Tim Lambert, President of the Texas Homeschool Coalition, says that requirements do not equal regulation. This is why THSC does not represent me, and why hundreds of other Texas homeschool parents feel the same. Are you aware of this stance? If not, welcome to this bizarre new world.
The Texas Homeschool Coalition has been the state homeschool organization in Texas for over 25 years, working in various ways to protect the freedom of homeschool families. They have helped our representatives in Austin learn to understand homeschooling and work to protect it. For many years THSC has been vigilant in protecting the right of Texas homeschool families in one of the few states with zero oversight. Their work has been appreciated by me and thousands of others.
But recent bills sponsored and supported by THSC have changed all of this. Their refusal to listen to hundreds of homeschool parents in Texas about their opposition to this pet bills, their silencing of those parents on public forums, their bait-and-switch tactics in the legislature, AND MOST OF ALL their willingness to risk a valuable freedom for the “equal access” to the school system from which we walked away has soured me on the leadership of that organization.
Sadly, this kind of betrayal by state homeschool organizations, as well as HSLDA, is not happening just in Texas. It’s long past time for homeschoolers to stop depending on lobbying organizations to speak for us in state and federal legislatures. They are clearly not listening to their support base, and seem willing to compromise on too many of our freedoms. Parents, if you homeschool, or plan to, or used to, please take up the fight personally to see that your freedom continues.
[If you feel so inclined, you may sign a petition to our state legislators telling them that THSC does not speak for you — at the bottom of this post.]
This post is about facts. I do not assume motives on behalf of THSC. I have watched testimony, read the statements of THSC and the conversations on public forums, and have spoken to Tim Lambert in person about my concerns. All I ask of my readers is to examine the information presented here and make your decision without bias or coercion.
THSC and School Choice
Texas Homeschool Coalition issued a statement on their Facebook page last fall in support of this ESAs for homeschools:
Educational Savings Accounts in Texas — THSC is aware of and supports the expected legislation introducing Educational Savings Accounts (ESA) in Texas. Just as THSC promoted legislation freeing home school parents to provide their children access to dual credit classes and PSAT tests, we believe parents, not the government, should choose whether their child utilizes ESAs. One parent’s choice for an ESA should in no way negatively affect the freedom of other Texas parents to home school. We are working closely with proponents to ensure that home schooling is protected and that home schoolers are not discriminated against.
Here are the current facts on proposed Texas ESAs:
Funds would be redistributed to families via a Debit Card [LoneStar type of card] w/ funds added quarterly “to the tune of”:
$6500 -if low income
$7800 -special needs
It was confirmed that if you as a home school family choose to participate in the Education Savings Account your child will be subject to the state’s chosen assessment test. (There is not an assessment in the country today that is not aligned with Common Core.)
See the full discussion in this video from September 2016. This was at the Senate Republican Excecutive Committee meeting:
This document from Texas Policy Foundation on The Achilles Heel of Texas: Improving College Eligibility Rates Through K-12 Education Savings Accounts by Dr. Matthew Ladner states:
Since 2011 however, school choice innovators have developed account-based choice programs— known as Education Savings Accounts—which allow parents to manage a state-funded account to choose between single or multiple providers…[In Arizona] Parents access these funds through the use of a debit card, and the statute specifies the allowable use of the accounts. (Page 11)
Further: The Arizona program is overseen by the Arizona treasurer’s office and the Arizona Department of Education…In cases of suspected fraud, the Department of Education is empowered to refer cases to the Arizona attorney general’s office for investigation and possible prosecution (page 12)
Read that again. The Texas Public Policy Foundation supports this. And so does THSC. So you can see why informed and educated homeschool parents are up in arms about implementing this in Texas.
However, as has become their custom, THSC deletes and bans anyone who expresses disagreement from posting on public forums. How can they claim to represent the homeschooling community when they won’t listen to the homeschooling community?
Hundreds of Texas homeschoolers have found themselves in a shocking position of questioning a long-trusted organization. As I said in this article:
It’s time to be our own watchmen again. It’s time to guard our homes from government intrusion. The sentries we thought were posted on the wall have let down their guard. WE must take on the burden ourselves. It’s a heavy burden, but our children are worth it.
I learned during the 2015 legislative session that THSC was not interested in the concerns of homeschool parents when they pushed hard to pass the Tim Tebow Bill (which is now referred to as “UIL Access”).
The Texas Homeschool Coalition released another blog post on October 10, 2016, further detailing their support of ESAs. I’m sharing the full text of the letter with commentary by myself and other concerned and informed homeschool parents:
OCTOBER 10, 2016 BY TIM LAMBERT
Education Savings Account
Parental Choice in Education: What are the facts?
In Texas we are proud of our freedom. We tend to believe that Texas is the “last best hope of man on Earth,” to quote President Reagan. One notable thing about Texans is that we often assume that the status quo in Texas must be conservative because, well, it’s Texas. But is that really true?
Take, for example, parental choice in education. On the surface, Texas has a seemingly free and open system of education. Any parent can choose public school, private school, charter school, home school or even a hybrid of those options.
So what’s the problem?
The facade of freedom suddenly crumbles when you critically examine how the status quo hampers liberty. Families who choose home school and private school essentially pay for education twice: once for their own kids and once for everyone else’s kids through taxes. So, yes, parents are free to choose private or home schooling, but only after they manage to support public education as well.
Parents shouldn’t have to pay for other children’s education at the expense of being able to afford the best for their own children. That’s not freedom. For those who can manage it financially, the rules still force parents to pay for a public education their kids don’t use.
Fair enough. There is a legitimate case to be made that parents shouldn’t have to pay twice. But what about taxpayers that don’t have ANY children in the system? They shouldn’t have to pay at all. Does this solution provide a remedy for them? No.
So we have to ask why? Because this isn’t about shifting choice back to parents but shifting control so that the state can manage the worker pipeline at the individual level.
Notice what they say next in their proposed solution…(Karen Braun)
But… this is Texas. We’re free, right? Not in this case. The government, not parents, is making education decisions for Texas kids. Homeschool parents make all of the education decisions for their kids. This is a blatant lie. As things stand now, parents have no control over the use of their education tax dollars. The government does.
What’s the solution?
When you consider that tax dollars are funneled into a public education system that is failing countless students, the cost of most private schools is prohibitive, and most families choosing to home school face cutting back to one stream of income, it’s no wonder that the discussion of freedom in education with school choice options has taken the country by storm.
Empowering parents to control their own education dollars is good for families. It’s good for kids. It’s a step toward giving individual liberty back to the taxpayer. It’s a move away from government control. It’s about freedom for families.
But if it were about “freedom for families” give them a refund. Let them use the funds in ANY way they see fit, NOT in a way that the state decides they should use them.
Give all Texans who don’t use the system a REFUND. So that those with no children can buy a car if they want to. And those parents who don’t need to use all the money for education can buy food. That’s freedom.
These “debit” cards are NOT a refund. They are akin to a store gift card without a receipt. You have to use the money in THIER store. In the case of the debit card, you have to use it on things that are accredited. (Karen Braun)
While Texas may have been behind the curve on this issue, now that we have gotten around to proposing a solution, it’s a really good solution.
Conservative leaders in Texas and nationwide are proposing various school choice options including Education Savings Accounts (ESA).
What is an ESA?
Stephanie Matthews, Senior Policy Advisor for conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, explains:
“ESAs (in the form of a restricted debit card) can be used for distance learning courses, tutoring services, educational therapies and related aid from accredited and licensed therapists…
I thought school was about reading, writing, math and history? NOT education therapies!
WE SHOULD ALL BE QUESTIONING THE SHIFT AWAY FROM ACADEMICS TO ATTITUDES, VALUES, BELIEFS AND BEHAVIORS.
This is a very dangerous path the state is taking our children down and it is all aligned to the federal mandates of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This is about federal control!! NOT SCHOOLS CHOICE and PARENTAL CONTROL!! (Alice Linahan)
…limited transportation services, tests, books, curricula, tuition and fees for public schools or any accredited private school. Funds not used in one year will be rolled over and can even be used for higher education.”
The rules for ESAs would work the same for home school parents as for other parents. While home schoolers don’t have tuition expenses like a public or private school, ESA funds would still apply to curriculum and other related educational expenses.
Here is the lie they put forth:
Right now, a parent’s education tax dollars go right into the public school system. With an ESA, a portion of those tax dollars would be deposited into a special savings account when the parent chooses this option. (According to this math, I would receive $20,000 per year for my 4 children. I pay about $2,500 yearly to my local school district. Is this the “portion” they refer to?) The funds would then be managed by the parent.
If it were truly “managed by the parent” they could spend it on a “non accredited service” they believe their child needs for their education. But that’s not allowed.
How will they protect homeschool freedom?
They won’t. They’ll increase control as parents choose a hybrid of options in a “blended learning” environment. Those that are truly free and stay away from the garbage that is required through “accreditation” will experience the soft consequences of non-particiipation.
The culmination of this “choice” is a pupil owned transcript built on acquiring credentials, badges, and micro badges from accredited educaiton service providers.
Here is what Michigan just defined in recent legislation as an “accredited education service provider.”
(3) Accredited education service providers shall include, but are not limited to, the following:
(A) districts and public career and technical programs.
(B) preschool, after school, and other qualifying programs.
(C) museums, historical societies, science centers
, and other community education organizations.
(D) business and civic organization and other institutions providing internship and apprenticeship opportunities.
(E) community colleges, trade schools, and universities of dual enrollment opportunities.
The transcript and marketplace shall do all of the following:
(A) use Michigan specific academic standards when defining academic competencies
Notice that point #4. they shall use Michigan specific academic standards. (Karen Braun)
How does it work and why should we be involved?
ESAs and school choice are popular issues in today’s political climate. Although this is not priority legislation for THSC, we are actively participating in the conversation about how these things will be determined in order to protect home school freedom. The specifics of the bill are underway and home schoolers need to be a part of the conversation.
Homeschoolers who try to be a part of the “conversation” are routinely deleted and banned from ever commenting or posting on THSC’s forums in the future. Does THSC consider themselves the voice of homeschoolers now?
One of the first things to know about ESAs is that they are optional. If you want to use the funds, you opt in and use the account for educational purposes. All Texas families can take advantage of this opportunity to use their tax dollars for their children’s education. The proposed wording of the bill includes specific statements forbidding any regulation on educational programs.
Since the bill is not yet in existence, we can only go by public comments by policy makers.
Funds in the ESAs would roll over from year to year, unlike education tax credits that are forfeited if not claimed in the same tax year.
History shows advances in home school freedom
In 1994, THSC helped establish the liberty Texas home schoolers enjoy today through the Leeper case. (Clever wording here. THSC was just forming in 1994.) During that fight, many in Texas were afraid to draw attention to the home school community by fighting the state’s discriminatory policies. Home school pioneers boldly led the way and by the grace of God saw victory in that case. Once again, THSC is not afraid to stand up for freedom for Texas parents.
To us, it’s simple: Parents, not the government, should have the freedom to make schooling decisions for their own kids. (We DO have that freedom.)
Through the years, we have seen similar legislative victories and the freedom to home school continues because of these advances in liberty.
Until 2007, home school students did not have access to the PSAT (the National Merit Scholarship Qualification Test). For some home school students, this placed a significant limitation on their options. Now, those who wish to can take the PSAT as home school students and those who do not wish to enjoy the same freedom as before.
Both of my daughters took the PSAT prior to ’07 as did most of their homeschool friends. They graduated in 05 and 06. So would have taken the PSAT I believe in 02 and 03 or there abouts. They both took the test at public high schools and there was no question that they could access it with exactly the same standards as public school students. (Nita Davidson, veteran Texas homeschool mom)
In 2003, THSC helped pass the General Standards law which prevented colleges from discriminating against home school students. Now home school students have the choice to attend state colleges.
Helpful, and exactly what THSC used to be all about. Doesn’t require state oversight of our homeschools.
Prior to 2001, home school students were being excluded from dual credit classes at community colleges. THSC won in the fight to gain home school students access to this resource. Now homeschoolers have the choice of whether to take dual credit classes or not.
Ditto above. However, I have heard differently from veteran homeschool parents.
In 1995, THSC fought to pass parent taught drivers education. Now parents have the choice of whether to teach their kids to drive themselves, and those who don’t wish to, don’t have to.
Ditto above. The Texas Homeschool Coalition has spent many years actually fighting to keep homeschool families free. But there has been a dangerous shift from freedom to “equality.”
Stephanie Matthews, summarized the philosophy behind ESA accounts by saying:
“For more than a century, a fundamental question regarding learning has been: who should decide what is best for my child: the government or me? . . . The answer to the question is simple and clear: me. . . . ESAs are managed by parents and used for the exclusive individual benefit of their child.”
ESAs are state funds (see info above). State funds will never be used at a parent’s discretion. Never. The Texas Comptroller will approve resources.
What are the facts about school choice and ESAs?
Who supports ESAs?
In Texas, nearly every major conservative group and conservative lawmaker supports school choice. The list of conservative groups and leaders who support ESAs is long. Very long. A few prominent names are:
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
Senator (and home school dad) Don Huffines
Texas Public Policy Foundation
The Cato Institute
Americans For Prosperity
The Heritage Foundation
Home School Legal Defense Association
Texans for Education Opportunity
There is curiously no mention of the conservatives who are against this, including homeschool dads running for the Texas House of Representatives, like Read King. Additionally, while these people and organizations do support ESAs and school choice, even they cannot be for this bill since it is not yet written. This is dishonest advertising. It’s an uncomfortable feeling when your favorite organizations and/or your political party support something you don’t agree with, but that’s precisely why we parents must be our own watchdogs.
In Texas, 84 percent of Republican voters said that they would support school choice —giving the parent more control over the use of their own education dollars —but Texas currently has no form of school choice.
Don’t fall for that tactic. Why are these groups for it? That’s where the money is right now. I talked to the Ted Cruz campaign and the pressure I brought to bear forced him to go on Glenn Beck to defend his “school choice” at the federal level. He defends the same thing that Texas is trying to push at the state level at the FEDERAL level.
Why? Because in a centralized public/private partnership they need all 50 states to sign on. So they get the conservatives to push it as “choice” and they fall for it because they don’t do their own research.
Texas is one the last hold outs in a lot of the education reforms. (Karen Braun)
Have these types of programs been successful in other states?
With 61 programs in 30 different states, you might expect that each state has adopted slightly various solutions. However, two things have been fairly universal:
Parents are given more control over the use of their education dollars.
Parents overwhelmingly support the programs.
In New Hampshire, 78.6 percent of parents who used the Scholarship Tax Credit (STC) program said that they were more satisfied with their new options as compared to their former options.
In Arizona, 100 percent of parents were more satisfied (33 percent used the ESA program to pay for home school curriculum). Folks, even Chick-fil-A does not have a 100 percent satisfaction rate.
Every state has varying homeschool laws and varying levels of freedom. It’s almost impossible to compare what Texas might experience with what other states have.
The colossal amount of data showing the positive effects of giving parents more control is so overwhelming that Harvard professor Paul Peterson summarized the data by saying that if the parent’s satisfaction was the only thing that mattered then, “school choice is a clear winner.”
So what are the downsides to school choice and ESAs?
Well, according to a survey of 100 studies on school choice by both opponents and supporters, there really are none.
Wait: opponents see no downsides? How can they be opponents?
Not only has the impact been incredibly positive across the board, but parents have voiced overwhelming approval in states that have passed school choice programs. And Texas home school freedom has never been hindered by the expansion of liberty. Not in 1994, 1995, 2001, 2003, or 2007.
Breaking Down “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice” from EdChoice
The undeniable message of the overwhelmingly positive data from all over the country shows exactly what supporters of parental choice have argued all along; parents can control their child’s education more effectively, more economically, and with better results than the government can ever hope to do.
I can’t even… If the government is funding it and approving the materials used…oh my gosh…who believes this stuff?
So will parents lose their current freedoms by taking control of their education tax dollars? History and the facts say: No.
If we were keeping score, the scoreboard would show:
Parental Control: 1
Government bureaucracy: Out cold
The Bottom Line
The government controls the educational funding paid by every Texas family. And they will continue to do so, no matter how it is distributed.
We pay property taxes because we have no choice. But no one pays for Texas homeschool education except for the homeschool families.
Parents of more than an estimated 600,000 home schooling students in Texas are paying twice for their kids’ education, and others are stuck without options. It is time for Texas to step up and be the beacon of freedom we pride ourselves in being. Let’s put control back into the hands of parents and raise up another generation of leaders who can keep the liberty they’ll inherit.
Texas homeschoolers who oppose this bill are concerned about the lack of transparency coming from the Texas Homeschool Coalition. This is not an attack on THSC, but we are frustrated that our many questions get copied and pasted answers repeatedly.
There is no bill yet, but it is being written as we speak. When asked what the bill looks like at this point, and who is authoring it, homeschoolers get varying answers from THSC.
THSC’s involvement is important because they are a large homeschool lobbying group and have the ear of most of our representatives in Austin. Our reps believe that THSC speaks for all homeschoolers (and they used to). Their role in this legislation is huge, so it’s vital that we who oppose the legislation are informed about THSC’s involvement.
On Friday, October 21, 2016, Tim Lambert from THSC spoke at a Tyler grass roots meeting on this topic. The video below is Mr. Lambert’s portion of the meeting.
The most disheartening part of this presentation is that Mr. Lambert has basically redefined what regulation means to homeschoolers. In the Q&A portion of the meeting:
Here is a the final question:
=> 45:09 “Proverbs 21 says, ‘The upright gives thought to their ways. There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed without the Lord.’ So do you think that state funded government regulated homeschools is in line with the will of God?”
Mr. Lambert: “Let me just articulate to clarify that I do not support the state regulation of homeschoolers. Uh, and we oppose that, have opposed that for 30 years, continue to oppose that. Our Texas Constitution says that the state shall provide a free and efficient education. So I would submit that we probably all agree that the public education is free. Not sure that we could have a consensus on that fact that it is it is efficient. So I would submit to you that do not believe that it is inconsistent with limited government, free market approach to allow—in fact, I would submit to you that a parent use their own tax dollars for the education of their children is far more efficient than and cost effective than what the public schools are doing. But I do think–but I do think to be fair, the debate that we are having inside the homeschool community is, “What is regulation of homeschooling?” And I would submit to you that a homeschooler having to take a test to do a dual credit class is not regulation at of all homeschoolers. Uh, having them take a standardized test to participate in UIL is not regulation of homeschoolers. And if a homeschooler had an ESA, and they were restricted on how they could use that, that would not be regulation.”
This paper was also given out at the Grass Roots meeting:
Mr. Lambert said that this article has been updated on the THSC website, which you may read here.
Per Texans for Education Opportunity, a WHOLE YEAR in PUBLIC SCHOOL will be required of a student before their parent can apply for ESA/”school choice.”
This is a HUGE red flag. THSC is claiming that this will help homeschoolers. It is not even meant for anyone who is currently homeschooling, but will attract all those who are NOT currently homeschooling. It muddies the waters by attracting new parents who have no idea of our current freedom and lack of strings attached. They will love it, use it, and vote accordingly in the future. If I may make the analogy, it’s not much different than illegals taking advantage of all the benefits they can get their hands on in our state, and changing the face of our laws, impacting taxes, etc. WE DON’T GET A SAY, but it will change everything that homeschoolers for the past 30 years have done and have enjoyed.
I spoke with Mr. Lambert
…in person after a THSC “Homeschooling and the Law” meeting in Denton, TX this past October. I informed him immediately of my concerns with this type of legislation. His response was what THSC continues to say: it’s for poor families, it’s for rural families, and it’s not fair that everyone can’t homeschool their children.
I disagree with all of those points. And I told him the following:
I was homeschooled in the 1980’s (before Leeper made it legal) in a poor family (I know we were poverty level) in the country, both in very rural southern Oklahoma and very rural North Texas. And this was before homeschool conventions, hundreds of curriculum companies, and the internet made homeschooling what it is today.
As an adult, I’ve been through my share of difficulty. I’ve been homeschooling my kids since 2000, through divorce, single motherhood, single-working motherhood, remarriage, multiple moves, very low income, and lots of illness.
Mr. Lambert’s response was a very sarcastic “Good for you.”
What You Can Do
Contact your State Representative and Senator. Tell them that you do not agree with the proposed school choice legislation and that you are being improperly represented by the Texas Homeschool Coalition. Find your elected officials HERE. Most of the elected officials in Austin believe that they can simply ask THSC for advice on any bill that affects homeschoolers. We need to change this. Call, visit their office, send and email, tag them on Twitter. Do all of the above. Get to be their new best friends! Texas Homeschool Coalition is a lobbying group, and they donate campaign funds to many House and Senate campaigns.
Contact your State Republican Executive Committee member. Repeat as above. Find them HERE.
Contact Texas Homeschool Coalition (THSC) and tell them you do not support subsidized private education.
Organizing locally is THE only thing that will be able to make things better. Network with other homeschoolers in your local area and connect with the rest of us across the state. Share this page. Email and call your friends. When the Legislature is in session, beginning January 10, 2017, be prepared to travel to Austin on a moments notice and bring people with you. Fill the hearings with supportive bodies, submit a written statement, or even come to testify before a committee.
A very active conversation is ongoing in the Facebook Group Texans for Homeschool Freedom.
I have shared all of this to inform. You must make your own decision. Does THSC represent you? If they do, it’s your right to choose. If they don’t, let them know and let Austin know.
Read how I learned to homeschool on no money at all HERE during the times when I was as single mom and later as a married, working mom.
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board and The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew. You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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