“If we start giving homeschoolers state money, there’s got to be state accountability.”
Eric Mackey, Alabama’s state superintendent of education, made this observation recently while sharing his concerns about a newly proposed Parent’s Choice Program that would funnel state education dollars from public schools to the private sector, including homeschools.
In his testimony before the Senate Education Policy Committee, Mackey argued that government funding requires government monitoring. And when he says accountability, we don’t have to guess at what he thinks is reasonable.
“I’m not calling for the accountability of homeschool,” he said, “but most states require homeschoolers to register with the state, and they do home visits. That’s the minimum that most states require.”
Setting the Record Straight
Well, he got one out of two points partially correct.
It is true that a majority of states require homeschoolers to file some kind of notification with either their state department of education or a local school district. But home visits? Nope.
No state in America requires a home visit to homeschool.
In fact, exactly every state that has previously attempted to enforce some kind of home visit requirement as a precondition to homeschooling has seen the requirement struck down by courts or abolished by lawmakers, amid constitutional concerns.
Still, Mackey’s intent was clear. He supports ramping up government regulations on homeschooling families if the government starts funding homeschool programs. This position is not entirely unreasonable. We expect government to ensure some level of accountability for programs funded by taxpayers, which is precisely why we do not advocate for the government funding of homeschooling.
At HSLDA, we advocate for homeschool policy that preserves liberty because freedom and flexibility are essential to the continued success of homeschooling. Government money, however, is not. In fact, it is the failure of the government-funded school system that has contributed to an increasing number of parents looking for alternative educational options outside the government-funded system.
Freedom is Still the Best Policy
Kids have been thriving through homeschooling for decades without government funding and oversight.
We can understand why school-choice proponents are seeking educational options for students whose only feasible choice is an underperforming school because the importance of education can hardly be overstated. But the solution for these students must not undermine the liberty of homeschool families who have been spending their own time and money to ensure their child receives a custom-tailored education at home.
What’s the solution? Preserve liberty while providing choice. Legislators who want to empower more choice in education should respect the freedom to homeschool and create policy proposals that ensure parents have the option to homeschool without government money flowing into homeschooling.
Specifically, we would like to see the introduction of tax credits that let homeschool parents keep more of their own hard-earned money.
Homeschooling parents and advocates in Alabama have been actively opposing the Parent’s Choice Program because it fails to preserve liberty. It makes no distinction between parent-directed, privately funded homeschooling and government-funded alternatives. But drafters of the Parent’s Choice Act have indicated a willingness to amend the bill to fix this flaw, though doing so is easier said than done, given the fact that homeschooling operates as a home program of a church or private school.
Hopefully, Alabama lawmakers will listen to their constituents and preserve homeschool freedom.