Homeschool Advocates to Betsy DeVos: We ‘Want to Be Left Alone by Federal Government’

In this Aug. 24, 2012 photo, Elizabeth Boggs works with her sons Nathan, right, and Luke, left, with mapping and geography at her home in Charleston, Ill. Boggs is a member of the East Central Illinois Home Educator’s Network, a homeschool support group with more than 40 member families. (AP …
AP Photo/Times-Courier, Kevin Kilhoffer

Homeschool advocates say they informed U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that homeschooling should not be included in any school voucher programs since government regulation could be tied to acceptance of taxpayer funds.

DeVos met with leaders from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Monday, who conveyed to the secretary their concerns about regulation of homeschooling tied to school vouchers and discrimination against homeschoolers by higher education programs that refuse to accept homeschool diplomas.

HSLDA president Mike Smith, vice presidents Jim Mason and Chuck Hurst, and director of federal relations William Estrada met with DeVos, along with Tricia Powell, a homeschooling parent.

Estrada posted on Facebook Tuesday about the meeting:

We discussed the successes of homeschooling, the work that HSLDA is doing to support homeschoolers and state and local homeschool support groups, and how homeschoolers just want to be left alone by the federal government (homeschoolers don’t want to be included in any federal k-12 voucher programs due to the threat of government regulations down the road.)

We discussed how homeschool graduates still face discrimination, usually in the form of federally funded higher education programs that refuse to accept their homeschool high school diploma.

Estrada noted the homeschooling leaders also “discussed how the Common Core and other federal overreach in public education has driven more families to choose homeschooling.”

“Secretary DeVos strongly agreed with us that the federal government does not have the authority to dictate curriculum decisions to states and local schools,” he said.

Estrada observed, nevertheless, the seeming paradox between his praise of DeVos as a “true friend and ally” to homeschoolers and his own view that there is no place for the federal government in education issues.

He wrote:

Some may find this post to be interesting as my personal position is well known that I believe the federal department of education is nowhere found in the Constitution, and should be closed, and all education decisions returned to the states and local school boards. That hasn’t changed. However, Congress created the federal Department of Education lawfully, and only Congress can close it down. And until that happens, I want someone as Secretary of Education who understands the limited federal role in education, and who respects family freedom in education. And Betsy DeVos does.

In February, Iowa Rep. Steve King created a firestorm when he introduced H.R. 610, the Choices in Education Act of 2017, a bill that Estrada asserted “would be a slippery slope toward more federal involvement and control in homeschooling.”

Estrada explained the bill would essentially create a “federal right to homeschool”:

While this sounds good, HSLDA has fought — successfully—for decades to make sure that there is no “federal right to homeschool” because what could be created by a favorable Congress could be regulated by a future, hostile Congress. It is far better (and far more constitutionally sound) for education decisions—and homeschool freedom—to be protected at the state level. We ask our friends at the federal level to simply leave homeschooling families alone.

After a fierce backlash from homeschoolers throughout the country, Estrada wrote last month that the Choices in Education Act “is dead for all practical purposes.”

“The high level of attention this bill received from homeschoolers across the country proved how strong opposition to federal money is in the homeschooling community,” he said. “This has served as a ‘shot across the bow’ of our friends (and opponents) in Washington, D.C., reminding them that homeschoolers do not want education vouchers from the federal government.


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