Bennett’s Role in Promoting Public
E-Schools Undermines Homeschooling
illiam Bennett is known as a ers can collect tax money rather than Standriff: And certainly here in the state
conservative, former U. S. having to convince parents to pay for of Ohio the issue of school choice has
Secretary of Education under the program themselves. Thus they can come up. What kind of opposition have
Reagan, and editor of books such as The charge more money (often more than you folks found?
Book of Virtues. In the past, a significant $5,000 per student per year) than most Bennett: We found opposition from both
number of homeschoolers may have parents could afford to pay. sides of the political spectrum. Some the
appreciated Bennett's position on some omeschoolers are a key to this homeschooling people have opposed us.
issues. However, it is important to under- whole enterprise. Milken and
stand that in his role as a key developer Bennett are building on the suc- Standriff: O really, I would think this would
and promoter of public e-schools, cess of homeschooling where parents be right in line with their thinking.
Bennett is acting in ways that disregard who are not certified teachers have been Bennett: Well it should be. Frankly, I’m
our interests as homeschoolers and very effective in educating their own disappointed. I’ve been defending home -
undermine our homeschooling freedoms. children in their homes. Homeschooled schoolers for twenty years. But the prin -
It is important to see Bennett's children are well socialized despite their ciple I’m definding, Mark, is school
actions in the context of Michael Milken's lack of experience in a conventional choice, parental choice. The objection
Knowledge Universe (KU). Milken is the classroom. (Note: Many homeschoolers they have is that it shouldn’t be involved
former "junk bond king" who made as would say it is BECAUSE OF this lack of in public funding, at all. It shouldn’t be
much as $500 million annually while experience.) Thousands of grown home- involved with government schools, as
dealing in junk bonds, according to schoolers are now successful adults, they say. But, I’m not prepared to relin -
www.Forbes.com for September, 2001 at employees, and college students. quish $400 billion and just say, well
http://www.forbes.com/asap/2001/091 Without evidence provided by the suc- never mind, this is not money that I’m
0/064.html. (Forbes is a well regarded cess of the modern homeschooling entitled to. Parents are paying that
business magazine.) Milken was then movement, Milken, Bennett, and others money in taxes, they should have an
convicted of felony and served time in would be having a much more difficult option within the public school system
prison. His latest venture, KU, is a huge time launching their enterprise and that gives them a chance to educate their
enterprise based on providing e-learning convincing investors and potential par- children at home, but be publicly account -
via the Internet from cradle to grave, that ticipants that it is a reasonable idea. able as all public schools should be.
is, for preschoolers through 12th graders, n pursuing the K12 Inc. public e- learly, Bennett disagrees with
career counseling, job training, and even school initiative, Bennett and the most homeschooling parents
retired people. As of September, 2001, KU K12 Inc. organization have disre- about the importance of being
consisted of nearly 50 companies, many garded homeschoolers' concerns and independent of public schools. As home-
of them interlocked, and was worth an have refused to take seriously how pub- schoolers we want to maintain responsi-
estimated $1.75 billion. (For more details, lic e-schools will affect us homeschool- bility for our children's education, not
see the Forbes article cited above.) ers and our homeschooling freedoms. In turn it over to the state. We want some-
hus, while Bennett is chairman of marketing public e-schools, K12 Inc. thing different from what public schools
K12 Inc., he doesn’t own it, and it has targeted homeschoolers by using offer and from the very limited curricu-
wasn’t his idea. According to an lists of homeschoolers' names and lums public e-schools offer.
article from Business Week Online post- repeatedly and aggressively contacting The $400 billion Bennett refers to is
ed on Bennett's web site, Milken and many of us through direct mail, phone, the estimated amount American taxpay-
Ron Packard (now the CEO for K12 Inc.) and the Internet. ers spend on public schools each year.
approached Bennett and asked him to Bennet and the K12 Inc. organiza- To be sure $400 billion is a lot of money.
chair a company they were organizing tion have argued that parents need a But we homeschoolers realize that if we
that has become K12 Inc. Bennett range of choices, and public e-schools take money from the state, we will lose
agreed, even though he had written in are just another choice. However, the our homeschooling freedoms. And
1999 in The Educated Child (a book he basic dif ference between supporters of Bennett doesn’t even acknowledge that
co-authored with John T. E. Cribb and public e-schools and the vast majority public e-schools undermine home-
Chester E. Finn) that there is "no good of homeschoolers is that public e- schooling freedoms.
evidence that most uses of computers schoolers view parental choice as a mat- hile a significant number of
significantly improve learning." Milken ter of where public education occurs homeschoolers may have
provided $10 million to get K12 Inc. and homeschoolers view choice in terms appreciated Bennett's position
launched. Thus, Bennett is the chief of parents deciding what children will on some issues, clearly he is now using
spokesperson for a campaign to estab- be taught and taking responsibility for his reputation within the homeschool-
lish public e-schools run by K12 Inc. in that directly. We won’t have that choice ing community to gain a foothold on
several states, including WI. According and won’t be able to take responsibility using public money to educate children
to the K12 Inc. web site, in August of directly if public e-schools become in their homes. Therefore, we home-
this year alone, Bennett was scheduled known as homeschools because there schoolers need to let other homeschool-
to make 16 personal appearances at will be enormous pressure for the regu- ers and the general public know that
events to promote public e-schools part- lations that public e-schools are under Bennett's commitment to using public
nered with K12 Inc. in California, Idaho, because they are public schools to be money in this way runs counter to what
Ohio, and Pennsylvania. (K12 Inc. applied to homeschools. most homeschoolers want and would
scheduled 74 promotional events dur- The major differences between undermine the very nature of home-
ing August in those 4 states, an indica- Bennett's goals and those of most home- schooling as we know it. (See the article
tion of how aggressive their marketing schoolers can be seen clearly in on page 3 of this newsletter.) y
campaign is.) Bennett’s comments during an interview
Offering the K12 Inc. curriculum by Mark Standriff on WSPD radio in
through charter schools means promot- Toledo, Ohio, August 16, 2002.
PO Box 2502 • Madison WI 53701-2502 • Voice Mail 608.283.3131 • www.homeschooling-wpa.org