KIMBERLEY (NEWS1130) – A petition to restore funding for a type of homeschooling program in B.C. is picking up steam.
Earlier this month, the province slashed $12-million from the Independent Distributed Learning school system, which enables kids to learn at home while connected online with a certified B.C. teacher.
The government says more than 9,300 primary students are enrolled in 16 schools throughout the system. It’s not clear how many secondary students are in the IDL program, but there are likely another couple of thousand.
Since 2012, the system had received $3,843 per student per year, which is 63 per cent of what is provided for students of the public distributed learning system.
This coming school year, that is dropping to $3,050 per student enrolled in IDL schools, about $800 less per year.
That prompted Daleen Bybee of Kimberley to launch a petition, which has garnered more than 12,000 signatures as of Monday morning.
“It’s so awesome. I hope the message is getting to the right people,” she says, of the response the petition is getting.
Bybee’s two teenagers attend Heritage Christian Online School. In fact, they’ve never attended school, per se. Bybee says her interest in this type of homeschooling began before the kids were school age.
“My oldest had a speech delay, so to get him talking, we started to teach him at home when he was only three years old.”
Bybee says in that process, she found she loved teaching her kids and having them at home. She’s convinced her children wouldn’t have been able to sit still in a classroom. “But, they do well at home because they take breaks,” she explains.
They are now both in Grade 10. “One of the things I love about home learning is, it’s flexible.”
She notes people who choose home learning do so for a variety of reasons. Some have children who need more attention or are gifted. One parent who left a comment on the petition said her child was suspended from school four times and was mentally broken.
In Bybee’s case, the school doesn’t charge tuition. The province says 15 of the 16 IDL schools are fee-free. However, Bybee points out parents need to buy supplies that are normally found in a classroom.
“There is a bucket of money that we can access each year to purchase things like textbooks, work books, science kits or chemistry equipment.”
She fears the budget cut is going to reduce the amount of money they can draw upon.
“It costs quite a bit of money to facilitate all the learning for your child. I think the average family spends between $1,000 and $1,500 per student per year outside the funding that is available,” she says.
“So that’s why it’s such a huge hit, because families are going to be directly affected by these decreases in funding. Looking at this coming school year I’m already asking myself, ‘What can I make due with?'”
Home learning is largely achieved with a parent at home, meaning the other partner is the sole breadwinner.
“For home schooling families to have the funding to pay for curriculum necessities and other programming that usually comes in a classroom setting is very important.”
The petition also notes the irony of funding cuts coming at a time when students across the province are learning at home.
“This cut targets some of the most vulnerable students in our province. The timing of this announcement comes at a time of economic hardship for many and will further reduce options for parents regarding educational choice for their children. It is also a time when online learning should be valued, celebrated and supported,” reads the petition.
“Just because I teach my children at home under certified BC teachers and up to and beyond ministry standards DOES NOT mean my children are second rate, second class and not worth the funds for a decent education that I’m ALREADY paying plenty of taxes for,” says one comment left by a parent on the petition website.
The province says the cuts are meant to equalize the payments going to all independent schools. Brick-and-mortar independent schools receive only half of what public schools receive per students, and the reduction in IDL funding would also bring it in line with 50 per cent of what public distributed learning programs get.
The Ministry of Education also stresses that funding for students enrolled in the public distributed learning programs is unaffected, and that students with special needs will continue to receive funding at the same level.