February 15, 2017 – Where is the proof that vouchers for homeschooling will bring more regulations?

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First, it is important to say that homeschooling voucher programs (like the one outlined in HR 610) have not been successful at the state level, so we have no specific data about how homeschooling vouchers would increase regulation other than to compare it to private schools accepting voucher money vs. those that are not (keep reading for information about states with tax credits).

Voucher programs for homeschoolers that have been introduced in other states have not passed due to homeschoolers not wanting the money which would surely lead to regulation.

When the government offers money for a specific purpose (education, roads, etc.), there need to be accountability measures to be sure that the money is being spent responsibly.

Here in Wisconsin, there are different rules for private schools that accept voucher money (as opposed to those that do not).  It is likely that there would also be different rules for homeschoolers that accept voucher money than for those that do not.

Different rules based on the acceptance (or not) of vouchers by some homeschoolers would:

  1. Create the precedent that the homeschoolers will be regulated by the government.  Since it is such a small minority of the population, it is possible that changes in regulation that start out only applying to those taking vouchers, become applicable to all homeschoolers.
  2. Divide homeschoolers, who are already a very small group of the school-aged population into those who accept voucher money and those who do not.  This division would make it much easier to pass additional regulation for all homeschoolers.
  3. Provide the need for accountability for how those tax dollars are spent, including regulation of who is qualified to homeschool, possible higher education requirements, mandatory testing, approval of curriculum, check ins with local school districts, etc.

Even in states where legislation is proposed that is not intended to regulate homeschooling further, there is always a higher level of regulation with public dollars, including tax credits.

Minnesota is an example of a state that offers a tax credit and then approves of those who qualify for it and what is considered a qualified expense.The state decides what is a legitimate educational expense rather than the parent.

In addition, Minnesota homeschoolers are already facing much higher regulation than Wisconsin homeschoolers.  They are required to test their children annually (if the child scores below the 30th percentile action is required). They must also submit immunization records when beginning to homeschool and at the start of 7th grade.  Finally, they must report their intention to homeschool directly to their school district, including the names and birthdates of their children, and which standardized test they will be using

Right now states with tax credits or other public dollars directed to homeschoolers have significantly more regulation than Wisconsin.  In lIlinois, parents do not have to register with the Illinois State Board of Education if they chose not to. However, under a 1974 court decision, (Scoma vs. Chicago Board of Education) the burden of proof rests with the parents to establish that the plan of home instruction that they are providing meets the state requirements.  Section 26-1 of the Illinois School Code states that parents who choose homeschooling are obligated to teach, “the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in public school.”

This Illinois regulation is significantly more restrictive than what we have in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin we are not required to prove that we what we are teaching our children corresponds to the public school curriculum.

In each state where homeschooling families can get some sort of tax break or credit, there is currently more regulation than we have here in Wisconsin.

Again, the vouchers proposed in HR 610 have never passed in any states because homeschoolers and homeschooling advocacy organizations all over the country have fought hard against them.  We are making a logical assumption that if the state creates guidelines for who is eligible for these types of vouchers and how they need to be used, we would be restricted in our homeschooling freedom.

HR610 has now been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

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