A Washington Post analysis of homeschooling trends revealed that families in New York have flocked to home education at rates twice the national average, second only to Washington D.C. Across the country, homeschooling has gone up 50 percent from pre-pandemic levels—here in New York, it has more than doubled.
The authors argue that this sustained increase, even as other schools have resumed in-person learning, demonstrates “homeschooling’s arrival as a mainstay of the American educational system.” This is certainly true in the Empire State.
Over the past 10 years, homeschool enrollment in New York has jumped 178 percent (the highest rate of growth among all school sectors). By comparison, charter school enrollment has risen 125 percent, while district public school enrollment has fallen 13 percent and non-public school enrollment has dropped 8 percent.
Last year, there were over 50,000 homeschoolers across the state, with over 14,000 in New York City (some of which are among NY’s highest-need students—more than 15 percent are categorized by the State Education Department as having “known disabilities”).
The Post study found that in 24 of 33 school districts in New York City, the number of homeschool students more than tripled since school year 2017-18. The largest growth was in Brooklyn and the Bronx, where homeschooling quadrupled in some districts. Citywide, homeschooling increased 324 percent.
How does homeschooling look in the rest of the state? Each of the five largest districts outside of New York City also saw rates of growth higher than the national average:
Why have so many parents turned to homeschooling? One mom who moved from Washington State to central New York offers a unique perspective:
“I attended public schools all the way through. … Our plan all along was to send our four kids to public school. Yet when it came time to send our eldest, I was dismayed by what I observed during the tour. … We couldn’t afford private school but fortunately, with some sacrifices, we could survive on one income, and I could stay home to homeschool. [But] We have to pay out of our pocket for everything … and that’s on top of the high taxes in New York we already pay.”
Homeschooling families in New York pay for all educational materials and expenses out-of-pocket. Meanwhile, they continue to pay taxes in support of the public school system they are not using.
While public schools cannot claim state aid for students enrolled in home schools, they do get to keep both the local and federal dollars allotted for each student—even though that student is no longer taking up a seat.
Thirty-two states now allow families to access some or all of their students’ allotment of education funding to be used at a school of their choice, including toward homeschooling expenses. New York has no such program.
Additionally, since the 1990s, the state has barred homeschool students from participating in sports and extracurricular activities in the public school district in which they live. From the same mom:
“We moved here from Washington State, which is very friendly to home schoolers. They can go to school part-time there. They can play sports in the schools. They can join clubs. They have the option to be mentored by teachers. They have learning resource centers that are funded by the state. If we had that, we would take advantage of it. It’s not easy being closed off from all the school opportunities and activities.”
Some homeschooling families would prefer not to receive government support if it meant they could be free from excessive oversight and regulation. However, New York is already classified as a high-regulation state for homeschooling by some legal advocacy groups.
According to the state’s regulations for home instruction, homeschooling parents must complete a variety of reporting requirements throughout the year, including a notice of intent and an individualized home instruction plan (outlining a syllabus that adheres to state-required courses, testing schedules, as well as choices in curriculum, materials, textbooks, and more).
Homeschool students must score in the 33rd percentile or demonstrate year-over-year growth to avoid probation. Parents must submit quarterly reports and students must take yearly assessments from a state-approved list of standardized tests or an approved alternative.
Homeschool students are not eligible to receive a New York State high school diploma.
It is ironic that demand for homeschooling has increased so quickly in New York, a state that presents so many barriers to the practice. Imagine how many more parents might also make a different choice for their child (homeschooling or otherwise) if they had the power to do so.