Earlier this month, we published an article here on The Minuteman listing 105 reasons to homeschool your children. For the most part, the list came from suggestions sent in from readers of The Minuteman. It’s a great list. I highly recommend you go back and read it if you haven’t already. And today, the Bismarck Tribune published a fascinating article entitled, "School Choice Options Gain Momentum in North Dakota."
While there’s been an increase in the number of private school students (from 6,442 in 2012 to 7,293 for the 2016-2017 school year), it is the number of homeschool students that has skyrocketed. In 2016 there were 119 of the 178 school districts in the state that reported a total of 2,345 homeschool students, which is nearly double what it was in 2012.
When compared to the overall numbers in education, these numbers are small. But how can anyone ignore the trend that North Dakota is experiencing, when an increasing number of parents are seeking alternatives to public education for their children?
The fact that more parents are seeking alternatives should come as no surprise. With the shifts that are taking place in our society, many parents find themselves increasingly at odds with what is taught as acceptable in public education and to the public education environment. And when this happens, what are parents to do? They have two choices; either subject their children to an environment they find objectionable or provide them with an alternative.
Now, to be fair, many parents that choose alternative education routes do so because they find them superior, not simply because they find public education so objectionable. But I think it’s safe to say that these parents are not what is driving the current trend.
The debate, in part, that Rep. Rick C. Becker (R – District 7) opened up with his School Choice bill – that was amended to a study in the House and later failed in the Senate – was whether parents should be limited to public education only with state dollars? Or should parents have the opportunity for the per pupil funding to follow the child and allow parents to utilize that funding towards alternative educational choices? It appears there’s some constitutional issues that may need resolved if Becker’s bill is to be reconsidered in the future, but it’s a fascinating debate and one that I hope we have not heard the end of.
Any product becomes better with competition. Whether it’s clothing, an appliance, a vehicle, or a myriad of other products on market; the best products have become such largely because of competition. It shouldn’t be any different with education. As it stands now, there is a monopoly on education in the State of North Dakota known as public education. If the monopoly is to be broken, it will be because of superior educational choices. This is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. Breaking the public education monopoly will improve education all the way around… including public education itself. Schools will compete or parents will go elsewhere to educate their children. It’s that simple.
Governor Doug Burgum addressed the need to reform education in his State of the State address earlier this year. Then he expressed his confidence in North Dakota’s future in education this way:
"… I believe North Dakota can lead the way in education across America. Our schools can be world-class in preparing our students for the 21st century. Let me say that again: North Dakota schools can be the best in the world."
Governor Burgum is right. North Dakota schools (including home schools) can be the best in the world. And the sooner we embrace school choice, restore parental control, and break the public education monopoly; the sooner those words will become a reality. The Exodus has begun. Let’s embrace it.