Crosstalk: February 17, 2017
William Estrada is a staff attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association. He is also Director of HSLDA’s Federal Relations, and Director of Federal Relations for ParentalRights.org. Will is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar and the California bar. He himself is a homeschool graduate.
When defending homeschoolers, at times the HSLDA must oppose friends of homeschooling as well as opponents, due to unwise provisions in proposed legislation. On January 23, 2017, Rep. Steve King (IA), Rep. Andy Harris (MD), and Rep. Pete Olson (TX), and Rep. Trent Franks (AZ) introduced H.R. 610, "The Choices in Education Act of 2017". If the bill only applied to public schools and traditional brick-and-mortar private schools, HSLDA would take no official position on it. There is no question that many millions of children are stuck in public schools that fail to meet their needs, and school choice would be an incredible benefit to them. But HSLDA opposes the inclusion off Home Schools in the provisions of this bill. The reason: Government funds would be allocated under this bill, and with government funding, there is soon government control.
HSLDA contacted the four congressmen behind the bill, explaining their concerns. Rep. Frank agreed, and withdrew his support for H.R. 610 unless Home Schools were exempted. The other three representatives continue to sponsor the bill.
HSLSA sees four major dangers in H.R. 610:
1. The full repeal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which has some undesirable elements, also has language protecting homeschool freedom from federal control.
2. Creation of a “federal right to homeschool", by requiring states to “make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to home-school their child.”
3. Require States to track homeschooling students, which will result in homeschooling families in all 50 states being required register with the local school district.
4. The government would now get to decide how much parents should spend on homeschooling. The funds provided cannot exceed a government-determined "cost of homeschooling".
The primary concern is that the requirements of H.R. 610 will open the door for increased regulations.
For example, forcing homeschooling families to register with their school districts in order to meet a state requirement would then enable the state to establish requirements, standards, or guidelines to in order to define what family actually qualifies as a homeschooling family. The school districts would have a financial incentive to count as many homeschool students as possible because they are given a percentage of the federal funds designated for homeschool families.
Also, in order to determine the cost of homeschooling, the government most likely would establish an arbitrary figure based on a calculated average. Thus the funds allocated to reimburse parents for those costs could be far above or far below their actual expenses, and in each family, those actual costs can vary widely from year to year. In order to determine the actual expenses, the school district (or perhaps a state) could require detailed reporting of spending, perhaps with receipts, etc., placing an additional burden for homeschooling families.
William Estrada gave several examples of homeschooling families that found themselves coming under scrutiny from government bureaucrats, some of whom do not like the concept of homeschooling. H.R. 610 could give them the tools to control and restrict homeschooling.