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6 Reasons States Shouldn’t Balance Budgets with a Carrot to Homeschool

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6 Reasons States Shouldn’t Balance Budgets with a Carrot to Homeschool

By Linda Dobson

Well, it looks like the “Homeschoolers Against Tax Credits” page on Facebook was set up just in the knick of time. The page is a place to share information for families that homeschool (or support homeschooling) who know that taking bait from the state is a quick way to reduced freedom in their children’s education. (PLEASE see “Say No to Homeschool Tax Breaks: The Bacon You Save May Be Your Own.“) If you haven’t visited yet, it’s a gathering place for hundreds of homeschoolers who want to keep up on the news about what looks to be a growing trend in state budget balancing – a “carrot” in the form of tax credits for families who pull their children out of government schools.

money for homeschoolWho would have thought we’d see the day when governors and school administrators would do what, for  many, is a complete turn-around and try to encourage the homeschool population? The only ones who might have seen this coming would be those who could also foresee the financial and economic mess we call today’s United States of America.

At first glance, the idea of getting paid for one’s homeschooling efforts sounds terrific. Heaven knows that while homeschooling costs can be held down as far as one needs in order to accomplish it, extra money to manage to buy some cool things you’re doing without could be a dream come true. Couple this with governors willing to pay homeschoolers a mere fraction of the per-pupil expense of conditioning a child in the system, and it seems a win-win situation for all involved.

This is the part that irks me a lot. The more “win-win” it sounds, the more people will jump on the band wagon, and the sillier those who advise parents to run away from the money sound. But there are problems, big problems for homeschoolers, if these offers of tax credits become policy. I’ll get to the problems associated with homeschool after sharing some of the stories from three states.

Money to Homeschool In Colorado

Colorado House Bill 1048 is scheduled to be heard in the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at 1:30 PM.  If passed the bill would grant tax credits for those opting for home or private education.  Amendments will be presented and the committee is expected to vote on the bill.

The article continues to let folks know the Homeschool Legal Defense Association – which makes a good living for a handful of people when homeschoolers have problems with laws – thinks you should call your representative and tell him, “Yeah. Go money for homeschoolers!”

Money to Homeschool In New Hampshire

New Hampshire, which has the motto “live free or die” and is renowned for its low taxes, could deduct $3,500 (£2,175) from families’ annual bills for every child they withdraw from a state school.

Unlike voucher systems, in which parents are handed public funds assigned to their child and can top this up to buy private schooling, the scheme would not ensure the money is spent on education.

The proposal has been made in the state legislature by a group of Republicans, whose party took control last November amid a surge in support for the Tea Party, the anti-government conservative group.

It is designed to give parents more control over their children’s education, by making private and home schooling more affordable. Yet even its supporters have conceded that it could backfire.

Jim Forsythe, a Republican state senator who backs the scheme, has said there is a danger parents may “keep their kids at home to get the tax break but not actually school them”.

The article goes on to say that critics are worried that childless residents could demand a similar tax break, “to be spent how they wished.”

Money to Homeschool In North Carolina

The GOP leader in the state House, Paul Stam of Apex, is behind the proposal, which would allow parents to receive a refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 and an additional $1,000 from their county to offset private school costs. Commissioners in each county would have to approve their county’s participation, and Stam said fast-growing areas, especially in Raleigh and around Charlotte, would be likely to join.

Stam has filed the bill, HB 41, outlining the idea, which makes the credit available only for children who first attend public schools. He plans to introduce it Monday. A co-sponsor is freshman Rep. Tom Murry, a Morrisville Republican…

…Legislative staff research says the overall savings to the state and counties combined could top $50 million per year by shifting some students out of public schools.

Opponents say that the bill strikes at the heart of public education, that most fixed costs won’t be helped by lower school populations, and that the amount proposed would chiefly help parents who can already afford private education.

Please watch for more of this in additional states as time goes on. In the meantime, the three reports above help point to the problems a tax credit for those who homeschool can be.

Problems with a Carrot to Homeschool

1. The greatest problem, as it has always been, is the squelching of freedom that is inherent in independent homeschooling. Sure, you can get a tax credit, but first there will be paperwork. Of course no one is talking about said paperwork at this point, but it will likely include things like the names, ages, and Social Security numbers of your children, your curricula choices, your calendar, and all your receipts for which you’d like to be reimbursed.

Oh, yes, and then there’s that sticky little problem of using tax dollars for “religious” education. In this case, you probably won’t receive any reimbursement and, if by chance you do, there can be lawsuits that might involve you somewhere down the line.

2. The old adage, “Give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile” will apply here. Kids in school need to take tests; so should the homeschoolers we’re giving money to. Kids in school adhere to the state’s curriculum; so should the homeschoolers we’re giving money to. (I could go on, but you get the idea.)

3. Soon, the regulators will say, “Hmm, if x number of homeschoolers are voluntarily providing us all this information, we don’t see any reason all of the other homeschoolers shouldn’t do the same.” That may be what they think, but there are plenty of homeschool families out there who do not want their freedom impinged upon.

4. Parents completely unable to stay home will complain about how unfair it is that they can’t stay home and get the money, too.

5. The parents mentioned above, along with teachers unions and perhaps even government school administrators themselves, will worry about whether or not all of those “homeschoolers” are actually providing an education with that money we’re giving them. They may feel perfectly justified in interviewing your children, sending “professionals” into your home to make sure you’re doing it “right,” or, hey, how about some surprise visits as long as we’re at it?

6. What about homeschoolers doing it for money? Will they avail themselves of the information available on the topic? Would they go about homeschooling in the same way as parents who feel philosophically/morally/spiritually moved to homeschool? Might they sit their children in front of a computer all day and call it homeschooling? Will the children and parents enjoy homeschooling in the same way that inspires countless practitioners to write and share about it? Will they bad-mouth homeschooling and quit, sending their children back to the “better” government schools?

This post is getting long, so I’ll stop here. If you live in any of these three states and you are so moved, raise your voice for independent homeschooling in freedom. Keep your eyes peeled for word of similar maneuvers in your state and gather your homeschooling friends together to make your voices heard. Join “Homeschoolers Against Tax Credits” on Facebook where many homeschoolers are sharing information as they get it. If at any time homeschool families slide down that slippery slope toward increased state regulation, the freedom that makes homeschooling so successful, and that so many parents have fought for and maintained over the last few decades, will disappear.

Yes, states do need to balance their budgets, but they don’t need to do it on the backs of those who homeschool.

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11 Responses to “6 Reasons States Shouldn’t Balance Budgets with a Carrot to Homeschool”

  1. debra says:

    I am not a betting woman, but I would bet hard earned money that the carrot would become the stick. Caveat emptor—let the buyer beware!

  2. I agree with you, Debra. Thank you so much for being here, and for taking the time to respond.

  3. Mary says:

    I do not want any more gov't influence than necessary in my home school. If the state governments really want to help families financially they could do as Minnesota does and give tax credits to all families (under $35K income approx) for necessary school expenses, regardless of school choice. It is available to public, private and home schooling families. If I recall correctly you can receive a credit of up to 75% of the first $2000 of school expenses. When audited, as my family was once, all we needed to do was send a copy of our receipts. I actually ended up with more than I requested in the tax credit as I had forgotten to add in one receipt.

  4. Christine says:

    I was just thinking the other day that with all the budget cuts in many states due to budget deficits, and with these states going after public education, that it is only a matter of time before the try to tap into the homeschooling community.

    Great points!

  5. Interesting approach in MN, Mary…wonder what % of hsers fall under the income cap. Thanks for reading and commenting…it's great to have you here!

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Christine. It certainly is an interesting twist on the decades-long status quo! Nice to have you here at Parent at the Helm.

  7. Mother Mary says:

    something about dancing with the devil.

    Why don't they just go full bore and advocate for the (state) Department of Homeschooling? You know, we could register the families, keep tabs on them and what they are teaching, and regulate the funding?

    And they can all get their official HSLDA diploma.

  8. Cristina says:

    Thank you so much for giving me more ammo, Linda. I live in a highly regulated state (NY) and my father thinks that with all I do, I'm entitled to money from the government. I don't want any money! I'm not in this for the money. I would prefer that my state made homeschooling easier, not give it a reason to make my life more complicated.

    Peace and Laughter!

  9. Cristina, you're quite welcome! I hsed in NY in the 80's, before the wonderful regs were even in place. When they went through they were a major disappointment. You're right – complicated (and instrusive) enough already, thank you very much. Thanks so much for being here!

  10. Eric says:

    Homeschoolers are already intensely regulated here in NY, but school taxes are killing us! A couple thoughts. 1- Homeschool tax credits don't have to be accepted. If you're not taking state money they will have no basis to invade your domain. 2- Credits can be designed to phase out after a few years. 3- The better answer might be to "means-test" government school families for tuition, like they already do with "free lunch" programs. This will immediately lower school taxes, and once the middle-class masses are forced to pay (at least partially) for using government schools, many will choose less expensive alternatives on their own.

  11. […] controversy exists between the two political parties and within the homeschool community.  Many homeschoolers oppose special treatment in the form of money. Public schools and their advocates fear the loss of funding […]

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