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Understanding ESAs

We fully support Education Liberty or a parent having the right to choose the method or venue in which they educate their children, but we do warn against EdReform or EdChoice encouraging families to take government funds to do so.

Education Savings Accounts or Education Scholarship Acts (ESAs)

What is an ESA? While the EdChoice sect would like you to believe they are savings accounts, ESA's are nothing more than disguised government vouchers because you cannot contribute personal monies to them and you have little or no control over them. A real ESA or Education Savings Account allows private contributions from parents or family members and is not controlled by the government.


ESAs are different than non-refundable tax credits, which do not increase government regulations. We are currently working on tax credit legilsation for 2019 and hope to have built up a great support for this piece of legislation which will help every family with school-age chilren regardless of the method of education they choose. We believe that a tax credit would be most useful if it shows monetary equality across the various methods of education. Regardless of how a family chooses to educate, the tax credit amount should be the same. Anything otherwise would appear as a punishment or reward for choosing a specific type of education. 

Why a non-refundable tax credit? In general, a non-refundable tax credit is not taking funds out of anyone's pocket. A refundable credit makes it a handout of other people's money, which in turn leads to regulation through the transparency and approval mechanism/rules which may not have even been written into a piece of legislation. 

After talking with legislators over the past two years, our concerns about the School Choice movement quickly turned from caution to great concern. The thought is that if homeschoolers participate with an ESA program, at the least, they should have to take an End of Instruction exam each year. While participation is voluntary at this point, the influx of new families not familiar with our struggle to remain regulation free, who see nothing negative about taking the government funds and the regulation that accompanies it, could expand the accompanying regulations over into the entire homeschool community. One of the articles below shows just how easily that can happen.

Oklahoma has numerous bills introduced each session which will bring ESAs to the state. With the help of HSLDA, we are working to keep home educators excluded from these bill but they still pose a threat to parent-led and directed home education.

Parents also need to be aware of the longitudinal database associated with public school enrollment. While it is your choice, enrolling your child for one day or 100 days places them into the longitudinal database connected with P-21 initiative and Common Core. The education system can now collect 400 points of information on your child and share it with state agencies and across state lines without your knowledge or permission. If even a handful of families participate, then pull out of the system, it gives reasonable cause for the database collection to extend to homeschool and private school families. The Federal Department of Education has been looking for the loophole to do this, and we don't want to open it up for them.

In reference to a push for federal ESA's, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos made it very clear in stating that any private or home schools who take this money WILL have to follow federal regulations. "Federal law must be followed when federal money is involved," DeVos said. And on the heels of those federal regulations state regulations will follow.

While this program is voluntary and there is currently no educational accountability requirement, there are also no safe guards set in place to guarantee that no regulation will come as a result of using government funds. Legislators call this “unintentional consequences” but I often wonder how unintentional they actually are considering they know in advance the possibility of regulation increasing directly in relation to taking government funding.


We are concerned that any ESA bill could prompt some parents to enroll their children in the public school for the first 100 days of the school year in the hope that this bill might be expanded in coming years. This could cause unnecessary hardship on some public schools and potentially disrupt the child’s education. We do not believe that public schools or the homeschool community would be served if this were to occur. If the public schools were to suffer such financial difficulties, they would certainly not look favorably on those who caused the financial strain. Even already failing schools would use it as an excuse to point fingers away from themselves.

In addition, Constitutional Home Educators Alliance is concerned about the potential for users who enroll in a virtual public school or  public school at home and claim they are homeschooling but do not truly follow through with the education. In light of the past biased journalism from most news stations concerning home education, we do not want to give anyone reasons or a desire to regulate us and put an undue burden and unnecessary scrutiny on the actual homeschool community.


Finally, whether the legislator who wants to help believes it or not, there will be strings attached. It may not be today or tomorrow, but they will be there. Right now, they are spider webs, barely visible, but that can change quickly if the wrong person interprets the bill differently than the author intended.

Why do we stay away from the EdChoice or School Choice movement?
School Choice or Ed Choice = Government Control of Education Children Receive

We prefer to use the term EdLiberty
Education Liberty = Parental Control of Education Children Receive

To allow government funding to follow the student to private schools or home education will, in fact, turn those forms of education into public schools. If the money follows the student, so does the regulation.

Which one represents American values best?

Examples & Research

Read for yourself and make your own decision. I will point out, that even though those who are proponents of this type of government funding recognize that increased regulation and oversight can/will come with those funds, they do not necessarily see that as being a negative consequence.

Barbara Dragon of the Nevada Homeschool Network wrote this report after the bill passed in 2015.

Read what is happening in Indiana.

Here is a study that was  done in North Carolina.


Scorecard of Voucher/ESA programs nationwide

“The impact of regulatory intrusion by voucher programs on the autonomy of private schools is given additional weight and attention in this evaluation of state voucher laws. It is for good reason: a recent analysis by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice noted that “on average...private school voucher programs have regulatory impact scores slightly more than three times as negative as the scores of tax-credit scholarship programs” (emphasis added).


Another study found that education tax credit and deduction programs and tax credit-funded scholarship programs had five times fewer regulations than voucher programs.


In this analysis, however, the Center for Education Reform has not taken the stance that

all regulatory requirements of voucher programs on private schools are bad. Indeed, some regulatory

requirements – take, for example, mandating that school employees who have oversight of or

reasonable contact with students must have criminal background checks performed as screens for

crimes against children – serve as protective safeguards rather than coercive mandates.  


There also is little doubt that states react – maybe even overreact – with blanket regulatory

mandates on private schools in reaction to extremely limited negative occurrences. An instance of

fraud at one school, for example, can result in the imposition of numerous new " financial oversight

and reporting requirements (see Florida, for example). Indeed, it is hard to keep one rotten apple

from spoiling the whole barrel.


Requiring participating schools to be accredited, perform criminal background checks on employees who are in contact with students, abide by standard nondiscrimination and health and safety requirements, and others of similar minimal impact all were largely deemed acceptable. More coercive requirements – such as mandating state exams (as opposed to simply requiring that a standardized exam of the school’s choosing be given), dictating certain curricular content, imposing admission standards, and requiring excessively intrusive oversight or reporting – were not.” 

Cindy Nicolai, one of our Directors wrote this piece on ESAs.

"We need to ask ourselves what is really at stake here and how will our decisions affect our culture and the homeschool community both now and more importantly, in the future?"

Cato Institute

“Voucher programs are associated with large and highly statistically significant increases

in the regulatory burden imposed on private schools (compared to schools not

participating in choice programs). And this relationship is, more likely than not, causal.”

Read this article.


HSLDA’s opinion

"Government money always comes with strings - and should."


NC Policy

Public opinion is not in favor of government funds being used for home education without oversight and control.

Homeschoolers and vouchers.

Cathy Duff, longtime homeschool advocate shares her thoughts.

A blogger recently wrote in reference to homeschool families receiving government funds, “I'm not saying that no one should homeschool or that it's not a valid option for many families, but I am saying that I worry about the quality of education the kids are getting in those situations. As long as there are some standards in place, I guess I don't care, and again, my main beef is with the religious homeschoolers who are teaching their kids incorrect science and history.”

Jason Bedrick and Lindsey M. Burke

“In a generally well-meaning effort to impose ‘accountability,’ some policymakers have attempted to regulate school choice programs as they regulate district schools, including by mandating state tests. However, rules designed to regulate a monopoly like a public-school system are not appropriate for a market. Beyond basic health and safety regulations, top-down accountability measures are generally unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. Centralized standards, especially in the form of state testing mandates, induce conformity that can undermine the innovation and diversity that give educational choice its value.”

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