The New York Times put most homeschoolers into an undesirable, non-bid for fame. We’ve been profiled as a special interest group wanting something (money) from these “new Republicans.” I don’t know about many other homeschoolers, but I’d rather step out of this particular limelight of perceived hands held out. As an Illinois homeschooler, my husband and I have known we could use the Illinois Education Tax Credit for some years, but decided it wasn’t worth it for various reasons. We learned some time ago that our freedom is worth more than money.
In the NY Times’s Room for Debate, Susan Neuman, professor in educational studies and assistant secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration had an interesting point of view. She started out with the notion that ‘conservatives’ are trying to destroy public education with homeschool tax credits.
I’d say that ‘conservatives’ like Chester Finn are trying to destroy homeschooling with his love of standardized tests. His thumbs up for homeschool tax credits came with the notion that “if they don’t pass those tests, either the subsidy vanishes or the kids must enroll in some sort of school with a decent academic track record.” As if those tests are a good synopsis of what children learn. As if enrolling kids who don’t do well on tests is reason to be in a school. We could turn that around to say that some public school students shouldn’t be in school because those tests look very bad for them. Most good teachers agree that teaching to standardized tests doesn’t help learning, even if their union insists on testing for homeschoolers. From the edu-industry end, Mr. Finn was invested as a Director of K12, Inc. until July of 2007 and is still a member of the Education Advisory Committee. Not surprisingly, Finn was promoting the virtual schools heavily in this non-reality based comparison of homeschooling and virtual schools: “From a policy perspective, however, there’s not much difference between teaching kids at home and enrolling them in any of hundreds of “virtual charter schools” or district- or state-run alternatives”.” His K12 company is lobbying hard in Illinois for more business than just the Chicago Virtual School. I wouldn’t want him speaking on behalf of the homeschooling community because dollar signs keep distorting his view. In The Educated Child, a book he co-authored with William Bennett, they stated that “homeschoolers should not have to do so [homeschool] because there are no good schools available”. What they don’t seem to understand is the homeschooling lifestyle enables the family to enjoy each other and their education and isn’t necessarily because of an indictment of schools. Families homeschool in communities with the best school districts too.
Rob Reich – notorious for his anti-homeschool freedom attitudes – sounds almost excited about federal tax credits. His piece is similar to Finn’s, except he wants homeschool registration, where Chester Finn likes the testing notion. I think Reich’s piece was the tamest of any of his previous articles demanding homeschoolers answer to the government. There’s cause for alarm. Reich senses promise in registering all homeschooled children with the use of tax credits.
Want a tax credit to home school? Accept a requirement to register your child as being home schooled and that the child take the same state tests as other public school students. Federal dollars come with strings attached, and these particular strings are in the best interests of children, anyway.
Luis Huerta of Columbia University had a piece with many similar points to a Daily Beast article.
The current efforts consist of a two-prong approach that involve resurrecting recently proposed legislation: First, the Family Education Freedom Act of 2009, sponsored and repeatedly introduced by Representative Ron Paul of Texas has proposed a tax credit of up to $5,000 for private school tuition and home schooling expenses. Second, the Parental Rights Amendment of 2009 sponsored by Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and written by Michael Farris, the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, would protect “the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children” as a fundamental right.
But I think his point below shows the HSLDA sponsored contradiction in promoting a Parental Rights Amendment, while chancing federal regulations of homeschooling with tax credits. I also don’t like the Parental Rights Amendment because we don’t need our rights enumerated. We already have them.
Dana Goldstein from The Beast says in her article How the Tea Party Will Destroy Education Reform that:
The organization [HSLDA] has powerful supporters—both veteran legislators and newcomers. Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the caucus’ vice-chairwoman, support homeschool tax credits. John Kline, the incoming House Education Committee chairman, was the keynote speaker at last spring’s Home School Legal Defense Association conference, where he said he would work to “charge up Capitol Hill with the message of homeschool freedom.”
I’m all about a message of homeschool freedom, but we generally keep it to ourselves, unless ironically enough, legislators or school authorities start getting in our way.
Here’s some more “new Republican” names laid out from the Beast that want to ‘help’.
“Rubio and Paul ran for Senate supporting tax credits for homeschoolers, though they also describe themselves as deficit hawks committed to balancing the federal budget. Paul has been an especially vocal advocate for homeschooling, often speaking publicly about the prominent role homeschooling volunteers played in his Kentucky campaign. He spoke on June 25 to the Christian Homeschool Educators of Kentucky, whose mission is to “protect children from mental, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by secular humanists in a socialist society or governmental system.” On his campaign website, Paul’s staff regularly promoted homeschooling as an alternative to failing public schools, citing high academic achievement scores among homeschooled children (who also tend to come from more affluent families than their public school counterparts.)”
The sentiment is right: Home schooling parents shouldn’t have to pay for schools they don’t use then pay again for education they do. But good intentions neither make a law constitutional, nor necessarily sound. Proof of home schooling could be defined as passing federally prescribed tests – just the sort of mandate many home schoolers despise. In Article I, Section 8, the Constitution gives the federal government specific powers, and the feds may do nothing beyond them. Included among them is nothing about education, so Washington may make no education policy. And no, the taxing power does not allow Washington to do whatever it wants as long as it is connected to taxes. Taxation may only be used in service of the enumerated powers.
McCluskey finishes with this thought:
Home schoolers deserve some breaks. At the national level, that means adhering to the Constitution and getting the federal government out of education, which would benefit not just home schoolers, but all taxpayers.
I don’t think most homeschoolers consider themselves deserving of a break. Except when legislators or public school authorities interfere with well or ill intentioned motivations. Rule number one for homeschoolers should be to not make any rules or laws or regulations for homeschooling families. If we’ve already determined it’s worth it to go against the societal mainstream of public schools, then we’re also pretty determined to create the best learning opportunities for each of our children in the coziness of our homes. In other words, no worries about us, as public schools already have plenty to do on their own.
Neumann concludes with a question.
This latest proposal is designed for the heart not the head. Home-schooling families are too smart and too savvy to buy into this half-baked plan. They know that tax credits are good for nothing but greater federal intrusion. Is this what the Tea Party had in mind?
If you’ve ever heard the story about The Wild and Free Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp, then you’ll understand homeschoolers don’t want to end up in the educational market’s pen. Many have walked away from the carrot.
NHELD’s Deborah Stevenson has an excellent piece about this tax credit issue.
Spunky has a piece, along with good comments on the issue.
Update – My thoughts, concerns, a bit of research and a lot of other good folks’ articles regarding the IL Education Tax Credit and its repercussions are posted here.
Submitted by Susan Ryan, who is happily and independently homeschooling in Illinois