Tag Archives: ESA

Testing, Assessments, Standards, Teaching Machines… The Science of Creating Obedient Citizens. Behavioral Science. Part 4

This is a continuation of a multi-part series.

11. ESA’s (Education Subsidy Accounts) more Behavioral Conditioning, deception, theft and cognitive dissonance.

Education Subsidy Accounts (ESA’s,) Education Scholarship Accounts, and Education Savings Accounts (the deception label,) expand the role of government regulation, funding, dependency, and inflation into the lives of recipients, vendors, service providers, taxpayers, and current public education on all levels. ESA’s create yet another bureaucracy and bureaucratic demand for standardized content, assessments, testing and third-party accountability measures, as a result of yet, another government redistribution scheme of taxpayer monies.

This scheme is a ubiquitous example of Behavioral Science’s Operant Conditioning, again under the guise of free choice and ‘benevolence.’ “Let us help you get what you have coming to you….and we’ll show you where to spend it.”

This scheme, like most education schemes in the past, does not originate with the parents, but with those who seek to gain from government funded redistribution programs and dependence on those programs. This scheme does not advance, as their propaganda states, “free-market” competition. In order to have a free-market competition, one must use one’s own resources. A free market does not exist in any market in which the competitors are funded by the endless pocket book of the government; the government which taxes taxpayers directly and indirectly to fund its redistribution schemes. (That is the definition of socialismGovernment control of production and distribution of goods, services and ideas.)

a. Whose money is it?

These ESA accounts are NOT being filled with personal savings monies, but are created, out of thin air, using taxpayer monies! Read as digital illusions tracked on digital accounts. Creating ‘money,’ even digital “money,” causes inflation of costs to all and reduces the value of all other money and savings.  spending-other-peoples-money-1

b. More Shackles and Submission

“Free” money treats are placed in education doggie bowl accounts in exchange for submission to regulations such as registration with governing authorities; registration in and subsequent withdrawal from public school within designated time frame; private school accreditation, curriculum approval, assessment testing, expenditure documentation submission via specified modality, submission schedule, provider certification, vendor certification, and various sundry ‘accountability’ measures as the redistributors and planners arbitrarily desire.

Considering the Josephson Institute of Ethics ongoing survey results of students who lie, cheat and steal to get the grade on tests or be ‘successful’, and then as adults continue in their pattern of fallen ethics into their adult professions; perhaps, it is no wonder these adults marketing ESA accounts continue in their conditioned patterns of deception, avarice, and taxpayer theft in order to be successful in the goals of their paymasters.

c. Opt-Out….but now, Opt-In? Cognitive Dissonance from the “experts.”

Don’t eat butter! Eat margarine. Hydrogenation is bad, so yes, eat butter. Don’t eat raw foods; pasteurization kills the bacteria; and the digestive enzymes, too. Oops, buy into the raw dairy herd. Don’t eat wheat or dairy, or corn or soy, or palm oil, or GMO, or shellfish, or sugar, or anything, unless it’s stamped ‘fair trade,’ and non-GMO, and kosher. And, make certain your foods don’t leave any footprints on the planet. If folks just stop eating, there won’t be any footprints. (See what happened to food when the government subsidized farming and crop insurance?)

Just as the latest incomplete ‘research’ pumps the pedals of the food marketeers; what is being pushed one season by the education ‘reformers’ is a complete opposite of what was parroted the previous season. Notice that the very same groups of education experts who lead the Ed Subsidy Account (ESA) crusade, which will require assessment testing are the very same crusaders who polished the verbiage and equipped parents to use their weapon of opting-out of testing and assessments of the government subsidized public education.

Yes, to recap— those very same folks who pushed the “Opt-out” of testing, assessments, college placements tests for data tracking reasons, are now advocating ESA’s which will require testing, assessments, registration and more data-tracking.

No wonder the herd is so weary of being stampeded from one canyon to the other; and the young bucks hardened, cynical and survival-oriented.  

d. “School Choice” double-speak.

Many of the same groups that promote ESA’s have done this utilizing another deceptive double speak public relations phrase, that of “School Choice.” To the innocent person, the phrase means just what the words say, and what we have always had: the choice of who should fund and direct the education of our child. This choice still exists. Parents may choose privately-funded education or government taxpayer-funded education.

The double speak is that the groups pushing ESA’s use the term “School Choice” to mislead the innocent, while at the same time create legislation that will expand the role of taxpayer-funded government subsidy into private education resulting in placing private education under government control. To do so, will reduce the available options of truly private education. Parents and consumers will, directly and indirectly, subsidize, not only the latest taxpayer-funded scheme but, as more folks are behaviorally conditioned to accept government education entitlement accounts, it will make it more difficult for privately funded education to compete with the market inflation caused by the government’s introduction of “free” ESA money.

Recent evidence of these crippling costs exists in the school voucher program which has escalated the costs to formerly privately-funded religious schools. These schools now find their costs tripled to meet the plethora of demands that the voucher program participation requires such as additional testing, assessments, curriculum, facilities, technology, accreditation, teacher training, additional administrators, software etc.

e. Taxpayer and consumer theft. There is no free lunch and no free service.

Theft is defined as taking something that belongs to another without their consent.

Every consumer is a taxpayer. While not every consumer files a personal income tax return, every consumer who purchases anything, does pay tax. It is these consumer taxes that fund the government and its dependency redistribution schemes.

This ESA scheme follows the same pattern of government expansion, dependency, and control as evidenced in healthcare, healthcare insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, disability benefits, old age insurance, college loan subsidy, agriculture subsidy, industry bailouts, child welfare, mortgage insurance, and the array of tax deferred, government regulated invested accounts such as: 401 K, IRA, SIMPLE, FSA, HSA, 529, ESA, …blah, blah, blah.

Just because something is permitted, promoted, partially-funded or favored via government redistribution of taxpayer funds does not mean that it is right, just or beneficial for anyone. Abortion, which goes by another ‘choice’ mantra, is a clear example of what happens to a society that succumbs to operant conditioning of the masses, fashioning the masses to dispose of people like day-old bread. There is no ‘free’ service; millions of individuals have had to pay for these services with their tax dollars, while millions more have paid for them with their lives. So much for ‘liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

f. Bogus benevolence.

“The least amount of care is given when spending other people’s money on other people.” ~ Economist Milton Friedman who wrote entire books based on this truism. 

The middlemen, promoters of any government redistribution scheme whether it be special accounts, favors, tax deferment, tax-exemption, loans, grants, credits, subsidies, insurances etc. etc. practice behavioral science’s mental gymnastics in attempts to market these schemes as benevolent intentions. They are NOT.

It is never humane or charitable to condition a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell, nor is it benevolent to remove an individual’s liberty by coercing them into dependence upon others. Nor is it benevolent to redistribute the resources of others without their consent.

If one desires to be benevolent or charitable to others, then one ought to follow the directives pronounced by God and let Him distribute appropriate rewards.

“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Jesus Christ, as recorded by Matthew 6:1-4

If one desires to be benevolent, then one is to use one’s own personal resources, eliminating the middlemen who forge the shackles of dependence on the socialist welfare state.

So, to all those who promote more redistribution schemes using other peoples’ money to supposedly benefit others, we say,

“Do your own good deeds, using your own resources and leave each of us to use our own resources to do our own benevolence.

We will each keep our own accountability to God and not require the services of any middlemen, nor will we feed the leviathan of bureaucracy which consumes the lives, the liberties, the consciences and the pursuits of individual happiness.”

Partial Resources:

*Beyond Smarter, by Reuven Feuerstein (1921-2014). Professor Feuerstein, developmental, clinical and cognitive psychologist coined the term neuroplasticity,prior to the advent of functioning MRI’s that provide proof of this ongoing structural change in the brain.

Professor Feuerstein, a profoundly gifted, insightful and deeply religious Jew, recognizing that man is created in the image of G-d, and to be respected as such; was vehemently opposed to the use of computers, digital software, artificial intelligence and the like, in the teaching of human beings.

Shmuel Feuerstein, Biblical and Talmudic Antecedents of Mediated Learning Experience

Lord Acton, Essays on the history of Liberty

E.B. Ashton, The Fascist, His State, His Mind

Milton Friedman, Free to Choose

Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

J.S. Mill, On Liberty

Daniel Siegel, The Neurobiology of We

Vladamir Turchenko, The Scientific and Technological Revolution and the Revolution in Education

Ludwig Von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis

E. G. West, Education and the State, A Study in Political Economy

Dr. Dawn Kazmierzak has over twenty years in private practice Optometry. Academic stickers include majors in biology, neurobiology, neuroscience, visual science, doctorate of Optometry; post-graduate work for SUNY and West Point (USMC) in developmental and hospital-based Optometry; cognitive science Feuerstein trained in Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) and FIE (Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment). Having been transmitted a love of learning and commitment to discerning the truth from her parents, she and her husband labor to model this transmission to their daughter.

It was (and is,) the anchors of faith in Christ and Biblical study that shielded Dawn from the operant conditioning that accompanies academic “successes.” These studies and stickers (degrees, certifications) were chosen in preparation for participation in third-world medical missions. If individuals lack the abilities to see, it is very difficult to teach themselves, grow in their faith, or provide for their families. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18 This applies to physical, cognitive(mental) and spiritual ‘sight.’

You, as a homeschool parent, do not need all these stickers to transmit truth to and equip your child for their future; but, in my opinion, one does need a relationship with The Author, who defines what is true, right and just. Genesis 18:19. This relationship will provide all you need.

Blessings on your transmissions of your culture!

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 5

This is part five of a five-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

     5. We’re going to tell ourselves that ESAs won’t affect us if we don’t take them.

What if you decide that you don’t want to take the ESA? What if you want to remain independent? Will you be able to continue to homeschool the way you do now?

No.

Think ESAs won’t affect you if you don’t take them? They will. Try telling yourself that the increase in government funding for higher education hasn’t affected the ability to pay for college without getting financial aid and/or student loans.

The government already has a hard time separating homeschoolers from virtual public school and continuation schools, lumping homeschoolers into the “School to Prison Pipeline” despite overwhelming evidence against including us in that group.[1] It’s doubtful that the government will be able (or willing) to distinguish between homeschooling families who take ESA funds and homeschooling families who don’t. Nevada already believes that homeschooling parents need to qualify as a “Participating Entity,” thus undermining a heritage of home-based education that is many thousands of years longer than public education’s comparatively short 150 years or so. This requirement lays bare the collective attitude of the Nevada government towards parents: ignoring overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Nevada government begins with the assumption that parents are not qualified to teach their children. It is within the power of the state legislature to require homeschooling parents to qualify and register, even without accepting government funds. Many other states have burdensome homeschool requirements, such as annual standardized testing, which has never been proven to improve educational achievement.[2]

Beyond government regulation, the homeschool curriculum market will suffer.

Used curriculum will fade away. Because of the funding restrictions that will come with an ESA (the money can only be spent on certain approved items), there will be a lot less “red tape” if you use an ESA to purchase used curriculum (probably from a list of “pre-approved publishers”). If you get audited, providing a receipt from Bookshark is much less scary than providing a handwritten note from your friend Kristin who sold you her secondhand curriculum at the homeschool co-op curriculum sale.

In the “old days” before “free money” from ESA accounts, you could buy used curriculum, and also sell some of your curriculum when you were done with it. You had to buy extra “student sheets,” but the cost of those was about $10-$50 per child, which was affordable. The publishers don’t really want you to buy used or re-sell your curriculum, because they don’t make much money if you do that. They make reusable curriculum because homeschooling families are frugal and like to buy curriculum that will last through several children. Publishers sell replacement student sheets now because the market demands it. Right now, we are spending our own money, and we budget it accordingly. If we can buy used and save $1000, we can spend that extra money on whatever we’d like because it’s our own money. With an ESA, the money must be spent only on approved items, and the amount of money is vastly increased over what we would normally spend, so there is no incentive to save. There won’t be much of a market left to sell used curriculum. Would you even be allowed to sell items that were purchased with government funds?

As ESAs increase and people opt for new curriculum purchased with “free money,” publishers will not have any reason to continue to support curriculum that can be re-used year after year. They’ll shift to selling consumable curriculum that is easy and fast to use, but is used up after one child so that you have to re-purchase each year.

Publishers will increase the prices on their old, reasonably priced packages as they add newer and bigger packages. They don’t want to remind ESA-takers of the cheap prices that you used to enjoy before ESAs. Perhaps you can afford $300-$600 for curriculum now, but will you be able to absorb a package price hike to $1500? To $2000? The prices will continue to increase across the board, and remember, publishers will drop support for reusable curriculum. Just like college tuition has increased for everyone, not just those who take student loans, the cost of curriculum and classes for homeschoolers will also increase with the huge influx of government funds.

The content of curriculum is also likely to change. Remember how Sonlight decided to make a new company to offer a new, non-religious curriculum called Bookshark? If Bookshark is an approved purchase, but Sonlight is not, then as more and more people take ESA funds, eventually so many people will buy Bookshark instead of Sonlight that Sonlight will cease to be profitable. Publishers will have to focus on the products that keep them in business.

Is any of this really worth taking any amount of money from the government? Even if only a tiny portion of these negative effects come to pass, the answer is no! Homeschoolers in Indiana are already providing our children with a superior education, for very little cost. We cannot allow ourselves to be grouped together with the problematic public school system we have rejected. Homeschoolers must stand united in maintaining our independence from government schools.

[1] http://www.iaheaction.net/iahe-actions-school-to-prison-pipeline-response-part-1/

[2] https://www.hslda.org/laws/

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 – 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, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/education/states-shifting-aid-for-schools-to-the-families.html. (Emphasis added).

[2] http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/education/private-school-parents-decry-education-savings-account-rule

[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.

[4] https://www.edchoice.org/blog/new-study-shows-how-arizona-parents-spend-education-savings-accounts/

[5] https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/arizona-empowerment-scholarship-accounts/

[6] https://www.edchoice.org/blog/nevada-esa-litigation-need-know/

[7] Id.

[8] https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/arizona-empowerment-scholarship-accounts/

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 – Part 3

This is part three of a five-part series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

    3. Would ESA funds help low-income families afford homeschooling?

No. The barrier to homeschooling is usually that either both parents work, or one parent in a single-parent household must work. ESA funds are not going to provide a second salary.

Although it seems tempting at first, ESA funds will not help low-income families in the long term. As explained before, in Arizona ESA funds have already been shown to help families in high performing schools districts the most. And, as explained, for students with serious special needs, an IEP is already available as a method to cover the full cost of private school.

The rest of the issues are more complicated because the worst effects will take at least few years, but similar situations have had disastrous consequences for low-income families in the past. Increasing government funding in education is where the law of unintended consequences has reared its head before, and it will rear its head in the future.

It’s important to understand that an ESA probably won’t cover all the expenses you currently choose to spend on homeschooling. You’ll still need spend some of your “own money” on items that are not approved. For example, a laptop would not be approved in Florida or Nevada (one low-income family is reported to have received permission to buy a laptop for educational purposes in New Hampshire).[1] Anything deemed “too religious” or “too intolerant” may be questionable. In some states, you’d be required to purchase the item first, then ask for reimbursement. What if a purchase was not approved and you could no longer return the item? The consequences could be worse in a state that allows you to make the purchase from an ESA debit card – what if you bought an item and believed it qualified (such as a laptop), but you were audited and had to pay back the money? What about charges of fraud or misuse of government funds? 

Let’s assume for a moment that everything will be ok with making your purchases. You’ll be spending the “free money” only on things that the government approves, so there will be many people who will be happy to sell you more of those specially approved items. We’ll call those sellers “publishers” just to make it easy, but it would expand far beyond what we now think of as publishers, such as online courses. The publishers who are successful in selling you these items are probably going to be pretty smart, and they’re in business to make money. I don’t fault them; it’s the American way, but if you’ve got $5000 to spend, they’re going to want you to spend all of that $5000 with them.

These publishers also realize that almost everybody tends to be pretty generous when they spend “free money” – a lot more generous than they are when they spend their own money. The first year, the publishers will take a look at what they already offer for homeschoolers and realize that they’ve been selling packages for a range of $250-$600. Maybe some competitors sell packages for $400-$900. An “expensive” online homeschool course may be $200. But now, all the publishers know that you’ve got $5000 to spend. That online homeschool course can increase in price now that more people will have more money to spend on it.

The publishers are smart, and they’re great at getting you to spend your money, but they know that experienced homeschoolers who have been spending $900 aren’t going to swallow a price increase to $5000. They’ll get together and offer a great package for $2000. It will include more than their old packages, but not that much more, and because you’re spending “free money,” you won’t look as closely at the prices, anyway. The publishers will also have increased costs to cover because of the “red tape” that will inevitably come with getting curriculum and courses onto the “approved” list, and price increases will cover those costs. Some of the publishers (especially those who do not currently sell much to the homeschooling market) will want every dollar of your “free money,” and they’ll offer a $5000 package the very first year. They might include online tutors, online classes, and so on, to justify the price.

Next year many publishers will offer the $2000 package (price increased to $2100 because of increased costs, of course), but also a $2600 package with a few more things thrown in. You’ll accept. After a couple of years all of the publishers will offer a $5000 package, and start lobbying for increases in ESAs. They’ll inevitably increase, and so will the prices of the packages. When the ESA is going to increase, publishers will raise their package prices to match every increase. During the years that ESAs do not increase, publishers will advertise that they are keeping prices the same or only increasing them slightly, but they will restructure packages under the guise of “improvement” to hide what they took out to cut costs and increase profit. Publishers are in business to make money, and if they don’t make money, they won’t stay in business. The prices will inflate.

Don’t doubt that this type of price inflation will happen – it’s already happened in higher education with Pell Grants and increased student loans. Back in 1987, then-Secretary of Education William Bennett put forth what is now known as the “Bennett Hypothesis,” arguing that “… increases in financial aid in recent years have enabled colleges and universities blithely to raise their tuitions, confident that Federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase.”[2]

Plainly, Bennett was predicting that as the “free money” poured into higher education, schools would raise their tuition to use up the available money. Students who had “free money” to pay for tuition wouldn’t balk or protest the cost increases like they would have if they’d needed to pay cash, as they had in the past.

That is exactly what happened. In 2015 a study confirmed, “We find that institutions that were most exposed to these maximums ahead of the policy changes experienced disproportionate tuition increases around these changes, with effects of changes in institution-specific program maximums of Pell Grant, subsidized loan, and unsubsidized loan of about 40, 60, and 15 cents on the dollar, respectively.”[3]

The increases in “free money” didn’t help lower-income families have more access to a college degree, either.[4] The authors of Dollars, Cents, and Nonsense: The Harmful Effects of Federal Student Aid (Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, and Joseph Hartge of The Center For College Affordability and Productivity), summarize, “After reviewing the various federal programs that evolved to assist college students, we conclude that they have largely failed. For example, the proportion of lower-income recent college graduates is lower than when these programs were in their infancy. The programs are complex and Byzantine, leading to forms such as the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), whose very complexity has reduced participation by low-income students. The law of unintended consequences has reared its ugly head.”

The law of unintended consequences is here, ready to rear its ugly head once again, this time with ESA funds. The law of unintended consequences leads us to the next lie, because as with financial aid, the consequences with ESA funds will not be limited to finances….

[1] http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/taking-credit-education-how-fund-education-savings-accounts-through-tax#cite-4

[2] Bennett, William J. “Our Greedy Colleges.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times Company, February 18, 1987. Web. October 4, 2016.

[3] Lucca, David O., Taylor Nadauld, and Karen Shen. “Credit Supply and the Rise in College Tuition: Evidence from the Expansion in Federal Student Aid Programs.” Newyorkfed.org. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Mar. 2016. Web. October. 4, 2016

[4] Vedder, Richard; Denhart, Christopher; Hartge, Joseph (June 2014), Dollars, Cents, and Nonsense: The Harmful Effects of Federal Student Aid, Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Web. October 4, 2016

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.

[1] http://www.doe.in.gov/specialed/special-education-due-process

[2] http://www.nea.org/home/19029.htm

[3] http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/testing-a-child-for-learning-disabilities/

[4] http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/education/2016/02/23/state-money-helping-wealthier-arizona-kids-go-private-schools/80303730/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

[5] http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/education/2016/02/23/state-money-helping-wealthier-arizona-kids-go-private-schools/80303730/

[6] http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/education/2016/02/23/state-money-helping-wealthier-arizona-kids-go-private-schools/80303730/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

[7] http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/education/2016/02/23/state-money-helping-wealthier-arizona-kids-go-private-schools/80303730/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

[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.

 

Maintaining the Integrity of Home Education

Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) and IAHE Action protect Hoosier parents’ autonomy to direct the education and upbringing of their children.  We know one of the biggest threats to our liberty is entanglement with government funding. When we hear of the government trying to “help” homeschoolers, we are very cautious as not to jeopardize our liberty. We remember the wise words of our second president, John Adams, “Liberty once lost is lost forever.”


Common Schools

Although Common Schools are mentioned in the Indiana Constitution, we wonder if the State remembers the history of Common Schools? According to E.G. West author of, Education and the State, the Common Schools were only for those families who did not desire to take responsibility to educate their children privately.

Before these government schools began in America, most families were privately educating their children in brick and mortar schools or at home. The Common Schools were first formed in the rural areas for those who did not have access to private brick and mortar schools. Common Schools were not universal, compulsory, or free. Parents had to pay to send their child to a Common School.

Those who benefitted economically from the Common Schools were the ones who advocated that schools become universal, compulsory, and free. Of course, human nature being what it is, people soon flocked to the “free/taxpayer funded” schools and the private options eventually withered. Today, most do not even realize that at one point in our nation’s history most everyone was privately educated, and public schools were basically non-existent. The United States had a very high literacy rate prior to the advent of Common Schools.

We have come full circle. Today, some advocate for the government to have control or “accountability” for all forms of private education through “school choice.” The state of Indiana has accountability requirements for private voucher-accepting schools that require the students to take ISTEP and to collect intrusive student data. Vouchers were originally “sold” to the public as having little to no regulation. Now some private school families whose school accepts voucher students feel like it was a “bait and switch.”  Their private school feels compelled to follow the state standards that resemble Common Core in order to do well on the state test to protect their school rating.

This is a valuable lesson for us to remember.  Home educators must fight hard to maintain our liberty for our families and our posterity.

 

Universal ESAs and Liberty

Should universal ESAs concern homeschoolers? Yes, according to attorney Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project.  In her July 19, 2016, article, “New GOP Platform: The Good, the Bad, and the Very Concerning” she writes, “Now for the troubling parts. The platform focuses a great deal on choice in education and endorses the concept of “portability” of education funding to be used for many different types of schooling (private or parochial schools, homeschooling, etc.) and with many different funding mechanisms (tax credits, vouchers, etc.). While efforts to shatter the government monopoly on education are laudable, extreme caution must be exercised to ensure—if this is even possible—that when government money follows the child, government regulations don’t follow as well. For example, a state that grants vouchers (such as Indiana) may require the private schools that accept voucher students to give the state Common Core-aligned test, which means the private schools will pretty much have to teach Common Core.  

“Choice” that results in all schools’, whether public or private, having to teach the same thing is no choice at all. The platform would have done well to acknowledge this danger.”

Ms. Robbins reminds us that “school choice” has the potential to trample on individual liberty. Universal government programs do not take into account the liberties of the individual even when they assure us that they will.

Nevada Homeschool Network learned this first-hand with Nevada’s ESA bill. There was an attempt to use their homeschool statute as the vehicle for the ESA bill. They were told they didn’t have to accept the ESA money if they didn’t want it. They fought too hard to gain their homeschool freedom after many years of bad homeschool regulations to take a chance on it. As we have recently seen in Indiana, confusion between virtual charter school students and home educated students has resulted in a threat of increased regulations for the homeschoolers. ESAs would cause increased confusion.

Homeschoolers always need to be concerned about guarding liberty and parental rights when dealing with elected officials and bureaucrats who think they are responsible for the education of all children and for determining how that education should present itself. IAHE has spent 33+ years protecting our rights.  Whenever a government “freebie” is accepted, there is ALWAYS a risk to liberty.


Indiana is a Leader in Home Education Freedom

We have excellent laws in Indiana that protect a parent’s right to educate their children.  The Indiana Constitution provides for schools that are open to all, but it does not say that all must be educated in a Common School under government control.

Homeschoolers do not accept state funding and do not have to register with the State; although, we may report enrollment.  We have the freedom to direct our children’s education and are not forced to submit test results to the State. As homeschool parents understand, we do not need to have a standardized test to inform us of our child’s progress. Teaching our children on a daily basis enables us to know how they are progressing. The Superintendent has the ability to check on students by requesting attendance records. Indiana also has educational neglect and truancy laws to deal with any issues that may arise.

When we are not entangled with the State, we have the ability to do what is the best for our children. We have the freedom to teach in the manner that best suits their needs.  As Dr. Karen Effrem of Education Liberty Watch shares, Indiana is rated an “F” on the Private School Choice Freedom Grading Scale due to the regulations associated with vouchers in the Hoosier state.  The schools that take vouchers must administer ISTEP; therefore, many schools feel obligated to teach Indiana’s version of Common Core in order to do well on the test.  

In order to be reimbursed for ESA expenses, families must submit receipts for expenses. Would homeschool families eventually be at risk for using faith-based or non-Common Core curriculum? Would the State decide we are not providing an equivalent education since they would have the ability to evaluate our curriculum?  The State ultimately decides which “choices” are acceptable. The State in charge of deciding which curriculum or providers are acceptable is a very troubling proposition. Homeschoolers currently have a real choice that is not limited by the State.

Home education works! Hoosier homeschoolers have proven that families of all income levels can successfully homeschool apart from government involvement. Leave us alone! The fact that families take this responsibility without State involvement should be encouraged. It increases self-respect and self-sufficiency.  The IAHE Testimonial page is a source of encouraging stories of Hoosier families who have educated their children without government assistance.

Over the course of the past three decades, Hoosier home educators have proven it does not take a lot of money to educate a child. Many have had the experience of eventually having children who end up being better educated than their parents. It takes a dedicated parent and not an exorbitant amount of money to educate a child.

Note: There are a variety of types of ESAs.  IAHE Action will assess each one and alert homeschoolers about required strings.