Homeschoolers are entering a new era in the coming days and weeks, and should be vigilant to protect their rights as parents. In a confusing and alarming twist of events, many homeschoolers across the nation may soon find that their state or national homeschool organization is no longer protecting them on the front lines of this freedom. These parents may find that they are not being adequately informed of the true nature of legislation coming their way.
For the past several years, I have said that homeschoolers must become their own watchdogs. I cannot stress this statement strongly enough. There’s a new age coming; in fact it may already be in your state.
I used to believe that we should always be watchful that homeschooling would be outlawed. I think this is a real concern for any homeschooling parent. But as the years went on, nary a whisper was heard on such a thing. Even elected democrats pay lipservice to homeschoolers. I am not aware of any legislation in recent years that directly sought to outlaw home education. Recently, I learned why.
Why would any elected official alienate themselves from a growing segment of their constituency by blatantly taking away a freedom? That would be political suicide! But what if they could creep in through tiny regulations here and there while claiming to care about the educational rigor of homeschools?
My friends, this is precisely what is happening all over this nation. And homeschoolers everywhere are unwittingly stepping into this trap with the blessing and advice of local and national homeschool organizations.
In Texas, we are anticipating the introduction of ESAs (Educational Savings Accounts) in 2017, targeted to all parents looking for a “choice” in their child’s education. These ESAs are NOT like Health Savings Accounts (which are self-funded). They are taxpayer funded debit cards, with a promised amount of $5,000-$8,000 per child. The planned legislation looks like this so far: it is only available to children entering Kindergarten or first grade, or students currently enrolled in a public school. It would not be available for current homeschooled or private school students.
Think for a minute: when taxpayer dollars fund any program, is there freedom in that program? Or are there requirements? The money is not a gift. It always comes with strings. Don’t you just hate it when gifts come with strings?? Once you pay taxes, the dollars are no longer yours, and this is exactly how the government sees it.
In the case of Texas, anyone taking ESA funds would be required to use “approved” curriculum and services. These would include a list of accredited programs. Your favorite mom-and-pop homeschool curriculum? Probably not going to make that list unless they align with the national and state standards. And isn’t that what we left the public system for?? Approval would come from the Texas Comptroller. (And is that who we want approving our educational materials?) Further, all students would be required to take nationally normed standardized tests. As you probably know, there is no nationally normed test that does not align with Common Core. Standardized tests are not evil; however, this should be the choice of a homeschooling parent.
And this brings us to the subject of this post: The Texas Homeschool Coalition is actively supporting and lobbying for this legislation. As this became public, parents who oppose ESAs for homeschoolers commented on their public Facebook page, only to have their comments deleted and then be blocked from posting further on the page. The same thing happens to anyone opposing THSC in the comments section on their website. In short: opposition is not allowed, and the conversation is tightly controlled.
I am so pleased to see the active role that the Indiana Association of Home Educators is playing in the education of their families and the prevention of this type of government intrusion. They are plainly defining what true home education is, while pointing out the dangers of any taxpayer funds. Debi Ketron of IAHE penned this straightforward article: An Oxymoron: Publicly Funded Homeschooling. In this article entitled The Unintended Consequences of ESAs, IAHE lays out the reasons homeschoolers should not accept this “help” from the state.
Nevada’s plan (which did pass into law) is what Texas promoters say our plan is based on. What they fail to mention is that the Nevada School Choice plan is currently suspended by the Nevada Supreme Court. Barbara Dragon, Nevada Homeschool Network Officer Emeritus, has written a great article on the differences between Self-funded, Private Education vs. Government Funded School Choice. She has walked through this entire process in her state, and now warns other homeschoolers against “school choice.”
You are probably thinking, “Let’s see what HSLDA has to say about this.” Yes, let’s!
In an article from 2011 on the subject of tax credits for homeschoolers, Karen Braun (aka Spunky Homeschool) states:
The I.R.S. could conduct an audit, and the parent or parent’s tax preparer could retain all the necessary documentation relating to the child’s education and the qualifying educational expense to show to the I.R.S. if necessary.
Wow! So not only will we be required to prove we’re educating through testing, we’ll be proving we’re not tax cheats too! Because you know those homeschoolers and our tendency toward abuse! Please HSLDA you can do better than this!
So now what?
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If you have questions, please leave a comment below.
Tell me, have you already experienced this encroachment in your state? Is this alarming news to you?
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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