The New York Times reports on illegal cooperative preschools--formed by middle class parents who can't afford private schools and whose kids don't get included in the city-operated ones, because enrollment in pre-K classes is tightly limited. Soni Sangha writes:
In a co-op pre-K, parents work together to create a school that matches their educational philosophy and worldview. They also run it, finance it, staff it, clean it and administer it — whatever is necessary to keep costs as low as possible. Often, schools operate from members’ homes. Some are taught by parents; others by professional teachers. The downside to such an arrangement? It’s a lot of work. We had found that out last school year, when my son had been priced out of private options and we had banded together to form a co-op with some parents from the neighborhood.
Beyond the effort was the challenge of getting different families to work together. When matters as personal as education, values and children are at stake, intense emotions are sure to follow, whether the issue is snacks (organic or not?), paint (machine washable?) or what religious holidays, if any, to acknowledge. Oh, and in many cases, forming a co-op school is illegal, because getting the required permits and passing background checks can be so prohibitively expensive and time-consuming that most co-ops simply don’t.
In New York City, child care outside the home is overseen by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The city requires a permit for any child-care setting where there are at least three children who are not each accompanied by a parent and who meet for more than five hours a week. Inside the home, the state’s Office of Children and Family Services oversees regulation for any group that meets for more than three hours a day. Getting a permit means red tape. Lots of it. There are background checks, required teaching certifications, written safety plans and site inspections.
I wouldn't label these families as crooks. I'd call what they're doing ingenious and enterprising self-help education.