Homeschool organization says public schools are blocking parents from withdrawing kids

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Parents in several states nationwide are "shocked" to find they can't withdraw their children from public school, the largest U.S. legal organization for homeschool families told Fox News.

Coronavirus restrictions hit public schools especially hard and, with no clear end in sight, the loss of students only adds to the already vulnerable loss in funds.

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A RealClear Opinion Research survey shows that 40 percent of families are more likely to homeschool when lockdown restrictions lift, a significant increase from the 2.5 million parents who were educating their kids at home before stay-at-home orders were put in place.

T.J. Schmidt, staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, homeschools his own children and works with families across several states providing legal assistance.

T.J. Schmidt, staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, homeschools his own children and works with families across several states providing legal assistance. (HSLDA)

T.J. Schmidt, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which provides legal services to help parents meet requirements for transitioning children from public school to homeschool, said he's noticed an uptick in the number of parents trying to pull their kids from public school.

And public schools, he said, are pushing back.

"We see this across the country," Schmidt said. "I've had school officials attempt to prevent or dissuade parents from pulling their kids out."

He said schools have been unable to process the paperwork to withdraw students from the public school system.

"There's two main reasons ... school officials are fearful of losing too many students to homeschooling, and the second reason is perhaps a staffing issue, just a lacking staffing issue to process these withdrawals. Not always an issue of trying to stop parents from homeschooling but there is a significant part of that involved."

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Schmidt, a father of seven who homeschools his children -- ages 3 to 16 -- in Northern Virginia, said he's had other cases in Oregon, Oklahoma, and New York. His colleagues have had cases in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and California.

"The most egregious situations I've had have been in Florida," he said, adding it is normally a great state to homeschool. "But I've had numerous parents in a couple of different counties told 'we're not allowed to withdraw students right now' ... They're trying to hold onto these students."

Public school districts receive funding based on the number of students enrolled in their system and thus lose funding when parents opt to homeschool their children.

Many school districts are asking for more money after being forced to go virtual. The School District of Philadelphia is facing a $38 million shortfall for the next academic year, which it fears could grow to $1 billion over the next five years due to the coronavirus, The Philadelphia Tribune reports.

This comes as 215 school advocates sent an open letter to Joe Biden describing a “national teacher shortage and reduced educational opportunities for many of our students” and adding “the COVID-19 pandemic…only made public education more vulnerable. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of public education itself is at stake.”

There are a variety of reasons parents are choosing homeschooling now.

"Some of these families were already contemplating homeschooling and COVID-19 pushed them over the edge. Other families are concerned about how the districts have addressed the situation," Schmidt said.

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"Whether it's a basic miscommunication or something more nefarious where they're actively working to prohibit parents from educating their children at home, HSLDA steps in making sure we're defending the family, providing assistance and support," he added. "Our goal is to make sure they understand the legal requirements, the responsibilities, and even the joys of homeschooling."

Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet came under fire for her comments in Harvard Magazine's May-June article calling for a "presumptive ban" on homeschooling as she describes the "risks" of homeschooling, even calling it "dangerous."

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