There is a battle brewing below the surface between homeschoolers and the state of Michigan over homeschool partnerships and state-funding for homeschoolers and it relates to the battle to transform education into a P20 competency-based system from cradle to career. A system that former MI superintendent Mike Flanagan said, “ALL learners must be in the system at an early age. ” That means the state has to figure out a way to get homeschoolers in the system and under their jurisdiction. Previously, direct attempts through legislation have failed. Homeschoolers are a formidable foe; so the state is trying to entice homeschoolers back into the system with money.
School districts like Madison Public Schools have funding made available for “share-time” which was originally intended to allow private school students to participate in local public school activities. The district was compensated by the state for additional expense. In a new twist, local school districts are now using that funding to pay for private instruction in both core and extra curricular classes under the guise of providing “choice” for parents. This sounds like a great idea but it’s not. It is a means to controlling the last segment of the population truly free from state intrusion…homeschoolers.
The “school choice” movement is built on the premise that money and data follow the child. The long-term plan is a voucher or program where federal dollars follow the child to any school or “ approved education service provider” no matter their zip code. The idea that “every child deserves a quality education” means the state not the parent will determine “quality.” The notion that school choice gives the parents more control is just clever rhetoric to hide the true intentions.
Data and dollars based on regional business needs will drive the decisions not the dreams of the child. President Donald Trump, under the direction of Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos, is working to make it happen as part of so called “school choice” or vouchers. (DeVos previously tried to implement a voucher plan through a ballot initiative in Michigan over ten years ago but voters wisely rejected it.)
I am a homeschool parent of six (five now graduated) I oppose vouchers and state funding for homeschooling through money following the child to approved vendors or education service providers. Here’s why….
1. It is UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
The Michigan Constitution spells it out VERY clearly in Article VIII Section 2 “ No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students. The legislature may provide for the transportation of students to and from any school. “ The US Constitution assigns responsibility for education to the states via the Tenth Amendment. “ The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. “
2. It is NOT “my money.”
The favorite argument of many who take the state funding is that they are just getting back “their money” that they paid to the state. No, once the state takes their money (rightly or wrongly) it is no longer YOUR money. It is their money. If it it were MY money I could spend it however I see fit to spend it. When the state “gives” me money they retain control over how it is spent.
I think this comment by Lisa Scholtens says it quite well, “I had a discussion with Rep. Garcia today about public school partnerships that kind of morphed into a talk about school choice and vouchers. She likes the idea of “money follows the child.” I like Rep. Garcia, a lot, but on this topic, we will disagree. In “money follows the child,” parents of school aged children would decide where to spend “their” educational funds. In the case of homeschooling, there would likely be a debit card issued with a certain amount of money on it available for educational purchases. I told her I was not interested in anything like that. She said, “But it’s your money.” No, ma’am. I can spend MY money however I see fit. The state issued debit card would rightly come with requirements, exclusions, and oversight on how that money can be used. If I can not freely choose how to spend it, then it’s not really mine. The tax base will now have a vested interest in how I spend that money. When spending my own money, if I decide that purchasing cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and a bandanna is an educational expense while we are studying the old west, who cares? It’s my money, I can classify it however I want. If I choose to pay for it with the state provided debit card, do I still get to say that those are valid educational expenses? Nope. Someone else gets to decide what is a valid use of that money and what is not. There is a difference.”
3. Forced benevolence to “help” a parent pay for private or home education is neither compassionate or efficient, it is theft.
When I give $100 to my neighbor they get to keep all $100 to spend as they wish. That is compassionate and efficient. When the state takes $100 of my money and gives my neighbor $50 and takes $50 for the effort, I lose the ability to give it to them directly and so does my neighbor on getting the full amount. That is not efficient or compassionate. But the state seeks control and thus they take the $100 and give some of it back ot another with strings attached. Greatly reducing my ability to be benevolent and help my neighbor. And woe be if I took YOUR $100 and gave $50 to my neighbor and kept $50 for the effort. That would be theft and a crime. But somehow when the state does it we look the other way or worse call it compassionate conservatism. The Michigan Constitution allows for “free public education” not a free education of ANY kind. “The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.
4. Money = Control
The freebies glisten like gold bracelets when we first get them but once we put them on, we soon realize they are the golden handcuffs of control. Education reformers need ALL learners in the P20 competency-based system at an early age. ALL means all, including homeschoolers. Their ability to legislatively regulate us is difficult because of the fierce opposition to changing existing homeschool laws. However, reformers have learned that they can achieve the same result by dangling the carrot to entice freedom loving homeschoolers back into the fold. I refuse to bite. The same reformers that are pushing private school choice initiatives were the same reformers pushing “high standards” such as the Common Core with the data collection for career pathways. When money is distributed at the individual level they can control the direction/pathway of the learner at the individual level. That is how they were able to get common core passed by each state and how they will coerce and control individuals.
5. Man (or partnerships/coops) cannot serve two masters.
Further, a family that takes state funding will be forced to follow the mandates. Right now the mandates appear inconsequential, fill out a few forms, appear on count days, check in with a mentor/teacher, and possibly do something online. Those seemingly inconsequential requirements were what homeschool families fought against in the 1980 and early 90’s. Michigan won the right to have NO requirements imposed upon homeschoolers. But for a dollar many families are willing to lay that fight aside and submit to a few mandates. But don’t be fooled those mandates once imposed will only increase.
6. The state is intentionally blurring the lines between public, private, and home education to reform education into a seamless P-20 centralized system.
From the Detroit News article, “How the state can send aid to private schools.”
“By blurring the line between public and private school dollars in this instance, it could open the door to broader discussions in the future. “The state is going stronger in the direction of school choice,” Maluchnik says.”
And what does this mean? Organizations that receive state money will be required to follow state mandates. Some of which could include…immunizations, criminal background checks on all personnel, tornado and lock down drills, and attendance records according to the article. That is just the beginning. The proponents of school choice “money follows the child” believe ALL learners deserve a quality education as THEY define it. Which means not just following logistical mandates like background checks but curricula mandates like common core or so called “high standards.” They want the money to follow the child and so will ALL the state mandates necessary for a P20 system for a competency-based education. We saw strong coercion on the states with the use of federal money in order to adopt Common Core. That same coercion will now be possible at the individual level to each and every learner…no matter the zip code or whether they were public, private, or home schooled.
Shared-time particpants like SOARCE will fund the lab portion of a science class but not the lecture if it s based on Christian or creation materials. How in the world they can guarantee that nothing creation based will be shared in a lab using a Christian text book is just strange but the “slippery slope” of control is obvious. And what about the self-paying students who want the teacher to talk about Creation in lab? They are out of luck. Deference is given to the state.
It’s time to have the debate openly and honestly and stop hiding behind clever rhetoric that camouflages the true intent.
The bottom line is that when money follows the child whether it be to homeschooling, private, or public school so does the control.