CHEA does not support the Educational Savings Account Initiative as put forth by California School Choice due to the threat it poses to private homeschooling freedoms.
CHEA is aware of the Educational Freedom Act currently circulating petitions. In keeping with our mission to promote private Christian home education and to protect parents’ rights to direct their children’s education and upbringing, we do not support the initiative due to the threat it poses to private homeschooling freedoms.
Government Money, Government Strings
Seldom does government funding not include government regulation. In keeping with the history of public funding of private educational institutions, these may come in the form of government-directed teacher qualifications, curriculum content, and testing regardless of the protections for private schools the framers have included. The protections built into the current initiative are too vague to adequately address the very real concerns that come with funding, both directly and indirectly, homeschooling specifically and private schools as a whole.
Looking at the history of charter school law, the original intent was to put control and decision making back into the hands of parents and educators. Regulations were introduced incrementally over the years. Thirty years later, it is now highly regulated under state control, not in the hands of parents or the local educators. Like charter school law, with the passage of an ESA initiative, we can expect that more regulations will come; incrementally and regardless of the framers’ original intent.
A Cautionary Tale
Another phenomenon that took place with the passage of charter school law was the emergence of an industry of high priced educational service providers built around the proliferation of educational funding. Time honored extracurricular providers such as dance studios and music studios also began accepting state funds. What followed next? With the proliferation of funds, all families, regardless of whether their children were enrolled in charter schools, faced paying higher prices for their children’s extracurricular activities. Eventually, dual price structures started to emerge. Those families who paid with educational funds were charged higher fees than those who paid “out of pocket.”
Why should we not expect the cost of private education to increase with the proliferation of public funds? Private school tuition that was once $10,000 per year could become $20,000, and so on, regardless of whether a family chooses to take government funding or not.
A Very Real Concern
California is one of 13 states where private home educators operate according to laws governing private schools. We have been doing so successfully for many years. In 2008, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals definitively declared that parents may legally educate their children under the private school statutes.
Still, the term “homeschooling” is not a legally recognized term and is not used in the California Education Code. We are concerned that use in this initiative will invite scrutiny and definition by our liberal and progressive legislators. Doing so will likely remove us from the protection of the private school statutes and result in additional regulation. This would effectively change California from one of the best states for homeschooling to one of the most restrictive.
We are aware of parents’ disillusionment with California’s public education system. And we are sympathetic to parents who are seeking financial relief from the costs of education outside of that system. Regardless, the ESA initiative poses a very real threat to private homeschooling freedom, and risks negative impact on all private schools with or without a campus.
We maintain that homeschooling under the private school affidavit option provides parents with the most liberty to direct the education and upbringing of their children to the glory of God. We have consulted with Family Protection Ministries and Home School Legal Defense Association and appreciate their assistance analyzing this initiative.
For more information on government funding of private education, see the article by Nathan Pierce of Family Protection Ministries, Should We Take Government Money for Private Education?