From today's Age
The thousands of parents who homeschool their children should get financial incentives to cover their education costs, according to one of Victoria's new crossbenchers.
Democratic Labour Party MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins has urged the Andrews government to provide taxpayer-funded vouchers to help the growing number of homeschooling families pay for stationery, curriculum resources, computers and internet access.
Dr Carling-Jenkins, who educated her son for several years during primary school, told Fairfax Media that homeschooling effectively saves money for the state, but ends up being a financial burden for parents who often give up work to teach their children.
"Homeschooling parents relieve the burden on the state, particularly when they're taking children with disabilities out of the school system," said the former social worker and academic, now one of five crossbenchers the government must court to pass legislation.
From today's Age
"It's becoming increasingly popular, yet there's no financial incentives and no financial support for parents. No parent complains about it, but that is one of the main reasons why children go back into school – when parents just can't sustain it. Some incentive towards education supplies would be extremely welcome."
Department of Education figures show that there were 3582 Victorian children being schooled at home last year, up from 2278 in 2009. All parents must register their child before they commence homeschooling and must cover the eight key learning areas taught in the classroom – including English, maths, and science – but have flexibility in how they deliver the curriculum.
In Victoria, the children who are currently taught at home represent about 0.4 per cent of the student population, yet the practice remains a divisive issue for parents and teachers.
Opponents of homeschooling cite concerns about the standard of education children receive without a qualified teacher; the lack of socialisation some children might face; and the potential for religious extremism to be imposed. Proponents say it gives children the chance to excel by catering to their individual needs, particularly if a child has a learning disability or is being bullied at school.
"Parents do it because they love their children and they know what's best for them." Dr Carling-Jenkins said. "My son had a different learning style and he just excelled with homeschooling as opposed to the stress that primary school put on him."
The DLP is one of four micro parties represented in state parliament, together with the Shooters and Fishers, the Sex Party and Vote 1 Local Jobs. All now have powerful positions in the upper house, where the Andrews government holds only 14 out of 40 seats. This means that in order to pass legislation without the Coalition's support, the government must secure at least another seven votes from the five Greens and five crossbenchers.
Dr Carling-Jenkins said she would continue to lobby Premier Daniel Andrews to give parents "a fair go".
The U.S. is the 'home of home schooling' Do they fund homeschool parents?