What Has Your State Government or Local School System Got to Do with Homeschool?
Although the general requirements regarding education are laid out at the federal level, public education is mostly the responsibility of state and local governments. Because of this, federal education regulations won't have any impact on your homeschool.
However, any state or local government regulations that govern the area in which you live definitely do have an impact on your homeschool. Failure to comply with such regulations can result in less severe consequences to you, such as warnings or fines, to extremely severe consequences, such as you being unable to homeschool your kids or having child protection agencies investigate or interfere with your family. You should carefully consider and comply with regulations that govern your homeschool.
There are two areas of regulation that you need to consider: state and local guidelines.
Your state certainly has regulations that govern the operation of its public education system. It probably also has regulations that relate to "alternative" or "alternate" schools. These regulations are generally related to private schools, such as schools run by religious organizations. In most cases, these "alternate" regulations are the ones that govern homeschools. No matter which state you live in, you need to understand your state's education regulations that impact your homeschool. The good news is that it is relatively easy to determine your state's regulations. You'll learn how to do this in the next section.
Public schools are actually run by local governments at the city or county level. In some cases, these local governments also will have regulations about alternate schools, again with most of this regulation being directed toward private schools. In many cases, as long as you meet your state's regulations, you will also meet your local government's requirements. In reality, many of the specific regulations that are part of a state's education requirements are administered at the local school level. For example, some state governments require that the public school system have oversight over homeschoolers in their jurisdiction, such as submitting the results of standardized tests to the local school authorities. In the worst case, the local school overseers might attempt to dictate the curricula your homeschool uses, but that is very unlikely. In other cases, you might have to submit to some sort of supervision of your homeschool. Even in these more difficult circumstances, it is still possible to have a good homeschool experience. Dealing with your local school officials is explored in detail a bit later in this chapter.
Vouchers or Tax Credits For Homeschoolers
One area in which government could be a great help to homeschoolers is by the creation of vouchers or tax credits for homeschoolers. As a homeschooler, you are responsible for all the costs associated with educating your children. And, assuming you pay the taxes that support public education in your area, you also "pay" for public education services that you don't use.
Over the past several years, the concept of vouchers has been attempted in several areas. Basically, the idea of a voucher is that parents can choose to use the voucher to pay for a private education for their children instead of sending them to public school. The basic concept is to promote the improvement of public education by increasing the level of competition with private schools. (The idea is to provide vouchers to people who normally can't afford to both pay both taxes and to send their kids to private schools. These vouchers can be used to pay tuition the schools to which the vouchers are submitted get reimbursed by the government.) Vouchers tend to be very controversial because they threaten the public education system's monopoly and all that that monopoly engenders.
Although vouchers aren't currently being contemplated for homeschoolers, they are still an important topic for us as well. That's because any effort to loosen the grip that government has over the mandatory direction of tax dollars to public education services that we don't use will eventually be beneficial to us as well. For example, it is conceivable that someday, should vouchers become an accepted tool, we might get vouchers for materials we use in our homeschools (we could transfer some of the tax dollars we spend on public education toward the costs of educating our kids at home).
A more realistic goal is to obtain tax credits for homeschooling. This idea has some precedent already in the childcare tax credit system that is currently in place. If you pay for childcare outside of your home, you can get tax credits for doing so. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me that those of us who take the responsibility of our children's education should somehow be able to recover some portion of our taxes that we pay to support public education. A tax credit system would enable us to do so. As a homeschooler, you need to be aware of such issues in your area and support those that would benefit you.
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Reproduced from Absolute Beginner's Guide to Homeschooling, by Brad Miser, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing. Please visit http://www.informit.com/store/product.aspx?isbn=0789732777 to order your own copy.