Monday, January 17, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

Ann Voskamp's new book One Thousand Gifts is now available in print and climbing the Amazon Best Sellers list fast. Ann is a dedicated homeschooling mother of six, fellow blogger (A Holy Experience), and a gifted writer. When I began this post One Thousand Gifts was at #18 and now it's #16 now at #15. I'm not surprised and praying it hits the #1 spot. I'm reading it now and am touched by how she tenderly weaves a message of hope on every page.

Ann encourages all of us to live gratefully in the moment, in unhurried delight because all that we see and do is a gift from above. "Gratitude is the seed that plants the giant miracle in the midst of it all."


Thank you Ann for your testimony. YOU are a gift and I see Christ in you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More on Homeschool Tax Credits

The response to the idea of tax-credits for homeschoolers has been largely unfavorable. It appears most of the "rank and file" homeschooler don't want them or the federal government any where near our home schools. But will our voices be heard? Thankfully, if this ever reaches the point of legislation our opposition will be given an extra boost by the attorneys at Homeschool Legal Advantage (HLA).

HLA attorney Christine Field sent me the following email expressing their opposition to federal tax-credits. She has agreed to let me repost it here....

Federal Tax Credits for Homeschoolers: Thanks, but No Thanks

Homeschoolers are abuzz with discussion over the suggestion that Republicans may be introducing legislation to give a federal tax credit to homeschoolers. While nothing has been proposed to date (do a search at http://thomas.loc.gov/), it is worthwhile to examine the pros and cons.

In this economy, who wouldn’t favor a tax break from a government that seeks to support and control virtually every aspect of modern life? Besides, the argument goes, we all pay taxes and we should be in line to be the beneficiaries of the unfunded largess of the lawmakers. Everyone else is doing it ….

From a larger perspective, it is a common ploy of the Federal government to dangle a carrot in front of states for funding. The states that comply, such as the recent Race to the Top campaign, receive huge sums of money from the government. But, the funds, as always, are tied to an expectation. In the Race to the Top, participating states had to agree to adopt Common Core Standards, an effort to have a common curriculum across the states.

But, you say, this isn’t really funding – it’s a return on taxes we have already paid.

True, just like every other deduction you take on your Income Taxes, such expenditures would have to be documented. In our view, this leaves the door open for inspection and approval. It is a foothold that we cannot allow the Federal government to establish.

For comparison, three states allow parents to take a deduction on their State income taxes for homeschool expenses. In my state (Illinois) I have taken the deduction and have been subject to questioning and requests for extra documentation each year I have sought it.

What the state allows, it can also regulate. Let’s examine another state benefit available to some homeschoolers. In a highly touted program, parents in Minnesota can seek a small textbook reimbursement for their homeschool expenses. The amount is paltry compared to the amounts most parents actually expend. Look at how the regulation is worded:

"Textbook" means any book or book substitute which a pupil uses as a text or text substitute in a particular class or program in the school regularly attended and a copy of which is expected to be available for the individual use of each pupil in this class or program. The term shall be limited to books, workbooks, or manuals, whether bound or in loose-leaf form, intended for use as a principal source of study material for a given class or a group of students. The term includes only such secular, neutral and nonideological textbooks as are available, used by, or of benefit to Minnesota public school pupils.

By statute and by definition, they only offer textbook assistance for secular, neutral and nonideological textbooks as are available, used by, or of benefit to Minnesota public school pupils. Some homeschoolers could qualify, but many would not.

We oppose Federal tax credits for homeschoolers based on our experience with all such programs. In sum:

1. Education has been and should remain a matter for the states, not the Federal government.

2. Funding (whether outright or in the form of tax credits) comes with expectations. Is it too far to imagine the accountability that might be required for such a tax credit? Common standards and standardized testing are two burdens which come directly to mind.

3. A tax credit would require documentation.

4. Documentation leads to scrutiny and the authority to deny or dismiss unless certain conditions are met, such as requiring only secular materials.

While we are all looking for a break in this economy, this break is too costly to the freedoms and individuality of homeschoolers. Thanks, but no thanks.

Christine Field
Attorney at Law
Homeschool Legal Advantage

Thanks Christine and HLA for helping to keep our homeschools free from intrusive federal regulation.

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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