Does Ted Cruz Sponsored Bill Seek to ‘Regulate’ Homeschooling? Not So Fast.

Are tax-free education accounts sinister?

During a presidential campaign year, everything a candidate — the viable ones, anyway — does is under a microscope.  Sen. Ted Cruz is no different in that regard.  For example, a recent bill he proposed has some homeschoolers in a panic.

From AmericanVision.org:

Parents who have removed their children from the Moloch schools could be facing the beast once again if this bill backed by Ted Cruz passes. Introduced by Mike Lee (R-UT) and co-sponsored by Cruz, S.306 would define a “home school” as a “private school” in order to qualify homeschool families to use 529 plans—investment accounts that remain tax-free as long as the funds are used for qualified educational purposes.

At least two articles have taken hard swipes at this measure, and I share some of their concerns, though I think they have misread part of the bill also. They claim that the bill would allow homeschool families to receive “Title 1” funding which is federal grants and aid for education for the poor. I don’t think it does that, but what it does do is concerning enough to me.

What’s so sinister about a tax-free education account? Simple: it’s a federal program that comes with federal government strings attached. Granted, the strings may not seem that onerous right now, but the shadows of tyranny are already looming. Currently, in order to use the funds tax-free, you must send your child to a school that is accredited and also able to receive federal student aid. If you use the funds outside of such parameters, you not only have to pay the taxes but penalties on top of them.

More importantly, what could these accreditation and federal-aid regulations portend for homeschoolers? Maybe very little at first, and maybe nothing, some supporters would even say. But remember that such regulations can be tweaked and redefined by activist administrations, no matter what Congress allegedly did or did not intend. Take the money, and you just signed a contract that could allow the federal government to impose mandates on curriculum and more. Common Core would be just the beginning. Under an executive-order-happy president like Obama (and they all are), you could easily have common core, evolution, and the gay agenda shoved down your throats, or else face steep fines.

So, do they have a point?

We tend to think not.

First, let’s look at the text of the bill regarding the “redefining” of homeschools:

“(C) PRIVATE SCHOOL.—For purposes of this section, the term ‘private school’ includes any home school that meets the requirements of State law applicable to such home schools, whether or not such school is deemed a private school for purposes of State law.”.

See Senate bill S.306 HERE.

The law doesn’t redefine them as private schools; they only do so for Coverdale Education Savings Accounts.  So, basically, this will let homeschool families put money aside in a tax-free account for homeschooling expenses, since homeschools will be considered “qualified” institutions.

So what about the concerns regarding regulations down the line?

Well, that’s always a concern.  However, executive orders can’t legally alter the law, only how it is enforced.  That’s why Obama couldn’t just take people’s guns with his executive orders, but could direct the ATF to do things a little differently.

An executive order can’t extend this definition of homeschools as private schools beyond what the law specifies.

Now, is there still a possibility that executive orders could come down dictating how Coverdale account money can be spent by homeschoolers?  Maybe the only textbooks that can be purchased can be from an approved curriculum?

Without delving into the law to know for sure, we can say that possibility exists.  However, there’s something the folks at American Vision missed.  You see, the enrollment in the accounts is purely voluntary.  If such an executive order were signed, homeschool parents could simply not use the Coverdale account to purchase the textbooks.

However, there is a significant concern worth noting regarding the original piece.  The problem is that many Americans have grown so distrustful of the government, they can’t recognize when it does something that isn’t as insidious as they’re used to.

Photo Credit: Jimmie/flikr
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