The NY Times, the Daily Beast and others have been paying a bit of attention to homeschoolers and the people deemed as homeschool advocates.
I’ll try to tie in my thoughts from the synopsis in my last post Refusing the Carrot, and the fact that our state of Illinois already has an Education Tax Credit. Apparently few states have this and with a cursory look, I’m seeing Florida and Georgia have tax credits. As I understand it, these are both states that notify the government that they homeschool. [Update – See comments to post for correction.] Illinois does not, but authorities have surely been working on that in a systematic manner. I’ve been trying for some years to sort this out, while paying attention to warnings from homeschool advocates who know how to research. Is there a big stick with that tax credit carrot?
If some Illinois homeschoolers decide to go this route, the IL Dept of Revenue issued a separate Publication 119 for homeschoolers. Publication 132 is offered for all public and non-public school parents – unless you’re a homeschooler. I know there are homeschoolers who fill out 119 because the question comes up every year in on-line group lists from now until April. One homeschooler filing for a tax credit asked me what problems actually result from these concerns. It seems like endorsement of a government publication that separates out homeschoolers from other non-public schools is a problem in itself. Illinois homeschools are considered private schools via a 1950 Illinois Supreme Court ruling, and we need to hang onto that “private school/non-public school” protection. I don’t know how many Illinois homeschoolers use this tax credit, but our homeschooling neighbors to the north, Larry and Susan Kaseman, have done some research.
The Illinois tax credit is designed for conventional schools and does not work well for homeschoolers. Very few homeschoolers in Illinois qualify for it, and even fewer file the paperwork to claim the tax credit because doing so would put their homeschooling freedoms at risk. For a strong statement from Christian Liberty Academy asking homeschoolers in Illinois not to claim tax credits because doing so increases the risk of greater state regulation for all homeschoolers, see the Christian Liberty Academy’s web site at http://www.homeschoolfreedom.org/class.pdf. According to an official in the Illinois Department of Revenue, the very few tax credit claims made by homeschoolers are often reduced or denied. (Fortunately, since so few homeschoolers have applied for tax credits, Illinois has not yet increased its regulation of homeschoolers.)
If homeschoolers want the tax credit, it makes sense fill out Publication 132 as legitimate non-public schools. Because, in my opinion, completing the state’s Publication 119 is little different than registering with another state agency, the Regional Office of Education.
Illinois’ governmental authorities are trying to increase homeschool regulation and for some years, folks in the Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch has been calling them on it on an individual basis. I will point out that we do this in our ‘spare’ time when we’re not trying to nurture and educate our family, as we’re not receiving tax funding for a day job that can complicate homeschoolers’ lives. It’s a strange, unfortunate state of affairs in the land of busy legislators and an endless stream of bureaucrats.
One of the pushes from the IL State Board of Education and their sub-units – the Regional Offices of Education – is for homeschool registration. Again, this is not for all private school registration, but homeschool registration. By applying for an education tax credit via Pub 119, homeschooling parents are notifying the government agency that they homeschool, plus they’re supplying information on the materials used.
Which is exactly what various IL public school officials are asking for via over-compliance demands for registration. Illinois homeschoolers do not have to register with the state. The Home School Registration Form was created by the IL State Board of Education and if homeschoolers choose to fill this form out, it’s filed in the Data Analysis and Progress Reporting Dept in Springfield. The form requires information on curriculum being used.
Let’s go back to Rob Reich – government enforcer and worrier about all learning possibilities he can’t understand. In the NY Times article, Reich seemed quivery excited about the possibilities of a federal tax credit.
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.
Rob Reich likes the idea. Run, run as fast as you can, because he has strings for your children that are “in the best interests”. You can ask any anti-homeschooler and/or public school lobbyist about their definition of children’s best interests. It might be a bit different than a homeschool parent’s. Actually, make that most any parent’s regarding their child’s best interests.
Kasemans made this important point about choices that are made to fit into the tax credit limitations:
Perhaps most important to homeschoolers, tax credits inevitably increase the government’s control over both homeschoolers who accept them and those who don’t. The government will not simply give a tax credit to anyone who checks a box on their tax return saying, “I am homeschooling.” (For one thing, every parent could claim that they are educating their children at home to some extent, including those who also send their children to a conventional school fulltime.) So, if the state is not already strongly regulating homeschooling, it will define what constitutes homeschooling, what expenses qualify as “education,” how taxpayers will be required to demonstrate that they actually spent the money, and more. Religious curriculums and educational materials generally do not qualify for tax credits. To meet the government’s requirements, homeschoolers have to, self-consciously or inadvertently, adopt the government’s principles and beliefs about education, a sad outcome for families who began homeschooling because they wanted for their children an education consistent with their principles and beliefs, not those of the government. For example, tax credit statutes in Illinois and Minnesota include long lists of terms that control what a homeschooler can claim.
Virginia homeschool advocate Shay Seaborne wrote up a great article about state tax credits: Home Education Tax Credit? No, Thanks!
Shay concludes with this:
Supporters of a home education tax credit may claim that no family would be required to take a tax credit, so it can’t harm objectors. However, such legislation is likely to attract increased monitoring, as illustrated in the 2000 and 2001 Virginia General Assembly sessions. During each session, an amendment involving Standards of Learning (SOL) testing was attached as an apparent backlash against the promotion of a tax credit bill. The 2000 amendment would have affected all home-educated students, not just those of parents who filed for a tax credit.
Two years in a row, the point was proven in the Virginia General Assembly: an education tax credit beckons demands for increased “accountability.” It is imprudent for homeschoolers to grab at the tax credit carrot without making due note of the heavy stick poised to hit us with further regulation. Of course homeschooling families would like to have more money, but when regarding a home education tax credit we must ask, “to what cost in loss of our freedom?”
Finally, Tom Parent of Illinois based Christian Liberty Academy wrote a piece about refusing the Illinois tax credit. Here’s his concern:
However, having run into strong resistance in the legislative arena, they [those seeking governmental homeschool oversight] have shifted their maneuvering to the financial arena. Knowing that many families are having difficulty making ends meet, and knowing how most Americans are used to the idea of government subsidies and deductions, state educators have hit upon a very practical way to take eventual control over home education and—through tax vouchers and tuition tax credits—gradual control over private and religious day schools as well.
We have noticed that some Regional Offices of Education are now listing registered homeschoolers in their annual fiscal reports. What a shame. First of all, that homeschoolers are filling out that invasive paperwork when it’s not mandated. Second, that school officials would document those homeschoolers in a financial record as if homeschoolers use any public school tax money to educate our children. Seems like the only thing costing money are those blasted Registration Forms and packets copied and mailed out to potential or current homeschoolers demanding they register with the state.
Our family, and many others I know, do not use a “curriculum”. We mix and match and like many others, we could be described as eclectic homeschoolers. I’ve never used a science textbook for my kids. They’re using one now for their dual credit classes. This tax credit thing smacks too much of an Illinois Home School Registration Form and schooly stuff for me. I don’t have a problem with homeschooling families being ‘schooly’, as that’s a parent’s particular personal choice. I don’t like getting ‘boxed’ into a corner, so to speak. Two different governmental agencies in Illinois are seeking the same sort of information from homeschoolers. On a voluntary basis, of course, but when’s that big stick come out?