Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Homeschoolers and Tax Breaks

With the new Congress sworn in some conservatives are looking into whether or not homeschoolers should get a federal tax-break. (See previous post Tea Party -vs - Obama on Education)

The New York Times picked up the debate and wondered "Do Homeschool Schoolers Deserve a Tax Break?" They presented a variety of opinions from many of the major voices in education. I agree with the the sentiments of Neal P. McCluskey of the Cato Institute that tax breaks are an "Unconstitutional Instrusion."
If nothing else, Washington would need to ensure that credits weren’t being claimed fraudulently, requiring some “proof” of home schooling. Proof, however, could eventually be defined as, say, passing scores on federally prescribed tests – just the sort of dictate many home schoolers despise. And then there’s the matter of making worse a tax code already so complicated you need an army of accountants to figure it out.
Homeschoolers deserve some breaks. At the national level, that means adhering to the Constitution and getting the federal government out of education which would benefit not just homeschoolers, but all taxpayers.
And that "proof" is exactly what Chester Finn called for in his essay, "Yes, to a Tax Credit, but Tests are Necessary".

In return for the financial help, however, home-schooled students should be required to take state tests, just as they would do in regular school, charter school or virtual schools. And if they don’t pass those tests, either the subsidy vanishes or the kids must enroll in some sort of school with a decent academic track record
Professor Susan B. Neuman in her contribution stated,
"Home-schooling families are too smart and too savvy to buy into this half-baked plan. They know that tax credits are good for nothing but greater federal intrusion
Apparently not all homeschoolers are that savvy or smart, Professor Neuman.

William Estrada, director of HSLDA's federal relations department, argued in support of a tax-credit in his article, "No Extra Rules Required." Estrada included a definition for "qualifying educational expenses" for all parents -- no matter where they educate their children. And to avoid regulation and prevent abuse he suggests,
The I.R.S. could conduct an audit, and the parent or parent’s tax preparer could retain all the necessary documentation relating to the child’s education and the qualifying educational expense to show to the I.R.S. if necessary.
Wow! So not only will we be required to prove we're educating through testing, we'll be proving we're not tax cheats too! Because you know those homeschoolers and our tendency toward abuse! Please HSLDA you can do better than this!

Estrada's position appears to contradict a long held belief of HSLDA and many homeschoolers that the federal government should stay out of education. Here's what they wrote in 2000,
"The federal government's involvement in education represents everything that is wrong with so many of our government agencies; they are unconstitutional, wasteful, expensive, and out of touch. It is the duty of our congress to not only abolish the Department of Education, but the entire federal involvement in education.
Wouldn't this tax-credit be counter productive to that goal? HSLDA doesn't think so. In 2009, they wrote, "HSLDA will support tax credits that promote educational choice without threatening any regulation of homeschoolers."

But is promoting any educational choice a role of the federal government? NO!

It would be just like liberals to find this tax-break one they could vote for just for the benefit of finally getting homeschoolers into the federal fold and add the regulation later after homeschoolers have taken advantage of the credit. Please homeschoolers don't fall for this trojan horse and Mr. Estrada please pick up the phone and call Mr. McCluskey ASAP.

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