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] https://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 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.

Constitution Quest – Presales start TODAY!

Today is the day!

IAHE Action is partnering with the makers of Constitution Quest to offer us an amazing opportunity. As you know, IAHE Action has been extremely active this past legislative session protecting the freedoms of all homeschooling families in Indiana. Having a voice at the Statehouse has never been more important than right now.  As the homeschooling community continues to grow, so do the issues we face. Purchasing this educational game through us will not only help raise your family’s Constitutional IQ in a fun and engaging way, it will help ensure that IAHE Action can continue to be a presence and a voice at the Statehouse.

Constitution Quest was developed by two educators looking for a better way to teach the history and content and purpose of our Constitution. It is made right here in the great state of Indiana, in a small factory in Tipton.  Thanks to many different adaptations of play, this game can be played in a large classroom in one class period, at the kitchen table or your homeschool classroom, even at Grandma’s house where the youngest members of the family can get early exposure playing on a team.  You are never too young or old to learn more about the principles our Nation was founded on, and there has never been a better time for all of us to become more aware of our rights as citizens.

We are offering an opportunity to pre order Constitution Quest and pick it up at our booth at your convenience at this year’s convention. 

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Here are the details:

The games have the presale price of $45, and you can order them with the paypal button below.

The presale will run from today until April 22.

If by chance for any reason you are unable to attend the convention, your game will be shipped to you for an additional $10 after the convention is over.

I will send an email after the presale closes with all of the details about pickup.

Thank you for supporting us!   I cannot wait to meet you in just a few short weeks. If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to email me, Kristina Perry, at INAmbassadorPerry@outlook.com, and I will be happy to help.

~~~ Pre-sales are now closed. ~~~
IAHE Action is a 501(c)4 organization and donations are NOT tax deductible.

Why IAHE Action?

In recent years, Indiana Association of Home Educators has observed increased threats to parental and home education rights. The threats have been seen in various forms. Christian home education is particularly egregious to many who oppose homeschooling. WEBSITE RGB Action Logo 400x400

As IAHE assessed these threats, they felt like the time had come to commence a new sister organization that is better prepared to meet these needs. Indiana Association of Home Educators Action 501(c)4 was founded to support the mission of the IAHE (c)3 and to act as its lobbying arm. IAHE Action has greater flexibility than the 501(c)3 and is able to perform unlimited lobbying and limited political work.

It is our desire that all Indiana home educators receive legislative updates in order to protect our freedom. As the majority of advocacy transitions from IAHE to IAHE Action, legislative updates will come from Action. Be sure to sign up here to receive our legislative updates.  IAHE Action will also provide a forum that permits posts that IAHE does not.  We are all in this together to protect Indiana home education freedom!

Please share this information with those who value home education freedom.

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