Will the U.S. government soon be paying families to home-school their children? President-elect Donald Trump promised to include home-schoolers in his school choice voucher program while on the campaign trail, leaving many to wonder now if he’ll make good on that promise and who will qualify.
At the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit in September, Trump discussed his plan to allocate $20 billion in a school choice voucher program to home-schoolers, according to Slate.
Trump said that his proposal would begin with a $20 billion block grant from the federal government for states to pursue school choice programs, which adds up to one-third of the Education Department’s total current budget. Since 90 percent of education spending is at the state level, he said he would then campaign to get the states to reallocate another $110 billion of their education budgets to school choice programs.
Politico published the full text of Trump’s speech, where he promised to provide vouchers for every “disadvantaged” school-aged child in America.
“If we do this, that would mean $12,000 in school choice funds for every disadvantaged student in America,” he told the crowd. “The money will follow the student to the public, private, or religious school that is best for them and their family.”
“School choice is at the center of this civil rights agenda, and my goal is to provide every single inner-city child in America that is trapped in a failing government school the freedom to attend the school of their choice,” Trump said, and then clarified that home-schoolers would be eligible for the funds.
“And that means a private school, a religious school, a charter school or a magnet school. School choice also means that parents can home-school their children. Hundred percent.”
Many were quick to dismiss the idea as another unreasonable campaign promise.
— Pacific Standard (@PacificStand) September 20, 2016
Others pointed out that the vast majority of home-school families would not qualify for the voucher program. Only 5 percent of home-schooling families made less than $20,000 per year, Raw Story reports, which is just under the poverty line for a family of four, and is the income level at which families would qualify for vouchers. They also noted that 83 percent of home-schooled children are white, belong to two-parent households, and also tend to be better educated. Indeed, about three-fourths of home-school parents have completed at least some higher education.
In addition, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has said that it would oppose giving government vouchers to home-school families. When discussing Trump’s voucher suggestion on their blog in September, they spoke out against the idea.
“While we have not seen the final plan, and therefore cannot address the accuracy of such concerns, HSLDA will continue to oppose any attempt by Congress or the executive branch to give government money to homeschoolers, because we believe this is outside the constitutional authority given to the federal government and government funds often carry stipulations that limit homeschoolers’ curriculum choices.”
One home-schooling mother explained on Real Mom Life that many home-school families also say they don’t want the funds. Most home-school families make too much money to qualify, she said, and they don’t want the government control of loss of privacy that would come with the handouts.
“Private institutions, including homeschoolers, are free to believe and behave according to their conscience,” she wrote. “Federal funding would negate or compromise this freedom.”
— Homeschooling AGENT (@homeschool_agen) September 20, 2016
Other home-schoolers were elated at the idea.
“What I could do!” exclaimed one home-school mom on Twitter at the news.
— Kari Donovan (@happit1776) October 23, 2016
@remnantnews Trump said in Gettysburg address today he would extend vouchers to charter, magnet, religious and HOMESCHOOL FAMILIES. HUZZAH!
— Julianne (@julieanneccc62) October 22, 2016
It is important to note that Trump has never clarified how he would implement the program in regards to home-schoolers, other than to say that most decisions would be left at the state level.
Home-schooling, which is legal in all 50 states, is on the rise in the United States. According to a press release issued by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, approximately 2.3 million children are home-schooled in the U.S.
Home-schoolers spend approximately $600-$900 per year, per child, on curriculum and other materials. Curriculum is the biggest expense for many home-school families, but there are numerous ways that parents can make it more affordable, such as frequenting the library, buying used curricula, and using free resources online.
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