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.