Monday, February 21, 2022

Op-ed: Homeschooling community does not want “Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts”

As promised, I'm publishing another op-ed on SB 1647, this time coming from a homeschool perspective.

SB 1647, the "school choice" bill authored by Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat (R-OKC), would give parents who choose to not utilize the public school system a portion of their childrens' education dollars (around $3,600 per child) toward educating them by other private means, be that private, parochial, or home schools. 

You can read more posts about the measure here, ranging from press releases from Treat and supporting organizations to other, more critical perspectives.

Since this is shaping up to be one of the more heated issues of the 2022 legislative session, I'll have much more to post on this topic from both sides as the legislative session progresses. If you have an op-ed you'd like to submit on this subject, you can contact me at

Many thanks to Jonathan Bartlett for submitting the following piece to add to the conversation:

The Homeschooling Community Does Not Want “Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts”
by Jonathan Bartlett -- Vice President, Homeschool Oklahoma

Currently under consideration in the Oklahoma legislature is SB-1647, which creates “Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts” to allow parents who do not utilize the public school system to have access to some of the money that would otherwise have been used for their education in the public school system.  While this may sound like a great deal for parents, experience has taught us in the homeschooling movement to be wary of government offers of its money.

Homeschool Oklahoma (formerly called OCHEC) is the primary state organization for homeschooling in Oklahoma.  Every year we organize a Capitol Day event, where we go to the state capitol, bring cookies for every legislator, and say, “please, please, please don’t give us anything.”

That may seem strange—why would an advocacy group not want anything?  Because we really want the freedom to educate our kids in the way that makes the most sense for our families. Every government favor eventually comes with strings.  In fact, government favors should come with strings.  Spending other people’s money means that you ought to be accountable to them for how the money is spent.  Whether or not there are strings attached now, be certain that any money that you receive from the government will have strings attached in the future.

Take, for instance, The Little Light House, a private Christian tuition-free special needs preschool.  When the state first required public schools to provide preschooling services for kids with special needs many years ago, the schools were not equipped to handle it.  So, they turned to The Little Light House for help.  The Little Light House said that they would be willing, but that they were unwilling to compromise anything about their program to do so.  The government agreed, and The Little Light House expanded their operation.  However, soon, people started to complain about The Little Light House.  It was too Christian.  It wasn’t structured the way some parents wanted.  So, while the money was originally string-free, the government soon clamped down and made demands.  To its credit, The Little Light House rejected both the strings and the money, but, because they had expanded their staff and building to meet the need, they faced budget shortfalls and nearly lost their institution over it.

Now, SB-1647 is better than most bills of this sort, as it doesn’t mention homeschooling, and is opt-in only.  The restrictions come only on how the funds are used, and therefore do not apply to those who do not use the funds.  However, it still creates an environment of increasing dependence on the government.  Some education providers will not only accept the money themselves, but will push parents and students to take the money.  It becomes in the interest of the independent educational providers to push people under the control of the government in order to afford their services.  This creates an environment both of rising prices (since the government is providing money into the system) as well as increasing the societal push of government control.

The fact is, not everyone takes the time to look at what accepting government money does to themselves and their society.  Most people are just trying to educate their children in the best way that they know how.  However, if educational providers know that they can make more money by pushing people into government programs, then the educational providers become salespeople for state benefits.  Everywhere they would turn, parents would hear, “sure you can afford this—the government’s going to pay for it,” which sounds enticing.  While some would not be dissuaded by this kind of pressure, being continually prodded at every instance to take free money eventually leads to compromise, and then the normalization of compromise.  After a time this reduces the power and independence of the homeschool community, acting as a corrupting force on the whole institution.

Our goal at Homeschool Oklahoma is to protect the future of homeschooling and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children.  We fight for the future, and this bill sets up a system of subtle enticements for the private sector to encourage homeschoolers to give up their independence for money.  This is not good for our future independence, and Homeschool Oklahoma strongly opposes this bill.

Jonathan Bartlett and his wife Christa have been homeschooling their three boys since 2006, with one child currently a sophomore at ORU.  Jonathan is a software developer in Tulsa, and serves the homeschool community by tutoring with Classical Conversations, writing STEM-oriented textbooks, and serving as the Vice President of Homeschool Oklahoma.  He also is a regular writer for the tech blog


  1. Thank you for this article, brings to light things we didn't consider.

  2. I’m curious, does home school Oklahoma oppose 1647 or just receiving government funds? If 1647 were to be passed and Oklahoma Home School simply refused to participate would it still negatively affect OKlahoma Home School and how?


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