Can We Have Business Without Bureaucracy?
By David Ayers
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #7, 1994.
Will homeschooling partnering with business just create another bureaucracy
When you begin looking at the possibility of partnerships with big
business, some questions arise. Being successful means real money and
big plans—from creating and running thriving urban homeschool resource
centers, to building up national organizations of size and power which
are capable of negotiating with top executives, to writing (or helping
others write) professional proposals, to serving as information
clearinghouses and referral agents. In many cases this also means hiring
and expanding staff, while establishing standards for those who work for
you and for those you strive to help.
Many homeschoolers understandably cringe at all this. Why jump out of
the frying pan of public school bureaucracy just to just to create our
own private bureaucracy?
Our answer is that we can consciously avoid creating a homeschooling
bureaucracy, while still becoming major-league players in the
Business funding means more resources for poorer homeschool families,
and more help for families with less experience. This will mean more new
homeschoolers, which will lead in turn to a richer community of fellow
laborers and more political clout—not to mention a helpful
transformation of the youth in our communities! And resources can be
made more widely available which many of us could potentially use, but
few of us can afford—from big software libraries and the establishment
of many new local homeschool bulletin boards, to more featured speakers
Here are some ideas about what we can do to build stronger homeschooling
groups, while still keeping them on the leash. Certainly, this list does
not exhaust the possibilities—so we’d love to hear from our readers on
this one—but it is a start.
(1) Maximize the power and number of strictly volunteer staff. Some
groups have strong volunteer boards that donate their time and keep
close eye on all operations. Others are mainly staffed by homeschool
parents who donate their time. Sometimes, this means loss of efficiency
(more people going on and off shift, turnover, etc.). If a small cadre
of salaried personnel are used to maintain consistency while most of the
work is done by volunteers, a good balance can be struck—especially if
salaried personnel with decision-making authority are elected by the
(2) Keep budgets that are low on salaries, and high on equipment.
Computers don’t talk back or plot takeovers! Whenever you think of
hiring extra people, ask how much of that extra workload can be taken
care of by simple technological upgrades. Such investments are usually
cheaper in the long run. Fewer professional staff members means a
smaller chance that your group will turn into an unresponsive
(3) Use existing, “tried-and-true” groups to take on new obligations. At
the national level, ideally a group like National Center for Home
Education (NCHE) would be willing, with the right funds and help, to
build databases of business contacts, provide sample grant proposals,
and so on—and work directly with national business educational reform
groups. Although NCHE has told us they are not willing to take on this
challenge at this time, we can keep on hoping! Meanwhile, state
associations can work with groups such as state NAPE affiliates more
effectively than smaller local groups could. These entities have the
equipment, staff, and contacts to do this. They will often be more
trusted by businesses as stable groups to deal with (local volunteer
groups tend to come and go too quickly). Most already have good
guidelines to prevent abuse.
(4) Resist pressure to develop accreditation or compulsory “benefits.”
Some universities or companies that might work with homeschoolers to
offer “how to homeschool” classes might push for some kind of
“certificate” to be granted upon completion. Before you know it, you
have people advertising themselves as “certified homeschoolers.” This
easily starts us on the slippery slope to requiring parents to have
certain courses to participate in a resource center or similar entity
(“We only accept certified homeschoolers!”).
Anti-homeschooling forces would pick up on this fast. “Look, they
require certification of their own people, so why should it be a problem
for us to throw in a few ‘reasonable’ requirements of our own?”
So we need to avoid offering certification or accreditation, and must
certainly not force anyone to partake of certain “benefits” as a
prerequisite to participating in organizations we create.
(5) Watch the contracts you sign. Think through carefully what
commitments and restrictions you can and cannot accept. Don’t shut out
internal criticism or warnings in your rush for business dollars! When
agreement time comes, use experienced homeschooling lawyers in your own
communities, or wise groups like HSLDA, to help you draw up agreements
with funding sources. Be wary of companies who already have dangerous
policies, such as those with aggressive, “politically correct” quotas
and speech regulations.
As long as we follow these five guidelines, we should be able to benefit
from business partnerships while extending our influence, helping many
more families, and maintaining our rights and privileges as