homeschooled students to “try out for interscholastic activities on behalf of the public school in the same manner as a pupil who is enrolled in that public school.”
Public schools are funded by the state and managed through school districts. Each school district is required to establish an open enrollment policy without charging tuition and to establish a transportation policy.
Charter schools are also tuition free and funded by the state. Most charter schools are operated independent of school districts by either non-profit or for-profit entities. Charter schools were created by the Arizona State Legislature in 1994 “to provide a learning environment that will improve pupil achievement.”
ARIZONA ONLINE INSTRUCTION/VIRTUAL CHARTER SCHOOL
Arizona Online Instruction is funded by the state and was established by the Arizona State Legislature “to meet the needs of pupils in the information age.” The State Board of Education and the State Board for Charter Schools jointly develop standards for online course providers and choose which schools under their respective purview may become online course providers.
Students of Arizona Online Instruction are subject to state testing requirements as a requirement to participate. Each school is required to maintain a daily log of the time each pupil spends participating in online instruction. Online students may also be enrolled in a public or charter school. The educational methodologies employed by the school are performed under the direction of a certified teacher.
Though Arizona Online Instruction is most often conducted in the home, it is not homeschooling because Arizona Online Instruction is a public school. As such it is subject to state testing and the involvement of a certified teacher.
ARS §15-802(G)(3) defines a private school as a “non-public institution, other than the child’s home, where academic instruction is provided for at least the same number of days and hours each year as a public school.” In section (B)(2) of the same statute, the parent or custodian is required to file a Private School Affidavit stating that the student is attending a regularly organized private school.
A variant of private school known as a Community School, which is partially conducted in the home (typically two days a week), also exists. This type of private school is not homeschooling because the instruction is not primarily conducted by the parent and is not primarily conducted in the home.
EMPOWERMENT SCHOLARSHIP ACCOUNT (ESA)
The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) is funded by the state and was created by the Arizona State Legislature to expand educational opportunities for children with special needs and other special populations including foster care children and children of active duty military. The program’s main purpose is to provide options for parents to freely choose how and where to educate their children with financial assistance from the state. State law governs its rules and regulations. Links to ESA state statutes can be found on the Arizona Department of Education website azed.gov/esa/laws-statutes.
An ESA student cannot be classified as a homeschooled student since ESA and homeschooling are mutually exclusive as defined by the following statutes:
ARS §15-2402(B)(1) and (5): “To enroll a qualified student for an empowerment scholarship account, the parent of the qualified student must sign an agreement to do all of the following: …Not file an affidavit of intent to homeschool pursuant to section 15-802, subsection B, paragraph 2 or 3.”
ARS §15-802(A): “The person who has custody of the child shall choose a public, private, or charter school, or a homeschool as defined in this section to provide instruction, or shall sign a contract to participate in an Arizona empowerment scholarship account pursuant to section 15-2402.”
There has been some confusion concerning homeschooling and ESA participation. Aiden Fleming, Legislative Liaison, Policy Development and Government Relations, Arizona Department of Education, provided the following background to explain how some of this confusion came to be. He alerted us that additional changes to laws pertaining to the ESA program are still to come.
“Prior to September 2012, the ESA office had instructed parents to file an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool for ESA contract students. Since then, the law has been changed to differentiate between homeschooling and the ESA. Another cause of confusion for parents considering the ESA program for their child is that during the initial implementation of the ESA program, the term ‘home school’ was used on our website for lack of a better way to define where the schooling would take place. The law now clearly differentiates between the two and we have instructed everyone in our office to remove the term ‘homeschooling’ from their vocabulary. We are starting a Facebook page that ESA parents can join to get daily updates of any change and to follow legislation during the next session.”
AFHE has confirmed with Aiden Fleming as well as Ana Vuletic, Homeschool Liaison, Maricopa County Education Services Agency, that ESA contract students are not considered homeschooled students and should not file an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool.
AFHE’s purpose in maintaining a clear distinction from other education options is to maintain the freedom we currently enjoy to direct the education of our children. One sure way to forfeit this freedom is to become the recipient of public funds or become mistaken with those that receive public funds. This is why AFHE sought and gained, within the Arizona statutes, a clear definition and spelling of homeschooling. Furthermore, it is our philosophy and collective experience that it is easier to prevent legislation than it is to remove legislation.
YOUR SUPPORT MATTERS
AFHE is a non-profit organization run by a volunteer board of directors, which has been serving the Arizona homeschool community and monitoring legislation that may affect the freedom to homeschool for over thirty years. It is through your membership, convention attendance, and donations that we are able to continue serving homeschool families in Arizona. Thank you for your support!
NOTE: The Arizona Revised Statutes referenced in this article can be found at www.azleg.gov.
Learn more about Arizona Homeschool Law
This article by Jon Callahan, former AFHE Board President, originally appeared in the AFHE Home Education Journal, Winter 2013