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Why home school advocates are lobbying hard against universal school choice bills

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 3/20/2023 Jeremiah Poff
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A home schooling legal advocacy organization is afraid that a slew of school choice bills that allow families to use public funding for education, including home schooling, will lead to expanded government regulation.

States such as Iowa, Utah, and Arkansas have enacted new universal school choice programs in recent months, and more states, including Florida and Texas, are poised to join them. But the Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based legal group, says families should be wary of supporting the bills if the funds can be used for home school expenses.


"Historically, we have gone to state legislatures saying, 'We don't want anything from you other than the freedom to home-school our children," HSLDA President James Mason told the Washington Examiner in an interview. "Education savings accounts are different because people are going to state legislatures and saying, 'We want taxpayer money.' So we have opposed taxpayer-funded private home schooling on the grounds that it will erode the liberties that we've worked so hard to gain. Regulation follows funding."

On its website, HSLDA says it opposes school choice bills in nearly every state where they have been introduced. This includes a recently passed bill in Arkansas championed by new Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), as well as bills currently under consideration in Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma.

The proposed or enacted legislative initiatives allow families to use state funds to pay for education-related expenses, including private school tuition, private tutors, and even home school expenses.

Mason explained that the organization doesn't oppose school choice programs per se; it simply wants home schoolers to be ineligible for state funds, even if participation in the state-funded program is voluntary.

"The problem for us as home school leaders in watching the trends over the years is that in the minds of many, if you are at home with your kids, the distinction about whether you get state money or not is irrelevant," Mason explained. "State money invites scrutiny and invites regulation. When that comes, we think it will sweep in those who don't choose the money in addition to those who take the money. So the threat is that all home schoolers, [if they] take the money or not, [will be] subject to increased regulation, reimposing needless barriers that we fought so hard to remove over the years for no reason other than some are taking public money."

Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow for the American Federation for Children and a prominent school choice advocate, said the HSLDA's concerns "sound like fearmongering" and attributed it to the "slippery slope fallacy."

"The bigger issue that would lead to regulation of private and home education is having authoritarians in office that don't respect parental rights in education," DeAngelis said. "The leadership of the HSLDA, I think they have good intentions, but they're missing the bigger picture. They're looking at one potential cost that might happen through people voluntarily accepting the funding, but they're ignoring the guaranteed costs of cementing the status quo by rejecting the incremental victories."

DeAngelis said he "want[s] the HSLDA on my side" but said they should trust the members of their own community.

"If you trust the home school community, you should you should trust allowing them to make that choice and weigh the costs and benefits for their own kids," the school choice activist said. "I know they'd come back and say, 'No, we believe that if they don't take the money, they'll still get the regulation.' But I've seen no evidence of that."


For his part, Mason said home schoolers who support school choice should think about "at what price do you lose your liberty?"

"It's a question of moving from liberty to dependency," Mason said. "When the money starts flooding, it's going to dramatically change the character of home education in America and probably diminish the liberty of parents who choose it."


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Tags: Home Schooling, News, School Choice, Government Regulation, School Vouchers

Original Author: Jeremiah Poff

Original Location: Why home school advocates are lobbying hard against universal school choice bills


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