Category Archives: Indiana Legislation

The Suffocating Embrace of the State

During the 2017 Indiana legislative session, there were two Education Savings Account (ESA) or Education Options Account bills introduced. If you are not familiar with state ESAs, they are a type of state taxpayer-funded voucher. IAHE is concerned that home schools in Indiana, which are classified as private schools, are at risk of losing their liberty if they would receive government funding as the lines are blurred between public and private. As IAHE researched this issue, we noticed quotes that said there is a desire to build a new public school system that would include private schools, such as this one, by longtime school choice advocates:

“Any private schools that do participate will thereby become public schools, as such schools are defined under the new system.” [1]

Indiana’s 2017 House ESA bill, known as HB 1591, would have drawn home educators into the publicly funded mix of educational choices. The House author, Representative Jim Lucas, tried to reassure the homeschool community his bill would do no harm since his bill included “protective language.” IAHE compared the language in HB 1591 to the protective language used for vouchers, and it was the same. Here is the “protective language” used for vouchers:

IC 20-51-4 Chapter 4. Choice Scholarship

IC 20-51-4-1 Autonomy of nonpublic schools; curriculum

Sec. 1. (a) Except as provided under subsections (b) through (h), it is the intent of the general assembly to honor the autonomy of nonpublic schools that choose to become eligible schools under this chapter. A nonpublic eligible school is not an agent of the state or federal government, and therefore:

(1) the department or any other state agency may not in any way regulate the educational program of a nonpublic eligible school that accepts a choice scholarship under this chapter, including the regulation of curriculum content, religious instruction or activities, classroom teaching, teacher and staff hiring requirements, and other activities carried out by the eligible school;

(2) the creation of the choice scholarship program does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, the state’s officers, or a school corporation to impose additional regulation of nonpublic schools beyond those necessary to enforce the requirements of the choice scholarship program in place on July 1, 2011; and

(3) a nonpublic eligible school shall be given the freedom to provide for the educational needs of students without governmental control.

On its face, it doesn’t sound too bad, does it? IAHE Action decided to ask parents whose children were in voucher-accepting schools to learn their first-hand experience. They felt the “protective language” still has negative effects on their schools.  According to the EdChoice publication, The ABCs of School Choice, these are the requirements for Indiana voucher schools:

Indiana Code 20-51-1-4

  • Be accredited by either the state board or a national or regional accreditation agency that is recognized by the state board.
  • Comply with health and safety codes
  • Must not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin*
  • Conduct criminal background checks on employees
  • Administer the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) program and report to the state data for A-F ratings including ISTEP scores and graduation rates

To remain eligible to accept new scholarship students, a school must not be rated as D or F for two or more consecutive years

  • Must grant the state full access to its premises for observing classroom instruction and reviewing any classroom instructional materials and curriculum
  • Provide civic and character education and display related historical documents

* There has been a discussion by a Congresswoman about an Indiana Christian voucher-accepting school and a recent effort in Nevada to broaden this to include gender.

If these are the requirements for private schools to receive voucher students, homeschoolers should expect similar requirements since Indiana classifies home schools as private schools. Strangely enough, few requirements were included in the text of HB 1591. Although it was not included in the language of the bill except as “rules and regulations,” the House author of HB 1591 stated there will be “assessments to make sure the parent is giving taxpayers their money’s worth.” What happens if the State decides they are not “getting their money’s worth?” We do not know because the Code has not yet been written.  

Remember, assessments drive instruction and curriculum choices in order to do well on the high-stakes assessments. Catholic school parents have shared they have seen many changes at their school including using Common Core curriculum in order to do well on the assessments. Did the State say they must use Common Core curriculum? No, but they feel nudged in that direction in order to perform well on the state aligned tests.

The General Assembly changes the law every year. Many times they use incrementalism to accomplish unpopular agenda items. This means they pass a bill that seems good at first, and then each year, more regulations are added. This is what happened with vouchers until Indiana received an F rating on the freedom scale from the Education Freedom Watch Private School Choice Freedom Grading Scale Table because “private” voucher schools must administer the state assessment to all of its students (even those who did not receive vouchers) and collect the data.

Where are we headed? Why would anyone desire a blurring between public and private? This quote from the Hoover Institution ties the current nationalized educational landscape of Common Core and School Choice together:

 A parallel shift in state finance systems toward fully portable “weighted student funding” should be combined with strong performance incentives for schools and pupils alike.

States should also rewrite their compulsory attendance laws to define “school” more flexibly, such that students may satisfy the statute in various settings. (There is precedent for this in the exemptions already given to homeschoolers.) The state’s principal interest should shift from attendance to academic achievement.

As that policy transformation occurs, an authorizing body is needed to approve and monitor schools and other education providers (HB 1591 included parents as providers), but this responsibility need not be confined to traditional public school systems. They ought not to function as both service providers and regulators of their competitors. Instead, independent sponsorship entities—perhaps operating on a multi-state or nationwide basis—should become viable alternatives.

Also needed are independent audit-and-data units responsible for honest reporting on student, school, and district performance across multiple variables: academic, financial, and so on. These, in turn, should be accountable to governors or state auditors rather than education departments; this work, too, might be outsourced to multi state or national bodies.

A spine of national standards, tests, and core curricula is needed to hold all this together, furnishing common goals, metrics, and benchmarks against which the many diverse providers can be tracked and their performance compared across the entire nation and aligned with similar international measures.

The future, in other words, need not result from an extrapolation of present-day trends. It could—and in this realm should—be different and better. But that’s not likely to occur spontaneously.

The Hoover Institution quote should be very troubling to homeschoolers. Homeschool parents, seek to facilitate the equivalent education of their individual students instead of focusing on “achievement” as compared to other students in a traditional school; therefore, enabling the homeschool child to become a fully functioning member of society and not a burden to their family or the state. In homeschooling, “education” may look different for different children and different families at different ending times but it is the parent and not the state that is ultimately responsible for the education of the child. This is why direct government funding of a child’s education outside of the public school is hazardous to our liberty!

Homeschoolers left the public school system for many reasons such as the curriculum, the testing, or the data collection. Do you want to risk getting sucked back into the public system with state ESAs? Parents, you have been doing an excellent job of teaching your children without government assistance. Let’s continue with what we know works and not be seduced by offers of tax dollars with government strings attached. Homeschool liberty is at stake.

 [1] John E. Chubb, Terry M. Moe. Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools. Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institute, 1990: p. 219.

This article is not to be construed as legal advice.

2017 Legislative Wrap-Up

HEA 1384 Various Education Matters

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

This session, IAHE was asked to testify in the House and the Senate in regards to the “push out” problem where the public and some accredited private schools encouraged problem students to “homeschool” in order to protect the school’s A-F state accountability grade. A legislator claimed in committee meetings that 13,000 students/year had reported enrollment to homeschool in Indiana. Schools encouraged a number of these families to “homeschool,” even though the parent did not initiate it. IAHE has fielded many phone calls from these families who were classified by the school as a “homeschooler” and then given IAHE’s phone number to help them get started. As IAHE Regional Representatives counseled these families, and the parent came to understand what is involved in home education, many parents decided home education was not a good fit for their family. It is unlikely that these students were ever removed from the homeschool classification.

In an attempt to curtail this practice, HEA 1384 contains language that prohibits a school from classifying a student as a homeschooler unless the school has substantial evidence that the parent or guardian of the student initiated the student leaving the public high school or an accredited nonpublic high school. The Indiana Department of Education may require the school to produce this evidence if it is ever requested. It will be important for the school to have evidence in writing that the parent initiated a transfer to homeschooling.

The State Board will also consider the mobility of high school students who are credit deficient, and whether any high school should be rewarded for enrolling credit deficient students or penalized for transferring out credit deficient students. We hope this bill helps to curtail the practice of pushing out credit deficient students, so they can receive the help they need. As strong proponents of homeschooling, the IAHE knows the work and dedication it requires. We also recognize that it is not the appropriate choice for all students.


HEA 1003 Student Assessments

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

This bill replaces ISTEP after June 30, 2018, with a new statewide assessment to be known as Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN). The original language in the bill required all students in public, charter, state accredited nonpublic, and voucher schools to take the assessment. The original language would have required any homeschooler who was enrolled for one class in a school listed above to take the assessment. IAHE Action worked with Representative Behning and Senator Kruse to amend the language to require full-time enrolled students to take the assessment instead of all enrolled students. Note that a homeschooler enrolled in a public school class must take the end of course assessment associated with the class.


HEA 1004 Pre-Kindergarten Education

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

HEA 1004 is a preschool bill that expands taxpayer funding for institutional preschool. It expanded the state preschool program to an additional 15 counties and added a possible option for an in-home technology-based program for pre-k.

This bill:

  • “Requires the department of education…to approve an early learning development framework for prekindergarten.”
  • Develops a program to reimburse parents for technology-based, in-home early education services to a child. This program costs between $1,000 and $2,000/child depending if the family has internet access. (Homeschoolers informed us there is a similar preschool program that is free, and other programs that are much cheaper. Will these free/inexpensive programs continue to exist as companies see that they can instead choose to sell their software to the government for $1000 per child? How many parents will reduce their use of local libraries as they opt for an online program promoted by the state?)
  • This program uses personalized learning. The software assesses the child’s progress at key milestones to determine what type of instruction each child will receive. The program includes a parental engagement and involvement component. From the program’s website, it states, “Every family is partnered with a Personal Care Representative who monitors their child’s progress throughout the year. Families will be contacted if their child’s usage falls below guidelines.
  • Students who use the program will be required to be a part of a longitudinal study to determine achievement levels in kindergarten and later years. It must include a comparison of test and assessment results in grade 3 of the children who received in-home early education services; and a control group that consists of children who did not receive in-home early education services.

IAHE is concerned about the lack of long-term results from institutional preschool and particularly concerned about technology-based preschool. The increased use of taxpayer funding weakens communities by making it more difficult for those who take personal responsibility for teaching their own children to stay home on one income, and by replacing the use of libraries and local bookstores.

IAHE also has concerns about personalized learning via computer, especially for young children. Parents are fully capable of preparing their children for kindergarten without oversight. Families already have local libraries, which offer free books and multiple educational programs. We believe a parent who reads to his or her child on their lap will have better results than a child watching the pages of a book turning on a screen. We believe there would be long-term positive results if the State would encourage parents to prepare their young children for school without relying on institutional-based state support. Doing so would strengthen the family and strengthen our communities.


HEA 1005 Superintendent of Public Instruction

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R – Indianapolis)

Before January 1, 2021, the Superintendent of Public Instruction will be elected. HEA 1005 abolishes the office of the state Superintendent of Public Instruction after January 10, 2025. The governor will then appoint a Secretary of Education who will serve at the pleasure of and at a salary determined by the governor. This does not require a change to the State Constitution.

At Work For You


SEA 198 Career and Technical Education

Senator Ryan Mishler (R – Bremen)

IAHE and IAHE Action vigilantly watch for opportunities to prevent discrimination of homeschool graduates. SEA 198 presented an avenue to allow high school seniors or graduates of nonaccredited, nonpublic schools to have equal standing with high school seniors or graduates of other Indiana schools to apply for a high-value Workforce Ready Grant. The student must be enrolled in an eligible certificate program at Ivy Tech or Vincennes University at least half-time. They must be financially independent of their parents, not eligible for any state financial aid program, and maintain adequate academic progress. The applicant must not have previously received a baccalaureate degree, an associate degree, or an eligible certificate.

The amount of a high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant is equal to the amount of the educational costs of the institution that the applicant is attending excluding other financial assistance. An applicant may use the high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant only to pay the educational costs of courses required for the applicant’s certificate program. The duration may not exceed the lesser of two undergraduate academic years; or the number of credit hours required by the eligible certificate program in which the student is enrolled. A high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant may be renewed if the student maintains satisfactory academic progress while receiving the grant, and is enrolled in an eligible certificate program that requires more than twelve (12) credit hours or its equivalent.


SEA 175 Healthcare Consent

Senator Jean Leising (R – Rushville)

IAHE Action amended this bill to protect parental rights. This bill would have allowed a grandparent to sign a health care consent instead of a parent if a parent is not reasonably available. We believed the original language was not strong enough. IAHE Action included an amendment that stated one must first ascertain a parent, guardian or adult sibling is unavailable.


Nothing in this post shall be construed as legal advice.

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Indiana Homeschoolers Should Reject ESAs

Since homeschooling became legal in Indiana, Hoosier homeschoolers have enjoyed very limited regulation. We’ve also accepted full financial responsibility for the operating costs of our own homeschools, even though that financial burden comes in addition to the income and property taxes that we pay to support Indiana’s public schools.

Back in 2011, the Indiana state legislature voted to allow homeschooling families a $1000-per-child tax deduction. This change came with no alteration to our freedoms, and no change to our involvement with governmental oversight.

But another change may be on the horizon, with greater consequences. According to a recent IAHE blog post, Maintaining the Integrity of Home Education, our state might soon be offering Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, to homeschooling families. Read the linked article, to learn the function of ESAs and the inevitable changes to our freedom that would result from such contracts.

It’s important for all of us to ask two important questions before accepting such a sea change in how private, independent Indiana homeschools are funded! The first question is, “What is to be gained?” The second question is, “What is to be lost?” If ESAs become the norm for Indiana’s homeschooling families, I do not believe it will be a small change. Nor will it benefit us as much as it will benefit the state! I think this is potentially a very bad deal.

Look for “gift” to be accompanied by operant conditioning habits of mind altering “high-quality” assessments. BEWARE.

To use a biblical analogy, I’ve decided that ESAs may be a mess of pottage, and I don’t want to be Esau. (Genesis 25) Esau thought he couldn’t survive without a bowl of stew, so he traded his birthright, a legal contract guaranteeing his family’s inheritance, for lunch! He didn’t have to starve. He was a hunter, just home from the woods and fields. He was a man of the wild, who knew how to find food. But he failed to value what he had in the birthright. He despised it, the Scripture says, and gave it all away. Jacob, who would go on to become Israel, was still in his role as “deceiver” (which is what his name meant). He fooled his brother into trading something precious for something comparatively worthless.

If we take these ESAs, we may be making the same mistake as Esau. We think we can’t afford to homeschool, so if we can get some help with expenses for curriculum and materials, microscopes, computers, or classes, we’ll be able to afford home education. We want the free lunch because we can’t see how we’ll ever survive without it.

But here’s where the deceit comes in: Materials are not the big, insurmountable expense of homeschooling! The real reason we’re all worse off financially is that we’re all dealing with diminished income, if not the loss of an entire second income so that one parent can be home to supervise the children’s education.

No amount of government aid offered will ever make up for that. There will never be a handout large enough to level us all back up to the full-time, double-income lifestyle we chose to let go in order to prioritize our children’s education at home. The amounts offered in an ESA will cover material costs only. It is not true that ESAs will make anyone able to afford to homeschool.

So why would we take that offer? Why, when we’ll still need to live frugally and make sacrifices on less than two full-time incomes, and so much of the materials necessary for homeschooling can be cheap to free? Why would we take the money, when the money comes with strings?

The costs of an ESA are registration, data tracking, acknowledgment to the state that we don’t think we can do this alone, and worse, tacit admission that we think we benefit from (or are at least not harmed by) government oversight of our private family homeschools.

Those are very big costs.

I think if we consider the history of homeschooling, we’ll see that such a giant step backward is not a step we can afford! Indiana’s pioneering homeschoolers of the 1980s would be astounded to learn that we’d even consider giving up so much, in a single motion, for so little in return.

Homeschooling freedoms were hard-won by those parents of another generation. I believe it would be harder to win new freedoms now if we were to make a mistake and have to backtrack. A far better strategy would be to retain the freedoms we already have.

That first generation of homeschooling parents gave us another key, beyond holding the line for freedom: They showed us that we should network, and support each other. Our new style of homeschooling co-ops, with hired teachers and a school environment, do not provide the relationships and mentoring opportunities inherent in the support groups of old. Co-ops can be very expensive (costing thousands of dollars per family per year), causing homeschoolers to believe that homeschooling is an unaffordable venture.

We may need to go back to the old way, and start supporting each other for free again. Veteran homeschoolers can still teach the new homeschoolers how to find affordable materials, how to teach effectively, how to balance parenting and housework and school, how to raise families frugally…we have all of these experienced homeschoolers in Indiana, standing ready to help with friendship and advice. These relationships are a two-way street; many of our veteran homeschoolers are still going strong, teaching their youngest children at home, and we need the energy and enthusiasm of the younger families, as well.

IAHE has provided a network to help us all find each other, but it is under-utilized. Please consider contacting your IAHE regional representative to see how you can get involved with other local homeschooling families. If we need help and encouragement to take responsibility to homeschool within our budget, let us turn to one another and not to the state.

Let’s reject the bowl of pottage, and keep our birthright as Hoosier parents operating private, independent, free homeschools. We have done without ESAs and government oversight for many years, with great success. Our freedom to continue with independence is too precious to give away.


Amy Hopkins Raab is Mike’s wife and the mother of four sons. They’ve enjoyed homeschooling since 1999.The earlier years were more fun but the latter years have been the most rewarding, as the parents are watching the teens learn the way they wish they’d been taught: At home, surrounded by family and music and the best books, and with Christ as the center of all. Academic excellence is a primary focus of the Raab family homeschool, but true wisdom comes from God. (James 3:13-18)

The Unintended Consequences of ESAs – Inflated Costs for All, Fewer Choices for All – Part 4

This is part four of a five-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

  1. We’re going to tell ourselves that we’ll be able to maintain most of our freedom and choice.

Again, it’s important to understand that by taking government funds, even an ESA, you will no longer be schooling independently from the government. The New York Times called education savings accounts a “redefinition of public education.”[1] Once you take ESA funds, you have crossed the line between independently homeschooling your children, and putting them into government education.

Already, homeschool co-ops do not usually accept any students who are attending online public schools. Since taking ESA funds could be considered having crossed that line into public school, you could be unable to participate in a homeschool co-op.

Let’s use Nevada as an example here. Homeschooling families who take ESA funds might first have to enroll their child in public school. Nevada implemented ESA funds with requirements including the following: students must first be enrolled in public school for at least 100 days.[2] This requirement on its own would prevent many families from taking ESA funds .[3]

Then there are the required standardized tests – to remain qualified for ESA funds in Nevada, every student must be tested annually to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress. Eventually, what will happen to your child if he or she doesn’t make “satisfactory” academic progress? Remember that Nevada’s ESA program is administered by the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office, presumably someone from that office is supposed to determine whether or not your child’s progress was “satisfactory.”

You can’t just take ESA funding in Nevada and start spending it on homeschooling, either, not without registering and qualifying first. Homeschooling parents have to apply and be approved by the state as a “Participating Entity” in order to continue to teach their own children. For time immemorial parents have been assumed to be qualified to teach their children. But not if you take government funds.

Remember that funds can only be spent on certain items. Expenditures are subject to a yearly audit in Nevada. What’s a five letter word that everyone dreads? Audit.

With government funds will come an increased burden in paperwork, reporting requirements, and regulation…and it will all increase regularly. There will be quarterly reporting requirements, individual account audits, and verification checks before a purchase can be completed.[4]

Homeschooling parents might have an urgent, unforeseen reason to need to put a child back in public school. Parents who take ESA funds in Arizona also sign an agreement to release the school district from all obligations to educate the student.[5] Besides what has been discussed regarding the cost of education a special needs child, there are many other concerns in this area. What if a parent takes ESA funds, then decides that homeschooling is not working for them? Or what if a parent contracts a serious illness and can no longer homeschool? What if a parent dies? What if there is a divorce and the parents cannot agree on schooling? What would the parent do with the student for the rest of the school year when there is no option to place the child in public school?

Nevada’s ESA program has been tied in up lawsuits for about a year, and recently the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the ESA program must find an alternate funding source.[6] Consequently, families have already been waiting for close to a year to be able to actually use ESA funds, and they will continue to wait until the Nevada legislature can obtain alternate funding.[7] There have been many lawsuits over ESA programs, so there could be many issues like this that come up as states adopt ESA funds. What will happen to students who are caught in the middle, with parents having taken and perhaps used a portion of the funds, then being unable to return children to public school?

Students who take an ESA may end up ineligible for future scholarships. Parents who take ESA funds in Arizona sign an agreement to not accept a scholarship under any of Arizona’s tax-credit scholarship programs.[8]

If you take ESA funds, you might not be able to continue to buy religious curriculum such as Sonlight or My Father’s World. Sonlight has already created Bookshark, a very similar curriculum that is basically the same as Sonlight, but without most of the religious study. This has allowed Sonlight to be able to offer an option to families who may have government-imposed restrictions on what they can purchase for homeschooling. This leads us in to the next lie…

[1] Fernanda Santos and Motoko Rich, “With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families,”New York Times, March 27, 2013, (Emphasis added).


[3] It would also be disruptive to the education of both public and private school students, by the way, as parents pull their children from private school and put them in public just for the 100 days in order to get ESA funds. The private school would have underestimated yearly enrollment, and the public school would have overestimated yearly enrollment. The public school cannot quickly shed the extra cost that was incurred when planning for all those students. The students themselves are disrupted because of a school change mid-year.




[7] Id.


Lisa Yankey is a happy homeschooling mom of three, but she never expected to homeschool. Teaching runs in her blood – she is a former public school teacher, and her mother, father, and brother are all former public school teachers. During her childhood and as a teacher herself, she recognized many issues in public school. She went to law school at night in a long-term plan to help improve public schools. She used to believe that every child could receive a good and appropriate education from public school. She realized the error of this belief when she watched her own child suffering in public school. She began homeschooling shortly after her oldest child had a disastrous start to public school first grade, and she has never looked back.

She kept her career as a part-time attorney and works for herself as a sole practitioner, with a practice area in immigration law. She is known particularly for her representation of victims of domestic abuse. She continues teaching adults as a speaker on immigration law at continuing legal education events for fellow lawyers. Lisa resides in Noblesville, Indiana (Hamilton County). with her husband, three children, two dogs, and a cat.

The Unintended Consequences of ESAs – Inflated Costs for All, Fewer Choices for All

This post is the first of a five-part series. NOTE: Although we do not encourage homeschoolers to use the public school for special needs assistance, we realize that some may due to expense. We have learned that a great many homeschoolers with children with special needs avoid the government and seek help privately. This article is exploring issues related to evaluating public school services and ESAs as evidenced by ESA regulation in other states. 

What if I told you that I heard the government’s got a great deal for you? You’ll probably want to know a few details. They’re going to take everybody’s tax money, put in in a pot, then hand some money back to you so that you can spend it on your child’s education. Everybody likes getting money, and I think you’ll find this hard to resist, but you might ask yourself what the “catch” might be. There will be many, but for now, just think about that “free” money!

Some people call this type of “free money” for school an “Education Savings or Scholarship Account,” or “ESA” for short. Up to this point, you have probably been budgeting carefully to afford a yearly curriculum for your child, maybe even making sacrifices to buy textbooks, so you might be willing to convince yourself that taking this ESA funds is going to be great for your family and your child’s education. On the other hand, many of us have had negative experiences with education whenever the government bureaucracy has gotten involved. We might think twice. But if ESA funds are made available to us, many homeschoolers are going to try and convince ourselves that this is a good thing.

  1. We’re going to start telling ourselves that it’s “free money.”
  2. We’re going to tell ourselves that the government is doing this to help us pay for the costs of a good education.
  3. We’re going to tell ourselves that this helps low-income families afford a good education.
  4. We’re going to tell ourselves that we’ll be able to maintain most of our freedom and choice.
  5. We’re going to tell ourselves that ESAs won’t affect us if we don’t take them.
  6. We’re going to tell ourselves that we’ll be able to maintain our current superior education results.

But we’d be lying to ourselves. Let’s think about these lies, one by one.

  1. Is it free money?

No. Your Dad was right, there’s “no such thing as a free lunch.” The ESA funds come from somewhere, at a cost to someone, even if that cost is to be a future burden placed on our children. Whatever small benefit you might possibly see in and ESA, remember “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.” Proverbs 17:1, KJV. Whether or not you are a religious person, this saying is a truism that so many people can relate to. It is far better to maintain your independence and have peace, even if it means financial sacrifice.

If you take ESA funds, your child could lose his or her right to a free public education (at least for the year that you took ESA funds). Parents of special needs children who are frustrated with the services their child is receiving have multiple avenues to continue to work with the public school system to obtain help for their child.[1] The amount of money that an ESA fund provides could be nowhere near the average cost of educating a special needs child (somewhere over $16,000 per year, on average, which is more than $9000 over what a non-special-needs child costs in public schools).[2] Homeschooling can be a great option, but it is not the best choice for every student. ESA funds are not going to be enough to cover all the therapies and tutoring that the child could need. Just getting a proper diagnosis could eat up the entire ESA, easily costing $5000 or more.[3]

Children who have a serious disability can already have the full cost of private school paid for through an IEP with their public school. There is no need to implement ESA funds to cover this situation. It is low-income parents, likely to be uninformed of their child’s educational rights, who may take the offer to accept ESA funds that do not come close to covering what their child could get through an IEP. Arizona’s ESA program has seen special needs students from schools with a high percentage of “free or reduced lunch” students receive, on average, much less ESA funds than do students from wealthier areas.[4] The same study also found that students who left higher performing schools were receiving much more money than those who left low-performing schools. For example, in Arizona, the average student from Gilbert Unified, an A performing school with over 27% of students on free or reduced lunch, received $18,019. The average student from Window Rock Unified, a D performing school with over 77% of students on free or reduced lunch, received just $5,105.

These numbers are very concerning. It is very concerning that an uninformed parent could impulsively remove a child from public school, take a relatively low amount of ESA funds, obtain a proper diagnosis (which eats up most of the ESA), then realize that addressing the learning disability properly is beyond what they can do on their own. A parent could have had every good intention, yet still, they would be unable to afford the cost of therapy and tutoring and unable to help their child on their own. They would be unable to place their child back in public school (at least for that school year). It could be detrimental to a special needs child in this situation. And, although the child’s situation could have been worsened by many years of public school, the parent would be blamed for the child’s lack of academic achievement. Even if a child spent 9 years in public education and only one year in homeschool, the parent is the one who is left “holding the bag.” 

What about free money for private school? Private school tuition is high (especially so for a special needs child). A poor or average family who cannot afford private school will still be unable to afford private school. A wealthy family who can already afford private school tuition will get a state-funded discount. This is exactly what has happened in Arizona – wealthy families have benefitted the most from their ESA program. “Two years after state lawmakers granted children from poor-performing schools the right to attend private schools at taxpayer expense, most children using the program are leaving high-performing public schools in wealthy districts.”[5] Arizona House Minority Leader Eric Meyer said about Arizona’s ESA program, “It essentially gives the wealthy a discount at a private school.”[6]

Does it sound like “free money” when your tax dollars are going to go to help wealthy families pay for private school? And, because these students are leaving high-performing public schools, ESA funds are, in effect, penalizing already high-performing schools.[7] That’s not “cost-free” to our society! If we must have public schools, we want them to be good. As Arizona has debated, expanding their ESA program to include all students in public school, Arizona House Minority Leader Eric Meyer has said that it “would drain huge amounts of money from public schools, leaving behind children at poor-performing schools.”[8]

A reasonable option for some situations is for a parent to work with the public school to include some home-based education as part of the child’s IEP, placing the child in school for tutoring and lessons perhaps three out of five days per week, with the remaining two days home-based. It is very important to understand that this situation would continue to be public school, and should not be confused with homeschooling, but again, homeschooling is not the best option for every student.

For those who want to homeschool, it is tempting to think that the government should help us. Most of us grew up with the idea that everyone is entitled to “free” school, and it’s difficult to understand the problems with this idea. It’s difficult to understand why, for most of us, the government’s help is really no help at all.

To be continued.








[8] Id.

Lisa Yankey is a happy homeschooling mom of three, but she never expected to homeschool. Teaching runs in her blood – she is a former public school teacher, and her mother, father, and brother are all former public school teachers. During her childhood and as a teacher herself, she recognized many issues in public school. She went to law school at night in a long-term plan to help improve public schools. She used to believe that every child could receive a good and appropriate education from public school. She realized the error of this belief when she watched her own child suffering in public school. She began homeschooling shortly after her oldest child had a disastrous start to public school first grade, and she has never looked back.

She kept her career as a part-time attorney and works for herself as a sole practitioner, with a practice area in immigration law. She is known particularly for her representation of victims of domestic abuse. She continues teaching adults as a speaker on immigration law at continuing legal education events for fellow lawyers. Lisa resides in Noblesville, Indiana (Hamilton County). with her husband, three children, two dogs, and a cat.


Podcast with IAHE Action Board member, Camille Cantwell

IAHE Action Board member, Camille Cantwell, recently spoke on her life, parental rights and home education on the RadioNext internet program with Dr. Mark Eckel. It was very informative as she covered a variety of topics from parenting to homeschool liberty to IAHE Action’s work at the Statehouse on behalf of homeschool families.  You can listen here.

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2016 Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly ended on March 10. This was a “short” session, and there 831 bills introduced. The legislature was cautious about passing bills with a high fiscal note, so some that would typically move did not this session. IAHE tracked over eighty bills of interest. The House and Senate Education Committees heard a total of thirty-nine bills and two resolutions in the ten weeks that comprised this legislative session. Four of them were of particular interest to IAHE.

Education Matters • HEA 1330 contains language that IAHE included with the assistance of Governor Pence’s office. IAHE is grateful that the House Education Committee Chairman, Robert Behning (R–Indianapolis), carried the bill for us.

IAHE felt it was necessary to introduce this legislation due to the overreach of the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). In September 2015, a memo from the IDOE was sent to Superintendents and principals across the state that required students enrolled part-time in the public school to take ISTEP. Prior to this time, it was not required.

Indiana Code states the purpose of ISTEP+ is:
1) to assess the strengths and weaknesses of school performance; 2) to assess the effects of state and local educational program; 3) to compare achievement of Indiana students to achievement of students on a national basis; and 4) to provide a source of information for state and local decision makers with regard to educational matters, including . . . the overall academic progress of students, the need for new or revised educational programs, the need to terminate existing programs . . . .  In addition, IC 20-32-5-6 mandates that ISTEP scores “measure student achievement relative to the academic standards established by the state board . . . .”

Indiana case law affirms that local school corporations have the discretion to allow or deny part-time participation. Indiana law states very clearly that non-accredited, non-public schools are “not bound by any requirements set forth in IC 20 or IC 21 with regard to curriculum or the content of educational programs offered by the school” and that this does not prevent a student from that school in “enrolling in a particular educational program or participating in a particular educational initiative offered by an accredited public, nonpublic, or state board approved nonpublic school…”

Since the purpose of the ISTEP program is designed to “provide a source of information for state and local decision makers with regard to…the overall academic progress of students…the need for new or revised educational programs…the need to terminate existing education programs…student readiness for postsecondary school experiences…(and) diagnosing individual student needs” it cannot be applied to part-time students who are not enrolled in the subjects being tested.

If they are testing homeschool students in math or English and the student is only taking an art class, how does that test the student on how well the public school is teaching those subjects when those subjects are being taken at home?

IAHE believed it was bad policy to require home educators who are enrolled part-time, such as in one non-academic class, to take ISTEP+ or other future similar assessments designed to evaluate the school, curriculum, and testing methods.

The language in HEA 1330 states, (c) A student who attends a school described in subsection (a) who also enrolls in a particular educational program or initiative as permitted under subsection (b) may be offered the opportunity to participate in state standardized assessments, but such participation is not required.”

 This language allows “home rule” where the school may decide whether or not a student has access to a class and whether or not to offer the test. What has changed is that the student can no longer be required to take the state-wide assessment. HEA 1330 was signed by the Governor.


BLOG Featured Image_Action Logo Square BW 10.28.15 SMALL2.) Various Education Matters • SEA 93 is a bill that IAHE was monitoring. In the final weeks of the session during Second Reading in the House, a floor motion was amended into SB 93. Since it was in Title 16 and not Title 20, it included home schools. Here is the language:

Testing of Water in School Buildings

Sec. 1. As used in this chapter, “school building” means any building used for the classroom instruction of students in any grade from kindergarten through grade 12. The term includes buildings used by all public schools and private schools.

Sec. 2. Every school building shall be supplied with safe, potable water from:

(1) a source; and

(2) a distribution system; approved by the commissioner of the department of environmental management, the state health commissioner, or the local board of health or county health officer having jurisdiction where the school building is located.

Sec. 3. (a) At least once in each period of two (2) calendar years, the water available in each school building for drinking purposes shall be tested to ensure that it is healthful and free of contaminants, including lead, that could be injurious to human health.

(b) The testing required by subsection (a) shall be conducted by: (1) the commissioner of the department of environmental management; (2) the state health commissioner; or

(3) the local board of health or county health officer having

jurisdiction where the school building is located.“.

Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) and Representative Robert Behning worked with IAHE to include an amendment in conference committee to exclude home schools. The final language excluded all private schools.
SEA 93 was signed by the Governor.


3.) Various Education Matters • HEA 1005 After a sexual abuse incident at a brick and mortar non-accredited, nonpublic school, the legislature desired to require expanded child protection index background checks for adults with ongoing contact with students in all schools within the scope of their employment.

SECTION 3. IC 20-26-2-1.3 IS ADDED TO THE INDIANA CODE AS A NEW SECTION TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2016]: Sec. 1.3.“Expanded child protection index check” means:

(1) an inquiry with the department of child services as to whether an individual has been the subject of a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect and is listed in the child protection index established under IC 31-33-26-2;

(2) an inquiry with the child welfare agency of each state in which the individual has resided since the individual became eighteen (18) years of age as to whether there are any substantiated reports that the individual has committed child abuse or neglect; and

(3) for a certificated employee, an inquiry with the department of education or other entity that may issue a license to teach of each state in which the individual has resided since the individual became eighteen (18) years of age as to whether the individual has ever had a teaching license suspended or revoked.

The final language included all schools that have one or more employees. House Education Chairman Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis), worked with IAHE to exempt parents teaching their own children.

IAHE recommends that even if you are not required by law to have an expanded background check for anyone teaching your children in a co-op, it would be prudent to do it. Many co-ops already do background checks.

Home Educators’ Questions Regarding HEA 1005 Receive Answers from HSLDA

These are answers from HSLDA regarding HEA 1005 (formerly SB 334). In their opinion, these answers are accurate. Please seek counsel from HSLDA for specific questions.

1.) If a family hires a teacher such as a piano teacher, does it require a background check? NO

2.) What if a group of parents pay an individual to teach a class such as a foreign language? Or what if the teacher is not paid, but there is a fee for the class (supplies, facility fees). NO

3.) How easy it is to transfer a background check? I have to get one for another organization. Could that then count for any other situation, or would the individual groups need to have a new one done? HSLDA does not have an answer, but suspects it will not be problem. The background check is something that needs to be updated. Schools will have to put it in their policy regarding when they must be updated. A school could also decide to accept one that has been done in the last “x” period of time.

4.) If I hired a family member such as a grandparent to tutor my children, do I then need to run a background check? NO

5.) Do any/all tutors need background checks? NO

6.) Does this bill apply to independent contractors? NO

7.) Is a co-op a school? A co-op is not a school unless they desire to be one. If they operate 5 days a week, 6 hours a day then HSLDA would expect the state to consider them to be a school, but it might still be possible that they aren’t. A normal co-op that operates 1-2 days a week shouldn’t have any trouble.

8.) If anyone is passing themselves off as a school, with employees, they must comply.

HEA 1005 was signed by the Governor.


4.) Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship HEA 1002 allows for an academic state scholarship to attract and retain eligible applicants to the teaching profession. IAHE requested home educators be included in the bill. Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) agreed to include homeschoolers. IAHE believes it would give increased credibility to homeschool diplomas since homeschooled graduates would be on a level playing field with public school graduates when applying for this scholarship. Since the requirements for this scholarship occur after graduation, we saw no reason to omit homeschoolers. HEA 1002 was signed by the Governor.

*This post does not constitute legal advice. For legal questions, contact HSLDA.