Thursday, February 17, 2022

Prominent Oklahoma homeschool organizations oppose Treat's school choice bill

Homeschool Oklahoma (formerly the Oklahoma Christian Home Educators Consociation, or OCHEC) is the largest homeschool organization in the state, and one of the oldest, having been founded in 1982. Many local homeschool groups, such as Christian Home Educators Fellowship (CHEF) in Tulsa, Lawton Christian Home Educators, and Norman Area Home Educators, to name a few, are affiliated with HSOK.

Constitutional Home Educators Alliance is an organization 'comprised of veteran Oklahoma home educating families' whose 'primary mission is to educate legislators on issues concerning parental rights and constitutional home education'. 

Both HSOK and CHEA have issued statements of concern and opposition to State Sen. Greg Treat's Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts bill (SB 1647) that 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.

Senate Bill 1647- Oklahoma Empowerment Act 

Homeschool Oklahoma OPPOSES SB1647. This bill would allow the parent of any state resident who is eligible to enroll in public school to apply to the Office of the State Treasurer for an Oklahoma Empowerment Account. As long as the parent signs an agreement to:
  • 1) use the account only for qualified expenses for an eligible student for at least the subjects of Reading, English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies;
  • 2) not enroll the student in a public school (including charter or magnet school);
  • 3) comply with all rules and requirements established by the State Treasurer. 
This bill would allow any parent to sign up for an Empowerment Account and then use the money to pay for any qualified expense. The list is long enough to include anything you might use to educate a child and is not limited to private schools. It would undoubtedly include parents who are currently educating their children privately at home. Besides the fact that this could become a state-funded homeschool (and private school) fund, there is no separate compulsory attendance exception for this option, so it would have to be categorized as “other means of education.”

This bill could harm homeschooling families because of the regulations that legislators could add in the future if this bill passes. Also, the big question about this bill is how the state will hold the participating families accountable. Would regulations be passed to allow the state to determine what will be taught since the state is funding the child’s education? If passed, this bill will open up more regulation in future legislation. The state will realize that there will be too many questionable uses of the money, and the state will have to regulate how the money will be spent. This bill passed through its committee 8-7 and is on its way to the next step in the process. Today, families need to notify their senators by phone or email, expressing how they feel about this bill.
For the record, HSOK also opposes SB 1509, which would allow homeschool students to participate in public school extracurricular activities (such as sports). HSOK voices support for SB 1471, an income tax credit of up to $2,500 per family for education expenses.

Here is an article from CHEA on SB 1647:
I'm from the government, and I'm here to help

School choice = "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."

I don't think school choice is the answer at all. 

Treat's bill, SB1647 is very cumbersome. 17 pages long. It will be EPIC 10.0. Costly third-party administration, $$$ going to educational vendors approved by the Treasury department by who knows what standards, tax payers' dollars given out as a voucher to be spent on these approved vendors who will no doubt raise their prices as the money is coming from the tax payers and not the families they serve (look what the  federal dollars have done to the cost of college tuition); there will be added regulations to private schools, cooperatives, learning pods, and home schoolers as they take government money. Play government games, win government prizes!

And it won't fix the failing schools, while it may skim a few students off the top and the money that goes with them, the kids left behind are not helped at all. How many students are in a single parent home and that parent can't drive them to another school because they are busy working? Or the rural family whose next closest school is 15+ miles [further] away? 

They are also basing the $$$ spending on students who are currently in public schools. What happens when loads (about 35,000 in OK) of private school and home school families take the funds? Do the schools go completely broke? Will the private schools raise their rates? Are new private schools waiting in the wings right now to make money off tax payers for their private business?

People say it's their money. But once it's rendered to Caesar, it's Caesar's. Furthermore, the money that goes to a student in the form of a voucher likely exceeds that which their parents pay in property taxes. Are very many people paying $1000s in taxes? If so, they likely don't need a voucher. What about the neighbor who pays taxes and is also not using the schools, can they get a voucher to put towards a car? Don't see why not if they're paying and not using the school.

It sounds so good on the surface, but the devil is in the details.

How about an educational tax credit instead? Maybe even a refundable one for low income?

How about we break the bonds the teacher's unions have on our schools, eliminate tenure, trim the administrative fat, and give merit pay to great teacher's? Who are the good teachers? Just do an evaluation by the administrators, parents, students, and other teachers... the cream will rise to the top. Everyone in every school knows who the good and bad teachers are. Studies show that regardless of school or income, student success is in fact based on great teachers. Imagine if teachers had even half the per pupil spending that these vouchers are doling out.

Great teachers shouldn't mind live video cams on them for parents to check in during class and watch. Daycares provide that, why not schools? That would help lead to school improvement and competition. 

There's still more to discuss about the bill, and even the principle of "leveling the playing field" for everyone being used by the Republicans. I'd love for all kids to have brand new Nikes, a beautiful home, and nutritious food.... but I don't want to pay for it with my taxes. 

Frankly, parents aren't clamoring for this. I know because I've spent the last two days, ALL DAY, at the capitol talking to Senators. Nope! Organizations like OCPA, OCPAC, and others are the ones who want it. Parents who really want their kids in a better or different situation, already have them there. Very few are calling and saying, "Senator, I'd send my kid to another school or teach them at home if only you would save my family by giving us $3500." 

Are we willing to sell our freedom for 30 pieces of government silver? We already have choice in Oklahoma. 

Don't blow it folks! This is a badge for the Republicans. I was amazed that only 1 republican senator asked a question about a 17 page bill during the senate education committee today. The democrats were asking honest, tough questions, and defending home schoolers. Most of the Republicans appear to do whatever Sen Pro Tem wants. Otherwise, their bills don't stand a chance, and they can't represent their constituents. These are the games they play up there. I've been lobbying for homeschool freedom longer than any one of the legislators have been up there, because they term out.... we, who are busy protecting others' right to homeschool year in and year out, don't. 

I'll be encouraging all legislators to vote NO on senate bills 1647, 1420, 1135, as well as 1509. And no to HB3482.
The Constitutional Home Educators Alliance has a lengthier, more detailed breakdown of SB 1647, with line-by-line commentary, at this link.

This is shaping up to be one of the defining issues of the 2022 legislative session, and I will have much more to post on this topic from both sides as time progresses. 

If you have an op-ed you'd like to submit on this subject, you can contact me at

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. Sadly, I missed this whole point and while I don't have any skin in the game (any longer), I've loosely supported school choice. Of course, I also wasn't following the bill or I may have caught it. As a former homeschooler (mine graduated), I know they have been trying for years to define "other means of education" for the express purpose of being able to control said means of education. We've always known this is a danger zone as is accepting any governmental purse strings, no matter how tempting -- even as a single mom homeschooling my child the extra funds would have been plenty helpful...but not at the expense of losing authority or submitting to governmental interference. It sounds to me like the idea of a credit is a far superior way to still address this fairly for all.


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