My Turn: Alyeska provides - by far - best home-school education

Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2003

As Alyeska home-school parents, we are writing in reply to Mr. Clark's letter (Empire, April 23) regarding Alyeska Central School.

As Mr. Clark said, education has changed in Alaska. The tightening budget has caused many school districts to look for money in other places and forming their own correspondence programs is one of the best scams going. A district can collect 85 percent of the foundation formula for each home school student. A district gets $3,800 for each enrolled home school student. They can then buy an off the shelf course from one of the many private enterprise home school mills and pocket the difference. You can purchase a home school program, fully administered, (in other words the local district school itself does nothing) for $1,000 per student. In some districts in California they will actually pay the parent to teach the child because they save so much money this way. The store-bought courses are computerized and one "teacher" can handle hundreds, if not thousands of students with computerized testing and assessment. Students suffer long lapses between sending in course work and receiving grades. This makes moving on in a subject very difficult. Imagine proceeding in a course only to find out a month or more later that the work you have sent in is invalid.

Alyeska has no ties to any district. They write their own courses that apply and adapt to Alaskan children, and can be phoned at any time for help. Alyeska also gets 85 percent of the foundation formula but it is used toward your child's education, not to build a gym or new classrooms that your child will never see as a home-school student. A parent that home schools through another district has no voting rights in that district. With Alyeska, the home-schooling parents make up the advisory council. Alyeska is the only accredited home school in the state. You might pick some on-line home school offered by a district and find your child cannot get into college because the courses have no accreditation.

Alyeska needs to be maintained as a state run or independent school so that no district can "gut" the program and use the funds for their own district's students. This is only fair to the students who are willing to undertake the discipline and hard work that are necessary to succeed with Alyeska's courses.

This school has a fine record of serving Alaskan students' needs since 1939. Why "fix" something that isn't broken? We are already getting more bang for our buck with ACS than anywhere else in this state's educational system.

Sitka has already decided to drop its home-school program because it is too costly to them to run it in a responsible manner. ACS parents have found that some of the district programs they have contacted are not willing to offer them the flexibility their students need due to learning disabilities, physical handicaps, or situational needs. Alyeska is already doing these things in an excellent manner.

We listened to the testimony on the bill to eliminate Alyeska and there were many questions concerning the actual money saved by closing the school. The reply was they did not know and would study it more. Eliminating any program saves money, but people wanted to know if this included the money it would cost to educate these children in another school. The Alyeska summer school allows a student to retake a class in order to graduate. If the student does not have access to summer school they will have to take another year of school at perhaps the full foundation formula, or as so many of these students do, drop out.

Alyeska allows them to graduate on time and face their future with a high school diploma.

It would be nice to have some "real" statistics, ones that would include the future costs to the state for the students who will drop through the ever-widening cracks in our educational system without ACS. Alyeska provides the best home-school education available and by eliminating it the state once again lowers our educational standards. We ask our representatives to please find out the truth of this bill to eliminate or change Alyeska and what the real costs will be.

Phil and Donna Emerson live in Funter Bay.

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