Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Homeschooler Opposed to Homeschool Tax Credits...

I've written some posts on tax credits when they were in the cross hairs of the federal government a few years ago.  I opposed them then and I oppose them for homeschoolers now.  Currently, my state, SC,  is trying to include home educators in "School Choice Bill 4894" and it's companion bill S-1325.  What follows is a lengthy discussion on why I am opposed to tax credits for homeschoolers, why I am NOT opposed to school choice and historical precedence of what happens to home education when they are included in tax credit/deduction legislation.

Contrary to popular belief, most homeschoolers choose home education because it works; not because we want to cloister our children away in their rooms with only their Bible to play with.  Frankly, the socialization issue has been debunked so strongly that even most educated opposition to homeschooling have given up that line of argument.  We home educate because we do a better job at educating.  We don't blame teachers or schools for that.  We blame the system that teachers and schools are forced to follow and we refuse to follow a broken system.

Many homeschoolers who want this money seem to have forgotten that we did not always have the freedom to opt out of a broken system and educate our own kids.  Many of those same home educators will also happily explain the merits of home educating and how successful it has been for them.  However, homeschooling in all 50 states has been legal for a measly 25 years.  We lost the right to home educate many years ago, and we WON it back through the hard work of pioneers of the early days of reemerging home education.  To think that we cannot lose ground by choosing to accept a tax credit that reduces funding to the public sector is obtuse or willfully ignorant.  Neither is acceptable.

 And what's more, the majority of homeschoolers do NOT want the tax credit, and more than one state has had to drop this nonsense because homeschoolers themselves organized to demand they keep the money!  Typically, it's the homeschoolers who have only made the choice to home educate in the last few years who wish to receive money.  Perhaps because they simply don't know the fight that came with winning our rights?  It's always easier to forget the fight when you didn't participate in it...

In SC, we already have school choice.  And we have three separate options to choose from once we determine to home educate.  Why are we in a "School Choice" bill at all?  It's money...plain and simple.  With government money, comes government regulation.  The public school system provides us with a very clear vision of what the Department of Education deems an appropriate education.  I should have the right to disagree....and I do, wholeheartedly.  Our schools are nothing more than educational Olympics that are designed to pass a test.  The education provided is a mile wide and an inch deep, in most cases.  I am opposed to this in every way.

Learning should be interesting, fun, and in-depth. Most home educators have found a way to make this happen in an environment that is safe, loving and dedicated.  We do not need regulation, as our ACT and SAT test scores prove in every single statistic. That statement also debunks the myth that homeschoolers don't "test".  We can't get into University or college without these test scores, either...we are not somehow removed from that requirement.  Here's a good example from a Time Magazine article on homeschooling on Sept. 11th, 2011:

  • Stanford University accepted 26% of the 35 homeschoolers who applied--nearly double its overall acceptance rate.
  • 23 of this fall's 572 freshmen at Wheaton College in Illinois were homeschooled, and their SAT scores average 58 points higher than those of the overall class.
  • Most colleges take a close look at standardized-test scores when weighing homeschool applications.
  • 2001, homeschoolers scored an average of 1,100 on the SAT--a full 81 points above the national average--and 22.8 on the ACT, compared with the national average of 21.
 Here is another excerpt from that article based on a home education study held in 1997.  This one is especially telling for minorities and how public education has yet to get their act together in equalizing education for all students:

  • Homeschoolers out-performed students in the public schools by 30-37% in all subjects.
  • The race of the student did not make any difference.
  • In grades K-12, both white and minority students scored, on the average, in the 87th%.
  • In the public schools, however, there is a sharp contrast.

  • White public school eighth grade students, nationally scored the 58th and 57th% in math and reading.
  • Black eighth grade scored on the average at the 24th and 28th% in math and reading.
  • Hispanics scored at the 29th and 28th%in math and reading.
  • More money does not mean a better education

  • Average cost per homeschool student is $546
  • Average cost per public school student is $5,325

  • And that last part of that study is very relevant in our conversation on tax credits.

     In SC, public schools receive 1/4 of the money for homeschoolers that they receive for students who actually attend their schools.  Basically, in SC, they are receiving somewhere between 3400.00-4000.00 for homeschooling students that the public schools do absolutely nothing for.  I am perfectly OK with that.  Every child deserves a good education and I have no problem with being part of that with my tax dollars, just like every other person in SC must do.  However, I do not believe that homeschooling families, who are already helping to fund public education via tax dollars, should be accountable to the State for how we're educating our children when we're already doing a better job than they are, regardless of WHY we are doing a better job.  Actually, in most real life scenarios, the group who performs better generally gets to hold the group who isn't doing as well accountable for why they aren't doing what they say they should be doing.  Only in education and politics does the reverse often happen.  So now, ask yourself why that doesn't hold true in this case?

    The answer is money.  The "credit" that homeschoolers would get via a "school choice" bill would remove money from the public sector, while adding paperwork TO the DOE.  Does anyone actually believe that will work to homeschoolers favor?  I seriously doubt anyone could make a logical argument for that scenario.  Why would anyone, whether public, private or home educator, want to regulate home schoolers who are proving that they are educating their children in a way that is absolutely working?  And yet, here is a direct quote from the co-sponsor of the School Choice Bill in SC that was in the West Ashley online publication (Jonathon Allen, the editor, confirmed that this was a direct quote):

     "This bill has a lot more accountability for homeschoolers and independent schools," he said. "We've done a lot to pare down the concerns from the past."  Rep. Eric Bedingfield (Greenville)

    Again, why does the State feel the need to regulate homeschoolers who are already proving to educate better than the schools they support?  When did education become about regulation and not education?

    To place SC's homeschoolers on a school choice bill when they already have school choice is merely a wolf in sheep's clothing.  The State has been determined to place home educators under their thumb since we won BACK the right to homeschool 25 years ago.  We don't want your tax credit and we will fight your regulations because they do NOT work.  The legislators didn't ask if we wanted their "help", they simply placed us on a bill.  This is not what our country is about and it's wrong. 

     Here is another telling quote taken from a letter that Christine Field, attorney with the Homeschool Legal Advantage wrote a few years ago in response to the federal tax credit discussion:   

    "But, you say, this isn’t really funding – it’s a return on taxes we have already paid.

    True, just like every other deduction you take on your Income Taxes, such expenditures would have to be documented. In our view, this leaves the door open for inspection and approval. It is a foothold that we cannot allow the Federal government to establish.

    For comparison, three states allow parents to take a deduction on their State income taxes for homeschool expenses. In my state (Illinois) I have taken the deduction and have been subject to questioning and requests for extra documentation each year I have sought it"

    As a final note:  I am not opposed to school choice.  Actually, I am completely FOR school choice for both public and private education.  Education should be about our youth...not our teachers, legislators, or school administration.  School choice is a GOOD thing.  However, homeschoolers already have school choice, so REMOVE our names from this bill and KEEP your tax credits.  Most homeschoolers don't want them, or need them.  Money from the State is historically regulated by the State...and well it should be.  Therefore, we unequivocally REFUSE the money!

    If you live in SC, here is the location to find your legislator today.

    Call them and tell them we do not want their tax credit and to remove homeschoolers from this school choice bill in every way!

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