The Des Moines Register ran a front page article this morning entitled “Should Iowa pay millions for home schools?”

Fidei Beattie’s education is an unlikely collision of two worlds.

In one world, Fidei learns from her mother about spelling, algebra and Jesus Christ in the privacy of their Carlisle home.

In the other, the shy sixth-grader comes out of her shell in classes run by the Des Moines public schools and paid for by Iowa taxpayers.

The two worlds co-exist through a little-known state law — the only one of its kind nationally — that steers taxpayer support to privately home-schooled children. It costs Iowa taxpayers more than $8 million a year.

The investment has raised questions among state policymakers, who face a budget shortfall of up to $1 billion.

Some wonder where the line is between paying for a few extras and paying for private schools. (read the rest)

This is talking about the “home-school assistance program” or HSAP.  Iowa has never been homeschool friendly, and in 1989 Iowa was considered the worst state in the U.S. for home education.   HSAP was created by legislators as a way for public school districts to be able to maintain some control of home schools.  So wasn’t by design meant to encourage education, but to control homsechooling families.

What HSAP pays for:

State money flows through public school districts and covers textbooks, rented classroom space, field trips, computers and salaries for licensed public school teachers who supervise parents or lead lessons for home-schooled students.

Most homeschoolers do not want the assistance (only 5,000 students use it).  They would rather not deal with the state at all, and actually you can not be a member of the Home School Legal Defense Association and participate in HSAP.

As a father who home educates I’d rather see the state completely out of home education, but if a family desires the option of participating in with HSAP that is their choice.  I am also an advocate of school choice, and people decide to home educate for a variety of different reasons.  So long as HSAP is voluntary I have no issue with some families deciding to do that.  We don’t.  I’d prefer not to have to even file intent to home school with the local school district.  When we homeschooled in Indiana we didn’t have to.

The question that should have been asked in this article is this: “how much money do these families save taxpayers?”  We are talking $8 million dollars when the lion’s share of the state’s general budget is dedicated to education.  If the 5000 kids who currently use HSAP were suddenly placed in public schools full-time how much would the taxpayer burden be then?

Or for that matter if we didn’t have homeschooling families at all?  The Register article places the number at (conservatively) 30,000 students being homeschooled in Iowa.  According to the Iowa Department of Education the cost to the state per pupil from the last fiscal year is $5,546.  We are looking at an additional cost to the state of $166.4 million.  With just the 5000 students utilizing HSAP it would be $27.7 Million.

So perhaps we need to consider $8 Million to be a bargain.

Then consider how much taxpayer revenue homeschooling families provide public schools that they don’t benefit from.  They don’t even receive any type of deduction for homeschooling, is that fair?  No it isn’t.

Let’s start asking the right questions when it comes to saving money with public schools.

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  1. “Let’s start asking the right questions when it comes to saving money with public schools.”

    Yes, start. The plan appears to eliminate paying for social activities. The state will still pay for actual teaching, and always allows use of free space, to anyone, I think. Alas, this is what happens in a budget crunch.

    And, clearly, people without kids suffer the most with public funding of public education. They don’t even have the choice to use the educational system they fund.

    1. @ChrisB, the exact same amount as everyone else. School taxes are usually a portion of your property taxes. If you own property you pay them. If you rent, your landlord pays them out of the rent money you give him. There is no tax deduction/voucher/etc on either the federal or state level in Iowa for home schoolers. Therefore, home schoolers pay the same amount as everyone else.
      .-= Reputo´s last blog ..Best Movie Review Ever! =-.

      1. @ChrisB,
        That logic would then stipulate that people who don’t have kids should get something back as well. My wife and I use the HSAP in our district, but if the funding is cut, then we will continue on without it. What this shows is that the state isn’t really serious about saving money, they care about saving government jobs. I can think of two ways that will save $8 million statewide. 1) Get rid of pre-school in the schools. God forbid that people should pay for their own daycare. At an elementary school I was recently at, there were 7 teachers listed for the pre-school program (split between two classes). Multiply this by an average salary of $30000 and you would only need to get rid of it in 40 elementary schools to reach $8 million. Does it mean that some teachers will lose their job, yes. That’s life. Learn to deal with it. 2) Redo your bus routes. Currently, buses are picking up kids practically at their front doors. When I was a kid, there were only 10 bus stops in a 1 square mile area of the city. You had to walk to the closest one (maybe a block or two at the most). The goal should be to get the kids to school as quickly as possible, not try to justify a full time job for a bus driver. When my wife and I were in college, she drove a bus for the local school district. It was two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. That was it, and she did both a middle school route and an elementary school route in that time.

        As it is, the state of Iowa is more concerned with protecting government jobs than actually saving money. Unfortunately this is the case of all bureaucracies
        .-= Reputo´s last blog ..Maryland Zoo partners with the B&O Railroad, Maryland Science Center, and Port Discovery for the Months of January and February. =-.

  2. I’m so pleased to see this blog! I understand that there are still misconceptions about HSAPs that cause division between private home schoolers and HSAP home schoolers. However, I couldn’t agree more with you, Mr. Vander Hart, that families deserve to have the choice.

    To answer the question someone else posed – home schooling families pay the same in taxes as everyone else. If they feel they would benefit from being in an HSAP, they should have the right to do so. If they would prefer to home school privately, they should have that right as well.

    Many families have moved to Iowa over the past two decades because there was an understanding that this was a family-friendly and home school-friendly state. Unfortunately, this is becoming less and less true. What a shame.

    Thank you, Mr. Vander Hart, for speaking out on behalf of school choice and ALL home schoolers in Iowa. I sincerely believe that when it comes to maintaining home schooling rights and options in Iowa – if we do not hang together, we shall certainly hang separately.

    Andrea Farrier
    HSAP mom, teacher, and lobbyist

  3. I agree with you Mr. Hart, regarding not wanting to be involved with the state anymore than I must and I also agree that it is nice for families to have different choices, but on the flip side I think HSAP’s actually do an injustice to homeschoolers. They scream that we need the support and help of the state and they discourage homeschoolers from being resourceful and creating their own support and co-op opportunities because they are provided by the HSAP’s. Areas of the country that do not have HSAP’s have thriving homeschool co-ops, athletic groups, and support groups, etc.

  4. I am a homeschooling mom in the Cedar Rapids/Marion area. I have homeschooled my 7th grade daughter and my 5th grade son since kindergarten. We have always been a part of a HSAP and enjoyed the benefits thereof. I agree that as taxpayers we should be able to receive the benefits offered by the public schools. As for those with no kids who still pay school taxes? That’s part of being in a community. To cut funding doesn’t merely cut “social activities”. It cuts many opportunities for our children to grow and mature in different areas that we may not have access to otherwise. Yes, some are what the schools condisider “extra curricular” but if you ask any public school official they will argue the importance of these extras. HSAPs actually save the schools money in the long run. They have been working…well, I might have. I would be a shame to “fix” something that isn’t broken.

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