Proposed federal education scholarship bill – good or bad?

Federal legislation has been introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) – again – encouraging states to implement a “tax-credit scholarship organization” program where donors receive a tax credit on their federal income tax.  The scholarship money will be distributed to K-12 aged children who meet eligibility requirements established by the state to receive education from various entities.  The Education Freedom Scholarship Act, if passed by Congress, may be a good thing for families who need financial assistance to find alternative education options for their children. Our concern is whether it could lead to more government control of private schools and homeschools.

Only time will tell.

This article in The Daily Caller published on Senator Cruz’ Facebook page denotes a red flag for us here at NHN.

  • “The Education Freedom Scholarship and Opportunity Act would provide a $10 billion annual federal tax credit for taxpayers who donate to state-based scholarships. These scholarships would afford families the ability to expand their children’s choice of elementary and secondary education, including private and home education, special education services and therapies, and summer, after-school, and tutoring programs.”
  • It gives states the choice to opt-in, rather than requiring nationwide participation and yields flexibility to determine how to structure its programs, including what schools and students are eligible.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos takes it further in her Prepared Remarks by Secretary DeVos at the unveiling of the Education Freedom Scholarships proposal!

  • “And let’s stop and think about what public education really is. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently said it well: “If the taxpayer is paying for education, it’s public education.” He’s right! And if the purpose of public education is to educate the public, then it does not matter what defining word comes before school. Because education isn’t about school buildings or school systems. Education is about school children.”

This statement is of concern because it hints that all education provided to children should be “public education” or could be interpreted in such a manner by future administrations.  NHN holds that parents, not the government, are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, including the financing of said education.  States may “provide for public schools and other options” as put forth in state constitutions but that doesn’t mean government should be the only providers of education.  Nor should government dictate what education for the individual child is to look like.

Based on Nevada’s homeschool history of government over-regulation and what has happened more recently with the non-operational NV-ESA and NV-Choice/Opportunity Scholarship (a business tax-credit program introduced by Governor Sandoval in 2015 and over-regulated by the NV-DOE the same year) – we are concerned NV state government would seek to control the education of a student utilizing such scholarship funds.

“Innovation, voluntary collaboration, and an entrepreneurial spirit fuel the engine of the homeschooling movement.” (JimMason, HSLDA). Private schools and homeschoolers need to always be cognizant of possible drawbacks to government education programs.  Often government sponsored education programs only offer “choice” with “accountability” and not the freedom to educate children according to the independent standards of the private school and/or parents.

Having said all this however, our friends at HSLDA have come out in support of the bill.  NHN has worked with HSLDA since our founding in 2002 as did other Nevada homeschool organizations dating back to 1983.  We value and trust their opinion!  Key to their statement is the following:

  • “Some of the ways states could expand students’ access to educational opportunities include dual enrollment, tutoring, summer education programs, advanced and remedial courses, special education services and therapies, and private and home education.The bill also includes strong religious liberty protections. It explicitly prohibits any federal control over participants.The bill’s language ensures that if a state chooses to join the program, officials cannot then refuse to include religious, private, and homeschool SGOs or attempt to regulate them. Secretary DeVos stated that the “key element of the proposal is freedom,” and crafters of the bill ensured that, while expanding educational freedom, it did not curtail other liberties.”

HSLDA gives the example of a program for low-income families in New Hampshire that is working well for families to choose homeschooling without increased government regulation (though homeschooling in NH is considered “moderately” regulated as compared to Nevada’s “low” regulation).  NHN reviewed the New Hampshire program back in 2014 and found it to be a beneficial program for some families.  Giving families a choice in the education provided to their children is a good thing.

In reviewing the current federal bill ourselves, we are encouraged by strong protective language barring states choosing to implement the program from controlling the private school or homeschool beyond existing state statutes.  Section 102, Subsection (d)(3-5) on pages 9-11 of the proposed legislation – as written – seems to adequately protect both private schools and homeschools within this state to operate without further intrusion by federal or state government.  Modification of this section by amendment if the bill moves forward would of course need be watched carefully.

In our experience here in Nevada private, self-funded homeschool freedom is put at risk every legislative session as these programs are added, changed or updated according to the whims of politicians and government bureaucrats.  We want to believe the best but will always view government “help” with a skeptical eye.

To clarify, Nevada Homeschool Network (NHN) advocates for the right of parents to direct the education of their child.  We strive to guard the freedom of each family to educate their own children as they see fit and pay for it themselves! To that end, keeping the NV homeschool law separate from any government approved/funded program has always been, and will continue to be, a goal for NHN. We support parents’ right to choose the best education option for their children – even a government sponsored program – as long as parents who prefer private, self-funded homeschooling free from government controls always have the LIBERTY to do so.

Several organizations that we also respect have voiced their objections to The Education Freedom Scholarship Act.  We find many of their arguments compelling and encourage everyone to read these as well.  Liberty assures that we are free to make up our own minds after reading both sides of an issue.

Other articles in support:

And we’ll leave you with these words from history:

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” – President Reagan Aug. 12, 1986


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