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Charter schools that offer homeschool forced to waitlist thousands of families

Advocates cite pandemic and change in state law
Charter schools that offer homeschool forced to waitlist thousands
Posted at 5:13 PM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 14:38:44-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Parents who are concerned about their traditional school district’s ability to handle distance learning this fall are running into a roadblock when seeking other options: wait lists.

School choice advocates say a growing number of California parents are seeking out charter schools that specialize in “nonclassroom-based” instruction because of their long track records in distance learning, but a new state law is essentially capping enrollment at pre-pandemic levels.

“Tens of thousands families are in limbo right now,” said Jeff Rice, founder of the APLUS+ Network Association, an association of 85 nonclassroom-based California charters that specialize in personalized instruction.

There are at least 13,000 students currently waitlisted throughout about two dozen of the association’s schools, Rice said.
Advocates have launched petitions, urging lawmakers to scrap a provision in SB 98 that capped funding for all public schools -- including charter schools -- at February attendance levels.

Schools are typically funded on a per pupil basis, but the cap means funding will not scale up as attendance grows.
“Some [charter] schools have wait lists of 2,000,” said Jennifer Cauzza, executive director of the JCS Family of Charter Schools.

Cauzza said she’s in contact with about 30 charter school executive directors and “all of them are capped.”

About 300 of California’s 1300 publicly funded charter schools are classified as “nonclassroom-based,” Rice said. The term includes home school, online and hybrid models, and is somewhat of a misnomer because students often get some in-person instruction from a credentialed teacher.

These tuition-free charter schools will operate wait lists on a lottery system, not a first-come basis, so parents still have time to apply.

Otherwise, parents who want to homeschool their children have two other options, and both require the parent to act as the teacher, said Elisa Hilliard, who operates the Facebook page San Diego Homeschool Mom.

Parents can file a PSA, a Private School Affidavit, and essentially open their own private school within their home. Parents select and teach their own curriculum, and must fund it themselves.

Parents can also join a PSP, a Private School Satellite Program. These are umbrella organizations or co-ops of parents that assist with paperwork and help swap curriculums.

Parents have until October to file a PSA, so families who are unable to get into a nonclassroom-based charter school may want to see how their traditional district school handles distance learning before going off on their own, Cauzza said.