Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Making of a Special Interest Group

One of the things that has always been important to me in the political arena of homeschooling, is that homeschoolers could stand apart, while still standing together in support of homeschooling in and of itself.  Even homeschoolers who had divergent views on what homeschooling should entail stood together for this one thing:  The absolute right to homeschool as we see fit.  One of the things that make that so obvious is that homeschoolers fight at all costs to keep the government out of their business...even fully secular homeschoolers.  We're doing just fine without their interference, and almost anyone who has done any real research has a difficult time arguing that point.  We score higher on standardized tests, we have a huge rate of students who seek higher education, and we tend to be more civicly minded.  Even Professor Rob Reich of Stanford University, who's famously opposed to homeschooling without State interference, will admit to most of these findings.

It's amazing to note that no one group has ever stepped up as the "voice" of homeschooling, because we tend to intentionally seek our own way as individual families.  Government has tried many tactics to stop that, but because they can't find any real reason to shut the door on homeschooling, as well as the diverse population of homeschoolers, they've continually failed.  Until they finally hit upon the great neutralizer in all political debates:  Money.  When money is introduced, you begin to see a group of people with saliva dripping from their jowls in great anticipation of their tax credit that will surely change the direction of their lives.  Money.  The love of money is the root of all evil...I have that on Good Authority. 

And so, like most special interest groups, some perceived personal benefit is beginning to change the once vast view of homeschoolers that we didn't want the government in our business.  After all, they're not exactly doing a spectacular job of the students who's education they currently control. 

They are using the School Choice Bill as a way to "include" homeschoolers in the "tax credit", also known as the proverbial carrot, in my state, South Carolina.  Now let's be clear, I do not object to a School Choice Bill.  What I object to is homeschoolers being tacked onto the bottom of a bill that isn't about homeschoolers, nor about school choice for homeschoolers.  In SC, we already HAVE school choice.  We have three options to choose from when we determine to home educate our children.  Each of these options are good ones that cover a wide range of school "choice". 

I applaud a School Choice Bill, as it's proven to work and provide a better education to our population.  I do NOT applaud homeschoolers being tacked onto a school choice bill when we already have school choice.  This ALONE should be a red flag to those that support this for money.  Many of the same people who are seeking to get this money, are the very ones who gripe about other special interest groups seeking money for themselves.  This is NOT different, no matter how you try to justify your motivations.

Why are we in the bill at all, you might ask? (or you should)  Because tax credits open the door for due diligence.  We just had a homeschooler on a local homeschool group asked for her attendance records when claiming an earned income credit.  And yet some local homeschoolers don't believe, or are willingly being obtuse, whichever you prefer, that by accepting this measly little credit from the School Choice Bill that they will not have any accountability to the government.  I would ask them, "Can you show me ANY precedent for that train of thought?"  EVER?   There's not a single tax credit in the history of the IRS that will get out from under the governmental thumb. Frankly, it shouldn't.

Here is a 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" 

Do I have a problem with the government requiring documentation for tax money they refund?  No.  I'd expect nothing less.  And isn't this the entire point?  We've made a CHOICE to homeschool.  We made that choice knowing that we would, and should, fund our children's education for the FREEDOM to choose what we teach, when we teach it, and how we teach it.  And for a measly 1500.00 dollars, and that's only if you qualify for the entire amount, we have homeschoolers who are perfectly willing to trade in this hard won freedom to homeschool as we see fit. 

 Granted, most of those that are fighting so hard for these little pennies haven't actually homeschooled very long.  They don't remember, or know anyone, who fought the good fight just so they have the right to homeschool, at all.  While that's no excuse, it's at least a reasonable explanation for why anyone would trade in their absolute freedom to homeschool, for an assumption that they won't change those freedoms...even though all history and precedence clearly say there's no truth in that assumption.  Frankly, I think it's sad and very much like watching a special interest group being born.  

A special interest group is simply a group of people who seek to influence legislators to act in their favor.  Homeschoolers actually believe they have that power and that's astounding to me.  The vast majority of the public are ignorant to homeschooling and what it actually involves because their primary interaction with homeschoolers is from Wife Swap or that one awkward kid they know who happened to be homeschooled. (Because there's not a single awkward kid in public schools, right?!...I digress)  

 Homeschooling is political because we offend the NEA and because we've finally reached large enough numbers to begin to concern those who's money will be affected by homeschoolers.  This, and only this, keeps us in the political arena.  When we breach the 10% mark, we'll have to fight tooth and nail to keep the government out of our business...if we don't first bend over for the money.  Also all special interest groups seek something that has a personal interest to them and them alone.  

The thing that makes homeschoolers special is that we're talking about our kids.  Not guns, or our sexual partner, or some Union who wants more money...but our CHILDREN.  And while some may be willing to sell themselves and their rights to home educate for 1500.00 dollars and fool themselves into believing that the government would never come in to regulate them, history tells a much different story.  Even slanted history books tend to show that anytime you receive from the government, you will also give to the government. We are talking about our children, and I want no part of this. 

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