PO Box 2502
Madison, WI 53701
February 25, 2020 – S.634 & H.R.1434 Action Required
Wisconsin Parents Association’s Legislative Watch Committee has been monitoring companion federal bills S.634 and H.R.1434 Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, and to date, both bills remain referred to their respective committees. Co-sponsors have been added, but to date, no other action has been taken. Congress was recently urged to pass these bills, which has increased attention on them and is why WPA is calling for action at this time.
What would the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act do?
These bills would provide federal tax credits, not for homeschoolers, but for businesses and individuals who contribute to scholarship granting organizations. These bills would also enable granting organizations to, among other things, award scholarships to homeschoolers for homeschooling expenses.
Why is this a concern for Wisconsin homeschoolers?
The first issue with these bills is that education is a state’s domain, and each state has its own homeschooling law. Any proposed legislation regarding education at a federal level conflicts with this fundamental constitutional reality.
In addition, these bills involve taxpayer and other outside entity monies. External accountability and oversight, in direct opposition to Wisconsin’s current homeschooling freedoms, would be required to ensure those monies are spent properly.
Finally, there is an inherent contradiction built into the language of these bills that could open the door to further legislation inhibiting Wisconsin’s homeschooling freedoms. On the one hand, these bills forbid the Federal government and entities acting on behalf of a state to “mandate, direct, or control any aspect of a private or home education provider.” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/634/text#id42f4a7b2860e4443b31f4639e418bf74) On the other hand, the proposed website for facilitating the program would “[enable] a State to submit and update information about its programs and its eligible scholarship-granting organizations and eligible workforce training organizations for informational purposes only, including information on” such items as student eligibility and allowable educational expenses. (https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/634/text#id30c55daeb9a140d0877d228cc9f93cc8)
In Wisconsin, where parents take full responsibility for and authority over their home-based private educational programs, this outside accountability would introduce oversight of Wisconsin homeschoolers. Since Wisconsin Act 512 (1983) was enacted in 1984, the administrator of a home-based private educational program in Wisconsin has the sole authority to decide what is an allowable educational expense and to approve items for their homeschool. These bills present a direct threat to Wisconsin’s long-standing and highly-effective homeschool law.
Please contact your Representative and Senators in Congress and respectfully ask them to either call for removing the language regarding homeschooling, or to oppose the bill entirely.
To find your federal Representative: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
To find your federal Senators: http://www.senate.gov/states/WI/intro.htm
Since this is federal legislation, there is no need to contact your state representative or senator.
WPA’s Legislative Watch Committee keeps up-to-date on state and national issues that may affect Wisconsin homeschool law. We watch, analyze, and call on members when action is needed. As always, WPA encourages you to familiarize yourself with this and all proposed legislation that could potentially affect Wisconsin homeschoolers.