USA Today Gets Homeschool Story Wrong
June 16, 2009
On May 28, 2009 USA Today published a story based on a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which is part of the Federal Department of Education, titled “The Condition of Education 2009.” The headline of the USA Today story was “Profound shift in kind of families who are homeschooling their children.” A few days later the title was changed to “More higher-income families are homeschooling their children.”
Regrettably, among other problems with the article, USA Today made one blatant error and one very misleading claim. The blatant error is USA Today’s statement that homeschoolers are increasingly white. We do not understand how USA Today can reach this conclusion. Simply by reading the NCES report you will discover that the estimates for white homeschoolers, as a percentage of the entire homeschool population, were 75.3% in 1999, 77% in 2003 and 76.8% in 2007. The obvious conclusion is that for the years 1999–2007 white homeschoolers consistently represented just over three-quarters of the homeschool population.
HSLDA asked the NCES to comment on the USA Today article. Below is a statement from JoAnn Webb, a spokesman for the NCES, “The percentage of all homeschoolers who are White, non-Hispanic has not changed over this period (in the mid-70 percent range).”
Another misleading claim, as the revised title for the story states, is that more higher-income families are homeschooling their children. Again, USA Today failed to correctly read the report. In order to make their point, USA Today defines “higher-income” as families whose household income is over $50,000. How many people really consider $50,000 in household income “higher-income?” For comparison, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006 married-couple families with one or more related children under age 18, the median nationwide income was $74,049. It is very misleading for USA Today to boldly assert that more “higher-income” families are homeschooling when out of the 60% of families they cite as being “higher-income” — (26.8% in the $50,001–$75,000 bracket and 33.2% in the $75,001 or more bracket) the 26.8% that USA Today believes to be “higher-income” actually have below average incomes.
Also, as has been confirmed by the NCES, the income figures between 1999 and 2007 were not adjusted for inflation. This means that the same type of person answering the NCES survey in 1999 that fell in the $25,001–$50,000 income bracket could easily find themselves in the $50,001–$75,000 bracket in 2007 since an income of $45,000 in 1999 becomes $55,518.63 in 2007 after adjusting for inflation.
It’s a shame that in an era when hundreds of diverse media outlets are able to accurately report on the homeschool movement a major newspaper has made such simple errors.
Perhaps the writer was just in a rush to be first, since his story was published on the day the NCES report was released online, or perhaps he has an agenda to falsely paint homeschoolers as rich and white, thereby dismissing the full range of people who are making tremendous sacrifices on limited budgets to ensure that the next generation receives the best education and upbringing available. Either way USA Today should make additional corrections to their factually inaccurate story.