• Cindy Nicolai

We aren't Chicken Littles, we are roosters

A conversation ensued in the comments section of one of our recent blog posts. We always welcome dialogue and debate. It's ok to think differently, because that encourages us to do more research and cement even further what we believe.

The question was asked, "how can handouts happen, if we want them or not?" And, we were challenged as to why we would support, or write a bill that would open the door for regulation of the Oklahoma Home education community. Part of the answer included the fact that every single American household received Covid stimulus money whether they wanted it or not. Because some wanted it, the assumption was everyone wanted it. We were quoted back some of our own words, and told that we are running in fear by thinking proactively about Oklahoma's home education future.

Our response to these questions was a little too lengthly to post in a single comment, so it now lives here as a blog post.

Read below for some information that proves that an education tax credit (for ALL Oklahoma students, regardless of which method they use) is the only reasonable and safe option to protect the constitutional rights we enjoy and also help those who may need some financial help with the education of their child.


 

Actually, I did ask how I could return the Covid money and was told it was not possible. It angered me that it was deposited without my knowledge or consent. I didn't ask for it. So, yes, there are actually people who would have returned it or refused it had they been given the opportunity.


according to the US Supreme Court, a tax credit cannot cause regulation because they are not public funds.

I also understand that there are risks involved with ANY type of legislation. I don't disagree that the Tax Commission will be involved but not to the extent that I believe would ever bring harm or regulation upon any specific method of education. If regulation came as a result, it would be very unlikely. Have you been regulated in any way by the child tax credits you receive yearly on your taxes? I don't know of anyone who has.

In fact, according to the US Supreme Court, a tax credit cannot cause regulation because they are not public funds. From the book, "Educational Freedom," by the Cato Institute,

"Tax credits do not use public money. Coulson posited that the second most significant advantage of tax credit programs over vouchers is that they avoid the use of public money. In Kotterman v. Killian (1999), the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the states education tax credits do not involve government spending but simply let taxpayers keep more of their own money. Therefore, donating the amount of the tax credit to a religious or secular scholarship-granting organization does not involve the use of public money. The state court decision was appealed to the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear the appeal and thus let the lower court ruling stand. Subsequently, the US Supreme Court reached the same conclusion in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn (2011), and several other state supreme courts have also held that tax credits – like tax deductions or tax exemptions – are not public money. To date, tax credit scholarships have a 100 percent record of being upheld as constitutional.

According to Coulson, the fact that tax credits do not use public money gives them two distinct advantages over vouchers with regard to (1) church – state entanglement and (2) regulation. Because all of the money involved in tax credit programs is the taxpayers own and not the states, there is no church – state entanglement issue and no necessity for public oversight and state regulation of the spending."


However, I hear many stories of how taking actual handouts has not only changed dynamics but actually threatened the rights of those who participated. One such story was shared with us today from a mom who recently moved here from Oregon. Several families, because they received government funding, were put under great scrutiny. The parents were not allowed to be in the room when the children were doing their online school because they would be a distraction. The children were asked questions such as, "Do you have guns in your home?" They were required to teach specific curriculum involving sex-Ed and CRT. Two families actually had DHS show up and tell the families that they had to remove the guns from their home or remove the children because they were now an extension of the public school.


tax credits – like tax deductions or tax exemptions – are not public money. To date, tax credit scholarships have a 100 percent record of being upheld as constitutional.

These type of encroachments are common and avoided by many who wisely research voucher programs. Again, from the book, "Educational Freedom," "Nonrefundable, personal–use tax credits (in other words, money that a family actually earned and owed in taxes) are the only mechanism that gives parents full, direct financial responsibility. As Coulson noted in "Forging Consensus," parental financial responsibility "is the only means by which parents have historically managed to retain control over what, where, and by whom their children are taught. Without financial responsibility, parental choice has sooner or later been lost. Third – party payment in elementary and secondary education has consistently been associated with eventual third – party control over the content and the delivery of that education."


While the OTC will be involved, the "rules" have nothing to do with content, delivery, regulation, or implementation of education. The rules are to modify the state tax forms, directions, and worksheets to make it more convenient for taxpayers to claim the credit. Yes, receipts will be required to show in good faith, that your expenses are legit. Receipts are required for taxes if you have ANY kind of deduction. The OTC already knows how many kids you have because you deduct them every year. They really don't care and aren't going to penalize you for deducting their legitimate education expenses. Unless they blatantly go against the US Supreme Court and the Supreme Courts from several other states, the tax credit is, whether politicians want to see it that way or not, simply taxpayers keeping some of their own money.

I find it interesting that you would say that using a tax credit and taking all those funds away from the PS is going to make politicians ask for accountability. Since they are not public funds, there is nothing for them to control. Yes, 11% of income tax goes to PS so that would be around $46 million dollars they did not get for education but it was not "taken" from them. Vouchers, on the other hand, directly take millions of dollars away from the public school coffers and put it into the private sector. Which is still debatable as to if that's even constitutional. State funds allocated for public education are to be spent on public education, not private. The stare ensures a free PUBLIC education, not a private one. Of course, if the public funds are used to pay for private education, it's no longer private. If it's paid for by the government it will be controlled by the government.


Now, there are a couple of directions I can go here. First, you have no idea how many will want to take the money and run. Realistically, you have to give an educated guess somewhere in the middle. There are around 700,000 PS students in Oklahoma. If half take off and say, "adios"' and the money (around $10k for ease of calculation - actual $9,353) actually follows them that is such a big number my calculator adds letters to make it work. Ok, so it's $350 with a lot of zeroes! ($3 BILLION, 500 million) That's a lot, so let's say a third go. It drops down to 233 thousand students taking $2 billion, 330 million. That's still a lot so drop it to 1/4 of the students and we have 175,000 students taking $1,750,000,000. You get the picture. The tax credit doesn't come close to the amount of funds being directly removed from the public school. I'm really not sure how much of that $9,353 follows the student. I did not see it clearly stated in the bill but I could have missed it. Please, enlighten me. Either way, the budget for k-12 is 3.3 billion for 2023. Looks like vouchers could drain that quickly.


State funds allocated for public education are to be spent on public education, not private. The stare ensures a free PUBLIC education, not a private one.

If my numbers are too high, please, tell me what is realistic? 14,000 students? 7,000? 3,500? 14,000 students would be 2%. If only 2% out of the entire public school system would realistically participate why is it even being considered? But, you might be able to add a few thousand to that number if you include some private school students and maybe even a few who are schooling at home. Question there is, how many will that be and where is that money coming from? These students have never been enrolled in PS and their numbers are not included in the allotment of funds so where will that money come from?


Secondly, why are we so eager to give the entertainment and tourism industries millions of dollars in tax credits and tax incentives to bring people in for a very short time when, our own hard-working, tax-paying, home-building, families who are living right here every single day educating their kids by a method they choose and making this a great state, are told it would be a tax burden to given them a little break. We might not bring a large short term income into the state but we sure spend our paychecks here and are in it for the long haul. Our families visit from out-of- state and spend their money here. Our people are our greatest asset and deserve to be treated as such.


I know you think we are acting like Chicken Little but you couldn't be further from the truth. Grant it, chickens do run from anything they think is a threat. In fact, they will scatter. Roosters, on the other hand will face head on and dig their spurs into anything that they sees as a threat to their brood. Even when the threat is 3x their size, they don't back down. Guess what, We aren't Chicken Littles, we are roosters. We are digging our spurs in by staying true to our convictions and are facing head on what we feel threatens our liberties, be it educational or parental. We even took the initiative to offer an alternative for families who might need a little help but aren't willing to sell their freedom for any price. Is it perfect? Probably not, but I have never seen a piece of legislation that was and we are willing to work on it to make it as beneficial as possible to all Oklahoma families.


Finally, you asked how we could allow the camel to stick his nose under the tent by supporting a tax credit. First, I don't believe that will ever happen. Second, it's better than inviting one into my sleeping bag by way of a voucher. I hear they make pretty poor bed fellows.

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