The alleged problem of homeschooling families paying ‘double’ for education because they choose not to send their children to public school has come up again, this time in Arkansas.Â
- Arkansas News Bureau, Little Rock, Arkansas, 27 April 2006, State not ready for vouchers, Duggar says
Jim Bob Duggar, father of 16 children, homeschooling dad, former Arkansas state representative, and now-candidate for the Arkansas state senate, has proposed that Arkansas parents who do not send their children to school should be given a property-tax credit because they do not useÂ public schools. If that logic is accepted, then anyone without a child in public schools should also be given a tax credit, and that would leave the public school system without a significant portionÂ of its income. The full burden of public education would rest on families, which would make the funding of public schools not much different from that of private schools.
Since public education in the United States is funded a minimum of fifty different ways, if the money generated from non-school-using-taxpayers was withdrawn, there would still be some income in states that augmented school funding from revenue streams such as sales taxes andÂ casino intake.Â States whose citizens, or legislators, chose to allow aÂ tax credit for non-use of the public schools would also still haveÂ the federal money that states accept for compliance with requirements and restrictions from the federal government.
If the idea of tax credits for non-usersÂ is a concept with ‘legs,’ a tax-credit would amount almost to a de facto voucher system. The changeover wouldn’t be complete because of the other revenue streams, but it would be close. The entire system would have to change because instead of ‘opting out’ as is now done, families would have to ‘opt in’ or perhaps would only be placed on the property tax rolls once a child entered school. This could get a little hairy for homeschooling families who wanted their children to play on the high school sports teams, to sing in the school choir, or t play in the marching band.
To continue the ‘what-if-ing,’ if the ‘user fee’ were fairly applied, meaning applied only to families using the system, childless taxpayers might support the idea, because they’d be the biggest beneficiaries: they have no child-related expenses, and would be relieved of school-support taxes. Any family not using the public system could probably be relied on for support of the idea, too, althoughÂ some non-public school users support the concept of public funding of education, as do some people without children.
Those against the plan would be families using the system. Their property taxes would either increase to compensate for the loss of income to the system, or they would have to accept a cut in services because of less money supporting the system. Teacher unions would also ‘not support’ the idea — probably very loudly. Finding out that the industry in which you expected to have a career is changing, and might not need you, is a depressively wrenching experience. We all want to make a living.
Public school administrators can be relied upon to object: imagine budgeting for each school year without knowing how much money you’d have every year?Â Oh, I forgot. That’s how the overseas Department of Defense Dependent School system works. That could be one factor in why the tuition for space-A students, such as the children of military contractors, is so high.
Repercussions throughout the economy would also be felt as private businesses that supply goods and services to public schools lose business because of reduced public school budgets, but compensatory outlets might develop as taxpayers have more discretionary income, or if public projects that have been deferred because of lack of money were approved by those same taxpayers. Maybe neighbors would buy more chocolate bars and magazines from children sent out door-to-door to raise money for the local school.
I don’t support the idea of only families-who-don’t-use-schools getting a tax break, that’s just unfair to the rest of us. Either everyone supports the public school system, or it changes to a user-supported system, as with user-fees that support state road systems that come from gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees.
A ‘halfway’ plan is discriminatory, not to mention thatÂ non-public-school-use confers no halo on either homeschooling families or families whose children attend private schools.Why is there an idea at large that homeschoolers are somehow ‘special’ when it comes to being part of the Public?
What could be interesting about the idea is seeing how this arrangement plays out inÂ a self-directedÂ SimCity-style program. If gamers changed the algorithm (I think that’s the right word)Â so that schools-in-the-program ran on the model of opting-in to the public school system for both use of the schools and payment to the schools, the results could be informative. Those results would also depend on how large an effect chaos theory nudged the outcomes.
This entire discussion could put a fine point on the topic of Who should be in charge of how public money is spent (taxpayers or their obedient servants in public office?), and to whom the public schools ‘belong.’