{ES} US Public Education Policy: Missing Voices

Executive Summary and Survey Data

Full article: U.S. Public Education Policy: Missing Voices
The article was originally published on IssueLab, a service of Foundation Center

Why Policymakers Should Care
Public education is a cornerstone of democracy. In the US, however, a growing number of families are withdrawing from the public school system, by choice or because that is their only option. ​Many of these families did try public school, but found it did not meet the needs of their children in that place and at that point in time.​ Dismissing all homeschoolers as anti-school would be an unfortunate mischaracterization.

Who are Homeschoolers?
We surveyed our community, and received nearly 500 responses from parents. Responding families averaged two children each, with 82% of children being under age 18 at the time of the survey. These children have a variety of learning challenges, including:

  • 75% have been formally or informally diagnosed as gifted
  • 31% are gifted ​AND ​ have learning disorders (twice-exceptional/2e)
  • 39% have autism spectrum disorders
  • 28% have processing issues
  • 16% have other issues (such as ADD/ADHD)
  • 14% have ​dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia
  • 14% have a medical condition

     executive summary missing voices

    Figure 1. What factors influenced your decision?

Why Homeschool?  (See Figure 1)

  • “No gifted services” and  “more family time” were the most important reasons. Following close behind were “no 2e support” and “bullying.”
  • “No gifted services” and “no 2e support” need to be better distinguished from one another in the future.
  • The response regarding “more family time” increased for each additional child within a family. This may be for family dynamics or for logistical purposes. It is also notable that if one child is gifted or 2e, the biological siblings are statistically more likely to be so as well.

Relationships with Public Schools
Whether or not respondents’ children are currently enrolled, public and private schools are part of the education decision-making process for most parents. Respondents indicated that their children are ​currently​ in one or more of the following educational environments:

  • 61% homeschooled
  • 17% enrolled in public school
  • 6% enrolled in private school
  • 5% enrolled in charter school
  • 3% enrolled in community college
  • 9% “other”
  • <1% enrolled in parochial school

Past and future education options were also provided.

  • 42% of children had attended public schools
  • 21% had attended private schools


  • 26% may enroll in public school
  • 19% may enroll in private school

In other words, even if these families are currently homeschooling, many have not discounted entering or re-entering the public school system in the future.

IDEA/Special Services
Over half of respondents have accessed special services for their children, whether through public schools or privately.

  •  40% of children received occupational therapy
  • 23% used one-on-one tutoring
  • 21% used technological tools
  • 42% received “other” services (speech and vision therapies appeared most in the comments)

Notably, public school districts either provided or paid for special services for 34% of families who had accessed these services—nearly 20% of survey respondents.

Families of all kinds deserve a seat at the education policy-making table, and families who homeschool should not be permanently marginalized—left unheard—because they have chosen to do what they believe is best for the academic and developmental needs of their children.


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