Sudden Spike in Homeschooling in Pima County

Data shows significant departure from nearly all districts
Posted at 11:13 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-16 02:13:47-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Pima County is seeing a sudden spike in homeschooling. New data shows a significant departure from districts since the start of the school year.

The signs surfaced over the summer break.

The Pima County Superintendent's Office fielded a lot of calls, but now parents are actually filing the required homeschool affidavits. That gives a parent or guardian the legal right to provide instruction at home. No qualifications are required.

Dustin Williams said there's an average of 3,200 to 3,500 homeschoolers per year, but the number has now jumped to nearly 4,200.

“For us this last month has been kinda eye opening. We didn't expect to see 500 in the last, call it 30 days basically. It's a little concerning, but again if parents want to do that, that is is their choice, it's their right we're going to respect it no matter what,” said Williams.

The data shows parents have pulled their children out of schools in nearly all of the districts.

Here are the top 5 districts to lose students since June.

Tucson Unified - 186
Marana - 109
Vail - 93
Amphi - 90
Sahuarita - 63

And the age range with the largest losses is 8 to 16.

The concern right now for districts is student enrollment is tied to funding. “The money does follow the students so if they do leave a district school or charter school that school will no longer receive funds for that students,” said Williams.

Williams said that's about $6,000 per child, but it doesn't necessarily mean parents will just be handed a check for homeschooling.

Students have to qualify for an Empowerment Scholarship or voucher through the Arizona Department of Education.

Then they could receive $4,500 to $5,000 a year.

“When you get your voucher your money, you literally get a bank card with the money put right on that bank card,” said Williams.

And that's a concern for Williams.

There's no real oversight of the funds or curriculum and students are not required take part in the state's testing program.

So he hopes that parents are using the funds properly.

“All of these things that parents needs to educate their son or daughter, they cost money so homeschooling isn't cheap,” said Williams.

Some district leaders have told us they anticipate some homeschoolers will return after safety and academic concerns are met.