In keeping with the brave and independent tradition of our state, Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) has always taken a bold and assertive approach to promoting and defending home schooling. We believe the best defense is a good offense and that Texans should have freedom in their children’s education decisions. This approach, by the grace of God, has effectively allowed Texas to be one of the best home schooling states in the nation.
Why THSC believes all parents should support the freedom for ESAs and Tebow
HB 1335 and SB 3 redirect tax dollars currently earmarked to fund a child’s education at their local public school to an ESA for the child’s benefit. These bills would allow parents who choose to participate the freedom to use these funds to pay for curriculum, textbooks or certain other services for children with disabilities.
These bills do not affect parents who choose not to utilize ESAs.
THSC has protected and bolstered our current freedom within the language of these bills by requesting the addition of four key protections, including a prohibition against any new regulation and protecting the curriculum choices of participating families from religious or content-based discrimination.
As these bills stand, they remove control from the government and give freedom to parents. Nothing in the language of these bills limits or is detrimental to the freedom of home schoolers and if that changed, we would sound the alarm and oppose the bills.
As parents across the nation seek alternatives, school choice (including ESAs) is a hot topic. Five other states have passed similar legislation to what Texas is now considering. According to researchers from the Goldwater Institute, none of the these states have seen an increase in regulation of home schooling.
In just one example, 100% of participating parents in Arizona consider ESA programs successful.
To say that other parents should not have the freedom to choose ESAs because that might possibly, in some way, one day endanger my freedom is a mistake. We believe in freedom and we understand it is at risk every moment the legislature is in session. But these bills don’t jeopardize our freedom.
We must remain dedicated to promoting and defending liberty, as we have for the last 30 years.
How THSC’s philosophy differs from HSLDA’s
The Texan journey to home schooling freedom has been unique and arguably the most successful of any state. THSC’s position has not wavered: We believe we must fight the battle before us fearlessly protecting and expanding our liberty.
Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), though most often a THSC ally, has differed with THSC at times over the years on Texas home school policy issues. Their positions on ESAs and the now the Tebow bill are recent examples of our contrasting philosophies.
HSLDA fears that redirecting tax dollars to home schoolers through ESAs will draw more attention to us and likely result in the loss of freedom through government control. Those were the same arguments against Attorney Shelby Sharpe’s Leeper v Arlington ISD case in 1985.
Some were afraid the Leeper lawsuit would increase state scrutiny of home schoolers and the court ruling itself would result in a loss of freedom – although scores of home school families were being prosecuted. The case was filed anyway. The Leeper decision, however, ended the mass prosecution of Texas home schoolers and laid the foundation for our future freedoms.
In the early 2000’s, HSLDA warned not to use the term “homeschool” in legislation because it would draw attention to us and could lead to state regulation. THSC’s approach, however, was to be bold and specific in using the term “homeschool” to make clear in statute that home schoolers could not be discriminated against in college admission or dual credit classes.
Again, the fears of increased regulation were unwarranted. THSC continues to this day to cite the specific terms added to the statute, successfully advocating for home school students facing discrimination. Countless lives have benefited from these reforms.
In 2007, when THSC worked to change the law and end discrimination of home schoolers in PSAT testing, HSLDA warned that adding a definition of “homeschool” to the statute would result in limitations on home school freedom in Texas. THSC added the language anyway and again, the predicted limitations never came.
In fact, Texas has more freedom today than at anytime in modern history.
HSLDA has recently opposed the “Tim Tebow” legislation (HB 1323 and SB 640) on which they were neutral in 2013 and 2015 when it passed the senate. These bills would allow home school students freedom to participate in extracurricular activities in their school districts as 34 other states already allow.
HSLDA now opposes the legislation for its use of nationally normed standardized achievement tests to show academic progress, although the previous legislation included the same requirements. School districts have no authority over these tests and THSC believes parents should have freedom to choose for their child to take the tests and participate if desired.
HSLDA does refer to many studies comparing home school student’s scores on nationally normed standardized achievement tests to prove the academic success of home schoolers, so they are not entirely opposed to such tests.
Where do we go from here?
The Texas home school community is known for strongly defending liberty and we must not back down. THSC supports the Tebow and ESA bills because we believe in freedom for parents to make decisions for their own kids.
We will continue to stand for liberty, closely monitoring these bills and thousands of others in the legislature this session. Should these or any other bills change in such a way that would jeopardize home schooling freedoms, we will oppose them and call on the home school community to do the same.
It is a mistake to think that we can keep our current freedoms and secure our future by opposing new freedoms. Instead, let’s continue the Texas tradition of fearlessly protecting and expanding our God-given right to raise our own children as we believe is best.
For 30 years THSC has fought for you, advancing and protecting home school freedom. By God’s grace and with His strength we will continue to do so.
Stand boldly with us in Keeping Texas Families Free: