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.

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