Homeschooling: Should the State Subsidize It?

Release Date
January 25, 2017

Topic

Education
Description

Should homeschooling parents receive compensation under school choice systems like vouchers? Erica Smith of the Institute for Justice says “absolutely.”

Choice in Schools or Choice in Education? (video): Steve Davids argues that while school choice will improve the education system, we should also make sure that there is choice in what and how we learn. 
Why Homeschoolers Don’t Want School Vouchers (article): Wondering what arguments there are against vouchers for homeschoolers? Check out this article. 
Georgia School Choice (court case): To learn more about the work Erica Smith does, check out this court case she is working on to fight for school choice in Georgia 

E. Swarztrauber: What are your thoughts on funding homeschooling, for example, via some sort of scholarship? On a related note, do any states exempt parents of home schoolers from paying public school tax? We’ll start with the first part of that question. Would you support a private school choice system that does compensate parents for homeschooling their children?
Erica Smith: Oh, absolutely. At the Institute for Justice, we’re always helping legislators craft these programs, and we always encourage them to include homeschooling. Many of the programs fortunately do.
E. Swarztrauber: Why is that? I mean, you could make a pretty good argument against that. I mean, if you’re a parent, and you’ve decided that instead of participating in the social contract known as the public school system, or using your voucher to send your kid to a private school, and you’re making this very personal choice for whatever reason that you’re going to have your kids at home, shouldn’t that be something you pay for out of pocket? Why should the state be subsidizing your decision to homeschool a child?
Erica Smith: Well, I mean, you could say the same thing about funding any other type of private schooling. There’s really no difference between that argument and funding private schools. Or, I mean, helping families have the money to go to private schools. In our view, the more choice for parents, the better. Families know best what is the right thing for their child. If that child learns better at home, that’s the case for many children. What’s good for the child is going to be good for us as a society. We want the best educated citizenry as we can.
E. Swarztrauber: Is there a accountability issue there though that needs to be addressed? Because if you’re a state, and you’re sending money to private schools, in theory you’ve investigated them, you’ve determined that those are appropriate places to be sending taxpayer money. What is the accountability mechanism for a homeschooling situation where the state needs to know that it’s getting its money’s worth, or the taxpayer’s money is being put to good use in paying for homeschooling?
Erica Smith: First, let me clarify that when we’re talking about giving money to home schoolers in these scholarship programs, usually it’s a very small sum. We’re talking about like 6 hundred dollars, as opposed to maybe 3 or 4 thousand dollars for private schools.
E. Swarztrauber: Oh, okay. It does account for the big difference in the cost to provide the education.
Erica Smith: That’s right.
E. Swarztrauber: Maybe we’re talking about covering the cost of books and just keeping up with the state standardized tests and things like that?
Erica Smith: That’s right. That’s right. Home schoolers are already governed in every state. Every state has rules about how they should conduct that homeschooling and if they should be supervised at all. That should be enough. If the state already allows homeschooling, which every state should, then that’s enough for us.