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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