Recently THSC has received many questions about S. 306 (EEOSA), the school choice bill by Senators Mike Lee (Utah) and Ted Cruz (TX). In light of these questions it is important to take a close look at what this bill does and to provide answers to some of the common questions home school families are asking.
What Does the Bill Do?
306 contains two main sections called “Title 1” and “Title 2.” Each Title amends a different part of current law.
Title 1 – Portability of Title 1 funds of ESEA
This section references the first “title” of a previous act from 1965, the ESEA. The referenced bill provides education funds to low-income families. Title 1 of S. 306 would allow states to make these funds “portable,” allowing them to follow students to a public or accredited private school of their choice. It is worth noting that this section does not affect home school students, but instead exclusively applies to accredited public or private schools that choose to participate in the program.
Title 2 – Allowing for home school expenses as qualified education expenses.
This section accomplishes two things. First, it makes home school students eligible for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. This savings account is an after-tax savings account that can be used by parents to pay for their children’s college and k-12 educational expenses. Secondly, this section eliminates the cap on contributions to a Coverdell Savings Account, allowing parents to save more money for their children’s education. Parents who choose to use a Coverdell Savings Account under this bill would deposit their own money to their own Coverdell Savings Account to be withdrawn tax free by the parents to pay for their own child’s educational expenses.
FAQs about how S. 306 affects Texas Home Schoolers
- Is S. 306 good for home schoolers?
Yes. S. 306 is a very good thing for home schoolers because it allows home schoolers who so desire to save money with the Coverdell Education Savings Account to do so. Legislation like this allows families school choices that may not otherwise be affordable, including home schooling. Anyone who does not want to participate in this program is free to not do so.
- Does Title 1 of S. 306 apply to home schoolers?
No. Title 1 of S. 306 applies exclusively to public school students and students at accredited private schools. Home schools are not accredited private schools and would thus not be included under this section.
- Does Section 201(a) of Title 2 change the federal definition of home schools?
No, it does not. Coverdell Savings Accounts have previously been available only to private school students. This section states that “For purposes of this section” the term private school includes home schools.What that means is that in Title 2 of this bill (dealing exclusively with Coverdell Education Savings Accounts), the term private school will include home schools, the effect of which is to make home schoolers eligible for the Coverdell account. However, this definition is exclusive to this section. It does not have any effect on Title 1 of this bill or upon any other part of federal or state law.
- Will S. 306 lead to more regulation of home schools?
No, it will not. Under the bill, the parents are allowed to use their own funds in their own savings account to pay for their own expenses. The argument that the federal government will come back and try to regulate the use of that account for home schoolers after this bill is passed is not a risk of this legislation, but of our system of government in general.Our system of government allows for changes in regulations that can impact families already participating in a program. However, this fear is not a legitimate argument for depriving someone of his or her rights or freedom to participate in a savings account because future regulation could always happen with any bill. Furthermore, future regulation would only impose restrictions on families choosing to use the account.States that define home schools as private schools are already eligible to use these accounts, and no federal regulations due to Coverdell accounts have been imposed upon home school families. If they ever did, the parent could simply stop using the account and therefore avoid any newly written and imposed restrictions.
- Why are some people concerned about this bill?
Concerns about S. 306 have typically focused on two areas:
- Some home schoolers are concerned that the inclusion of home schools as private schools under Title 2 of this bill will cause home schools to be included as private schools for the purposes of receiving Title 1 funding as well. The language of the bill dispels this concern by stating that the inclusion of home schools as private schools under the Title 2 section is done exclusively “For purposes of this section.” This restriction limits the applicability of this definition exclusively to the tax code under Title 2 of the bill. Regardless, the Title 1 section that deals with federal funds is specifically limited to accredited private schools, which home schools are definitively not considered even in situations where they are classified as private schools.
- Some home schoolers are concerned that the federal government will come back and try to regulate home schools after home schoolers are given access to Coverdell Savings Accounts. (This concern is also addressed under FAQ number four above.) In summary, any regulation of a home school students’ use of Coverdell Savings Accounts would be a separate regulation added later and is not a part of this bill. If such a regulation were proposed, it must be evaluated and opposed in the event that it was ever suggested. The possibility of future regulation never goes away and is not unique to this particular bill. This risk is one that exists because government exists and is not increased by or included in S. 306.
THSC Association exists to keep close watch over legislation such as S. 306 and any future regulations that could endanger the freedom of Texas families and their rights to home school or their rights as parents. To keep informed on issues such as these this important election year, please sign up for our political and legislative emails.
If you have other questions you would like to ask us about S. 306, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also see these FAQs on S. 306 from HSLDA and Heritage Action and this recent article which explains some of the background on the accusations against Senator Cruz related to S. 306.
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