Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tax Credits For Homeschoolers - Bad Idea!

As a homeschooling parent I just don't agree with this one, no matter how well intentioned it is. This represents the continuation of the Federalization of Homeschooling. We already have about a dozen places in federal statute that mentions homeschooling, and that is not a good thing for us at all, nor should it even be. I'll explain in a moment.

I am very dismayed that presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are pushing for this tax credit in order to look good to homeschoolers (of which there are well over 2.5 million in this country). Pandering for their vote like this really is disappointing to me. This originally was a bill that Ron Paul sponsored (HR 1056 - Family Education Freedom Act of 2007).

Here's a snippet from the article, "Romney Wants Tax Help for Home Schooling", written by SEANNA ADCOX for AP news:
Parents who home school their children should get a tax credit to help offset the expense of teaching, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday.

''I also believe parents who are teaching their kids at home, homeschoolers, deserve a break, and I've asked for a tax credit to help parents in their homes with the cost of being an at-home teacher,'' he said.

Romney supports giving parents more educational options, through charter schools or vouchers, but he said legislation should be done on a state level.

''I really hesitate to have the federal government become too involved in local schools,'' he said....
He should hesitate! It's unconstitutional to have the federal government become involved in local schools! In fact, the whole federal Department of Education should be eliminated! Ron Paul says that himself, along with many others.

This tax credit is a really bad idea because then the IRS, a government agency, gets to define who is and who isn't a homeschooler in order for them to qualify for tax credits. I am sorry, but I certainly do not want the IRS getting mixed into this at all. Every state may or may not already have it's own definition of who or what a homeschooler is or does. Having a federal agency set down it's own rules or definitions on that would not only usurp states' rights but it essentially violates the 10th Amendment. (Although we know that's not a new practice).

According to the 10th Amendment - the US government shouldn't have anything to do with education issues - and yeah I know they do already, but they have done so through the Commerce Clause (as in controlling the purse strings for No Child Left Behind through Title 1 funding), and any other laws they make are really unconstitutional.

The Tenth Amendment states:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The power of education is not one that is delegated to the United States by the Constitution. It is, therefore, reserved to the States or to the people.

While policies and proposed legislation like this at first glance appear to benefit homeschool families, ultimately legislation adopted by Congress establishes the unconstitutional precedent that the federal government has the authority to enact legislation regarding education. When homeschool families do not receive any federal funding or benefits, the federal government has no constitutional authority to enact any legislation. By enacting legislation that provides for federal funding and benefits, Congress unconstitutionally is granting to itself the authority to enact further legislation affecting homeschooling. In addition, because in the federal legislation, the word, “homeschool” appears, and is defined, the definition of that word may conflict with the definition in one or more state statutes. Because of the “supremacy clause” of the Constitution, when a federal law conflicts with a state law, the federal law supersedes state law, thus, placing into jeopardy the validity of all state statutes regarding homeschooling. For these reasons, even seemingly beneficial federal legislation must be defeated or repealed.

As a homeschooler, this is legislation that I will not support, and I hope the presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, as well as every other member of Congress, will think twice about supporting this instead of pandering to special interest groups who are promoting it in Washington, DC to advance their own agenda. NHELD is not promoting this agenda. In fact, they have written about this in the past:
As more and more federal legislation includes the undefined term of "home school" we are giving the federal government the right to legislate what we do and how we do it. Eventually the term "home school" will have to be defined somewhere - either by federal statute or by a federal judge. Most of these bills have to do with what homeschoolers are or are not entitled to. This means we are giving the federal government (Congress) the power to decide that. Even if the statute will do some positive things for homeschoolers in the short run - it will surely hurt us in the long run because we are allowing the federal government to decide to include homeschoolers in various aspects of federal funding (scholarships, IRS code, etc.). Once this happens, we will of course have to show accountability on whatever terms the federal government will decide.
We should stop the Federalization of Homeschooling NOW! Federal legislation which includes and concerns homeschooling is not the way to answer problems homeschoolers face.

For more information on the Federalization of Homeschooling please read NHELD archived articles here and here and here

Instead of targeting any one group in particular for receiving a break on their taxes, how about they give everyone a break on their taxes?


Shana said...

Knowing Dr. Paul, I trust that his intentions were pure in introducing the Family Education Freedom Act. He's not one to "pander". He simply wanted to put our tax money back into our hands. But you're right- the codifying of "homeschooling" is dangerous. Thankfully, once Dr. Paul is president, the Dept. of Education and the IRS will be things of the past.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

When I heard of the tax credit, my first thought was that it would be nice to get a bigger refund check. Then I realized what you have said--they'll have to define homeschooling and we'll have to conform. It would be much better to be able to keep our money in the first place than to have to prove to the Feds that we are good little boys and girls so that we can get some back.

Good post.

TheTutor said...

I contacted Ron Paul's campaign a few months ago asking why he supports a tax credit. His campaign stated that Dr. Paul felt it was a good interim solution that would allow homeschoolers to off-set the taxes they pay to the local school districts that they don't use and possibly make homeschooling a viable option financially to those who aren't currently able to homeschool. Although I believe the intention to be good, I believe the means is wrong since it condones federal involvement in unconstitutional practices.

This is the same reason I don't believe education groups (like HSLDA)should endorse candidates in federal races, either. They very act of endorsing a federal-level candidate assumes that some degree of federal involvement in education is alright. I shared an email I sent to HSLDA after they endorsed a presidential candidate on my blog. If you are interested, you can read it here.

Thanks for the great post!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rational Jenn said...

ANY kind of federal legislation concerning homeschooling is bad news for homeschoolers. I see the good intentions behind this idea, the intent to support homeschoolers, but you know the saying about where good intentions lead....

Jennifer said...

Here's my super-radical plan: tax credits for EVERYBODY who doesn't have children in public schools! Childless? Tax credit. Empty-nester grandma? Tax credit. School-aged children enrolled in private school? Tax credit. Got kids enrolled in public schools? No tax credit for you, since YOU need to pay for YOUR kids. If I'm going to pay to support your kids, then I should get a say in how they're raised, and I'll start by explaining why I totally disagree with their parents' religious, political and economic philosophies.

Wait, what? You want me to shell out the money for your kids' upbringing, yet have no say in how that money is spent? Uh-huh. Gotcha.

Activities Coordinator said...

What Jennifer said.

Crimson Wife said...

Parents who want government money for educating their children at home already have the option of enrolling with a charter school. So I don't see why these politicians feel that there's any reason to even suggest a tax credit.

Linda said...

Excellent thoughts. I'm sure many homeschooler's knee-jerk reaction to Romney's ideas is something akin to " to homeschool? How do I get mine?" Your thought-provoking post requires that we stop a moment and consider the ramifications of such a policy. Thanks.

Heather said...


Matt Johnston said...

I think this is a great post and I admire your principaled position. I can't help but make a few corrections.

Congress gets involved in state and local education through their spending power. The Constitution gives them the right to spend for the general welfare and they use that power liberally in every sense of that word.

Next, the Supremacy Clause need no

Second, the Supremacy Clause is not necessarily implicated by a federal definition of homeschooling. Many tax provisions define some function or activity for taxation purposes only. The tax credit would have to define homeschooling, of course, but that is only for federal tax purposes, states would still be free to have their own definition or to adopt the federal definition. Just because there is a federal definition of homeschooling in Title 26 (the Tax Code) does not mean it supercedes all state definitions of homeschooling. I realize your position is to not have any definition and I generally agree, but remember, states have a sovereign right to tax in and of themselves (another governmental right used liberally).

While I admire Jennifer's pluck and plan, there is a problem with that idea. First it assumes a fixed amount of anyone's tax burden is used for any given purpose. Assuming the federal government spends 10% of its budget on education. Does that necessarily mean at 10% tax credit for each person who doesn't have kids in the schools? Keep in mind that government spending is usually a projection as in the budget and actual knowledge of how much is spent on any given program is usually not known in time for tax returns to be filed. This same idea is also present in any credit plan. You have to fix a value for tax credits at the outset and it is very hard to make that value variable.

As a general principle, I don't like most tax credit plans anyway. They are expensive and they all pander to some constituency, many even smaller than the homeschooling community. having a tax credit means that there must be some way to offset the lost revenue, which means more taxes, which has to come from somewhere. Better to slash spending in the first place, but that is not a trend we are likely to see in any legislature anytime soon.

But this is a great thought provoking piece.

kat said...

Catholic schools started secularizing their curriculum to obtain federal dollars beack in the 1960's. If we promote or accept federal tax breaks for homeschooling I can guarantee that there would be many many strings attached, especially eliminating funds for religious materials or home study schools. One of the big reasons many homeschoolers got their children out of the public schools was to infuse their beliefs in the curriculum. I don't like the path that those tax credits would lead us down.

Anonymous said...

The tax credit is a position where I disagree with Ron Paul. However, I do trust Ron Paul and believe that President Paul would work with Congress with the best for homeschoolers in mind. And if he does succeed in getting rid of the federal income tax, then the issue goes away.