February 12, 2019
UPDATE on H.R.6674 Student Empowerment Act (as a part of H.R.88 Shiloh National Military Park Boundary Adjustment and Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield Designation Act, also referred to as the Retirement, Savings, and Other Tax Relief Act of 2018): it appears that this bill will not be brought forward to the 116th Congress, so no further action is required.
ACTION NEEDED: Three bills have been introduced in the 116th Congress to expand the use of Section 529 education accounts* to qualified homeschool expenses.
- H.R.65 Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Home School Students Act
- H.R.621 Student Empowerment Act
- S.157 Student Empowerment Act
(On July 20, 2018, WPA asked for action on S.3102 Student Empowerment Act, introduced during the 115th Congress. Read more about it below.)
Please call your U.S. Representative and Senators and respectfully ask them to OPPOSE both H.R.65 Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Home School Students Act and H.R.621/S.157 Student Empowerment Act. You may also wish to call the co-sponsors for each respective bill and explain why you are opposed to the bill. (Since these bills are all federal legislation, there is no need to contact your state Senator or Representative at this time.)
- Currently in Wisconsin, the administrators of a home-based private education (homeschool) program, and they alone, determine what is considered educational and what type of curriculum they include in their homeschool program.
- The biggest concern for Wisconsin homeschoolers is that this allows the federal government to determine what is considered an educational expense by defining a “qualified expense.”
- Defining what is considered a legitimate homeschooling expense will limit the freedom of homeschoolers in Wisconsin, and if homeschoolers took advantage of this program, they would have to answer to the federal government as well as the state government to show that the homeschooling expenses they claim are acceptable.
- Let your Representative and Senators know that Wisconsin’s homeschool law is working and homeschoolers do not want special treatment or favors.
U.S. Representative and Senator contact information can be found here.
*Definition of 529 education account, “What is a 529 Account? From Quora: A 529 is a savings or investment account for education expenses. It combines some of the tax advantages of an IRA or similar retirement account with a different goal: Paying for your (or, more likely, your kids’) education. Earnings (the interest or capital gains) in the account are sheltered from taxes.”
January 8, 2019
On December 20, the House of Representatives included H.R.6674 Student Empowerment Act as an amendment to H.R.88 Shiloh National Military Park Boundary Adjustment and Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield Designation Act (also referred to as the Retirement, Savings, and Other Tax Relief Act of 2018). The Senate previously passed H.R.88, and the bill is now at a status of “Resolving Differences.” The Student Empowerment Act expands the use of Section 529 funds to qualified homeschool expenses.
Since the activity for this bill was conducted during the 115th Congress, Congressional leadership must decide whether to take this bill up in the 116th Congress, which began on January 3.
WPA’s Legislative Watch is monitoring this legislation, and will let you know if it is taken up in the 116th Congress, and if so, what action should be taken.
July 20, 2018
On June 21st, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (TX) introduced bill S.3102.
This bill is being proposed to amend the Internal Revenue Code that permits kindergarten through grade 12 educational expenses to be paid from a 529 account. Senator Cruz would like homeschoolers to have access to this program and to be able to use these accounts for their homeschooling expenses.
Last time this proposal was presented, many homeschoolers did not support this change and homeschoolers were left out of the legislation.
Why is this a problem for Wisconsin homeschoolers?
While Senator Cruz (from Texas) is attempting to be helpful to homeschoolers, the biggest concern for Wisconsin homeschoolers is that this allows the federal government to determine what is considered an educational expense by creating guidelines for defining a “qualified expense.”
In other states, where homeschoolers have to use state-approved curriculum or specific standardized tests, this may not seem like a problem. However, in Wisconsin, homeschooling parents/guardians are administrators of their homeschool and they alone determine what is considered educational and what type of curriculum they include in their homeschool program.
This bill threatens to define what is considered a legitimate homeschooling expense, limiting the freedom of homeschoolers in Wisconsin.
In addition, if homeschoolers took advantage of this program, they would have to answer to the federal government as well as the state government to show that the homeschooling expenses they claim are acceptable.
Please take a moment and contact your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative and let them know that homeschoolers do not support s.3102. (Since this is federal legislation, there is no need to contact your State Senator or Representative at this time.)
Find your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives here.
April 10, 2018
The Wisconsin Legislative Council has released the Joint Legislative Council Co-Chairs’ recommendations for the establishment of study committees. NONE of the approved study committees pertain to homeschooling.
This is great news for homeschoolers in Wisconsin. Homeschooling was not seen as a problem in need of study or possible legislative solutions by the Co-Chairs of the JLC . There will be no study committee regarding homeschooling.
Thank you all for your contacts with legislators regarding this issue.
January 31, 2018 – Action Clarification
1) Representative Sinicki has submitted her request to the Joint Legislative Council to create a Study Committee to review the Home-Based Private Educational Program Law in Wisconsin. The time for contacting Representative Sinicki about this matter has passed.
2) Now it is time to contact the chairs and members of the Joint Legislative Council. They are the people who will decide whether or not to form this committee.
No matter what district you live in, please contact the council co-chairs:
Representative Brooks (608) 267-2369 Rep.Rob.Brooks@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator Roth (608) 266-0718 Sen.Roth@legis.wisconsin.gov
Let them know that homeschooling in Wisconsin is working and that you do not support the creation of a Study Committee.
Please also contact the members of the Joint Legislative Council with the same message. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/committees/joint/1692
3) After you have contacted members of the council, it is always appropriate to contact YOUR representatives to let them know that you are a constituent and a homeschooler and that you do not want any changes to Wisconsin homeschooling law. Do not add a request about the Study Committee unless your representative or senator is on the Joint Legislative Council.
Right now the highest priority is to contact the co-chairs and members of the Joint Legislative Council, asking them to not support the creation of a Study Committee.
January 30, 2018 – Representative Sinicki Requests the Formation of a Committee to Study Wisconsin Homeschool Law
We have confirmed that Representative Sinicki has requested that the Joint Legislative Council create a Study Committee to review the Home-Based Private Educational Program Law in Wisconsin.
The purpose of a Study Committee is to identify a problem and offer legislative solutions. Since the homeschooling law in Wisconsin is not a problem and we do not want additional homeschooling legislation, we do not want this to move forward.
Please contact the co-chairs, Representative Brooks and Senator Roth, and let them know that Wisconsin’s homeschooling law is working well as it is and you do not support the creation of a Study Committee.
Phone calls are most valuable. Be prepared to offer your name, phone number, and street address so that they can enter you in their phone log. Please continue calling until you reach a staff member.
Everyone should contact Representative Brooks and Senator Roth even if you do not live in their district. They are the two legislators who decide if this moves forward.
After contacting both of them, please also consider contacting the list of legislators on the committee and letting them know that you do not support a Study Committee on Home-based Private Educational Program (homeschooling) law.
When you contact the members of this Council, many of whom are supportive of homeschooling, please remember that you are a reflection of the homeschooling community in Wisconsin.
Homeschoolers must stand together and speak with one voice. Please share this with all Wisconsin homeschoolers and supporters.
Wisconsin Parents Association will continue to actively monitor this situation, and will inform you of updates and if any additional action is needed. Please check your email (members hear from us first) you can also subscribe to a non-member list from our website or look to our Facebook page for updates.
Ask them not to support the creation of a Study Committee on the Home-based Private Educational Program (homeschooling) law in Wisconsin.
If you have time, also contact any and/or all of the committee members: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/committees/joint/1692
January 28, 2018 – WPA Response to Abuse and Regulation
Child abuse is never acceptable in any situation. Laws are currently in place that make the abuse of children illegal and legally punishable, and that allow authorities to remove children from unsafe environments, no matter where those children are being educated.
Many public statements recently suggest that there should be additional regulation of homeschooling to prevent child abuse. Anecdotes used to illustrate the need for increased regulation of homeschooling are overwhelmingly stories of families who were already in contact with Child Protective Services. These cases do not represent a failure of homeschooling—they represent a failure on the part of a system already in place to do what is necessary to protect children who are known to be at risk.
There is no statistical evidence that children who are homeschooled are at greater risk of abuse. There is no evidence that tighter regulation of homeschooling would in any way affect child abuse statistics. There are laws in place to prevent child abuse and deal with abuse when it is found. Flaws in this system are not the result of homeschooling and would not be remedied by creating additional homeschooling regulation.
Talking points for this issue:
- There is no evidence to suggest that homeschooling is a risk factor for child abuse.
- There is no evidence to suggest that increased regulation of homeschooling results in lower rates of child abuse.
- Child Protective Services are equipped to intervene in any situation where they feel a child is being harmed.
- Homeschoolers who follow their states’ homeschooling laws should not face additional scrutiny because of the educational choice they have made for their children.
- It is not logical to assume that if abusive parents aren’t following the laws that are already in place, they would follow additional laws.
Wisconsin Parents Association cares deeply for the well-being of children. We all have our own reasons for homeschooling, and we must all stand together to support homeschooling families who choose to take responsibility for the education of their children.
It is up to all of us to be informed about these issues and to use our voices to let people know that these horrific situations do not reflect the homeschooling community.
September 21, 2017 – Budget Bill Signed
The 2017-2019 Wisconsin Budget Bill has been passed and signed. No items were included in this budget that affect home-based private educational programs.
As always, we encourage you to contact your legislators throughout the year to let them know that you do not want any changes to the current homeschooling law.
September 7, 2017 – 2017-2019 Biennial Budget Bill
After the events of the 2015-2017 Budget Bill, we’ve kept a close eye on the current Budget Bill (2017-2019). However, in spite of having the deadline of July 1, 2017, as of this posting, the Budget Bill has not yet been passed. At this time, there is nothing that affects homeschoolers in the current Budget Bill, however, things can change at the last minute. We will be watching the Budget Bill as we move well past the deadline.
June 22, 2017 – Update to WI youth employment laws.
February 17, 2017 – Contact your legislators today.
Please contact your state and federal representatives to let them know:
- That you are a constituent (offering your name and street address to confirm this).
- That you are a homeschooling parent.
- That you do not want any public dollars (vouchers, tax credits, educational savings accounts, etc.) to be directed to Wisconsin homeschoolers.
It is incredibly valuable to contact your legislators before any specific legislation comes to a vote. If legislators know that homeschoolers do not want this type of help, they are less likely to introduce and support legislation that offers public dollars to homeschoolers.
WPA has long asked homeschoolers to to contact their representatives at the beginning of each new legislative session. We also encourage people to visit their legislators in person. Contacting your representatives regularly keeps the message that homeschoolers don’t want government dollars or favors at the forefront of their minds. It is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
February 15, 2017 – Where is the proof that vouchers for homeschooling will bring more regulations?
First, it is important to say that homeschooling voucher programs (like the one outlined in HR 610) have not been successful at the state level, so we have no specific data about how homeschooling vouchers would increase regulation other than to compare it to private schools accepting voucher money vs. those that are not (keep reading for information about states with tax credits).
Voucher programs for homeschoolers that have been introduced in other states have not passed due to homeschoolers not wanting the money which would surely lead to regulation.
When the government offers money for a specific purpose (education, roads, etc.), there need to be accountability measures to be sure that the money is being spent responsibly.
Here in Wisconsin, there are different rules for private schools that accept voucher money (as opposed to those that do not). It is likely that there would also be different rules for homeschoolers that accept voucher money than for those that do not.
Different rules based on the acceptance (or not) of vouchers by some homeschoolers would:
- Create the precedent that the homeschoolers will be regulated by the government. Since it is such a small minority of the population, it is possible that changes in regulation that start out only applying to those taking vouchers, become applicable to all homeschoolers.
- Divide homeschoolers, who are already a very small group of the school-aged population into those who accept voucher money and those who do not. This division would make it much easier to pass additional regulation for all homeschoolers.
- Provide the need for accountability for how those tax dollars are spent, including regulation of who is qualified to homeschool, possible higher education requirements, mandatory testing, approval of curriculum, check ins with local school districts, etc.
Even in states where legislation is proposed that is not intended to regulate homeschooling further, there is always a higher level of regulation with public dollars, including tax credits.
Minnesota is an example of a state that offers a tax credit and then approves of those who qualify for it and what is considered a qualified expense.The state decides what is a legitimate educational expense rather than the parent.
In addition, Minnesota homeschoolers are already facing much higher regulation than Wisconsin homeschoolers. They are required to test their children annually (if the child scores below the 30th percentile action is required). They must also submit immunization records when beginning to homeschool and at the start of 7th grade. Finally, they must report their intention to homeschool directly to their school district, including the names and birthdates of their children, and which standardized test they will be using
Right now states with tax credits or other public dollars directed to homeschoolers have significantly more regulation than Wisconsin. In lIlinois, parents do not have to register with the Illinois State Board of Education if they chose not to. However, under a 1974 court decision, (Scoma vs. Chicago Board of Education) the burden of proof rests with the parents to establish that the plan of home instruction that they are providing meets the state requirements. Section 26-1 of the Illinois School Code states that parents who choose homeschooling are obligated to teach, “the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in public school.”
This Illinois regulation is significantly more restrictive than what we have in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin we are not required to prove that we what we are teaching our children corresponds to the public school curriculum.
In each state where homeschooling families can get some sort of tax break or credit, there is currently more regulation than we have here in Wisconsin.
Again, the vouchers proposed in HR 610 have never passed in any states because homeschoolers and homeschooling advocacy organizations all over the country have fought hard against them. We are making a logical assumption that if the state creates guidelines for who is eligible for these types of vouchers and how they need to be used, we would be restricted in our homeschooling freedom.
HR610 has now been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Feb 11, 2017 – A few things that Wisconsin homeschoolers should be aware of:
Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. She is a strong proponent of vouchers for “school choice.” Her list of choices includes homeschooling.
A bill (HR610) was introduced, at the federal level, by Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa. This bill seeks, in part, to render financial assistance to parents who choose to educate their children outside the public school system, including homeschoolers. The bill has now been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
WPA believes that homeschoolers taking any government money (i.e. vouchers, tax credits, educational savings accounts, etc.) will lead to additional regulation and government oversight of homeschooling in Wisconsin.
Help maintain our current homeschooling freedoms by contacting your federal and state representatives now and letting them know that you are their constituent and a homeschooling family in Wisconsin and you do not want any public dollars directed to homeschooling, including vouchers or tax credits.
WPA is watching the actions of Betsy DeVos in the coming months to see how homeschoolers might be affected by the policies of the Department of Education.
In addition, we are carefully watching the Wisconsin Legislature as we move through the biennial budget cycle in Wisconsin.
Please read our website section entitled Protecting Wisconsin Law which includes a link for finding and contacting your legislators.
Your voice makes a difference. Call your representatives today.
January 10, 2017 – A few words from WPA for the new year:
We are at the beginning of a new legislative session in Wisconsin as well as the beginning of a new federal administration. Homeschooling is gaining popularity and recognition, and many legislators see themselves as supporting homeschooling by offering special treatment to homeschoolers.
We have a unique situation in Wisconsin that homeschoolers in most other states do not have. We have an enormous amount of freedom to homeschool in whatever way works for our family as long as we follow our reasonable homeschool law.
All government favors come with the requirement of accountability. Taxpayers are right to expect accountability for how our tax dollars are spent.
Taking all of this into consideration, legislators and government leaders at the state and federal level, who may not fully understand the special situation that Wisconsin homeschoolers are in, may try in the coming months to offer favors to homeschoolers in the form of tax credits, educational vouchers, and/or other types of privileged considerations to homeschoolers.
WPA maintains that Wisconsin homeschoolers do not want to be a special interest group.
WPA recognizes that the receipt of public money should come with measures of accountability.
WPA maintains that receiving special treatment such as tax credits or educational vouchers WILL lead to increased regulation of homeschooling. In order to prove that taxpayer dollars are being well spent, regulation could include mandatory testing, curriculum approval, qualifications for homeschool parents, oversight by local school districts, and other possibilities.
WPA feels strongly that any of these regulations (already present in other states) would detrimentally limit the freedom that homeschoolers in Wisconsin have enjoyed since 1984.
WPA asks all homeschoolers to learn about the history of homeschooling in Wisconsin and what is at stake if any additional regulation is put in place. Do not be taken in by promises of government favors. What we have to lose is much greater than what we have to gain.
Please contact your state and federal representatives and let them know that you want the homeschooling law to remain unchanged, you do not want favors from the government.