S.306, introduced by Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, is a bill that would make it possible for families like mine to use Coverdell ESAs to cover homeschooling expenses like curriculum, supplies, computers, and internet access. I think it’s a superb idea, and very exciting, and I think the criticism leveled at Cruz over this bill makes little to no sense when you really think about it.
First off, let me start by saying that I grew up homeschooled, and my wife and I are homeschooling our six kids. Given that context, one thing that really galls me is that I pay taxes for the public education system I myself never used and which my children do not now use, nor will they ever. In other words, I pay for an education system that is worse than useless to me, worse because it’s a drain on my household resources which yields me and my family no benefit whatsoever. And all the while I still have to pay out of pocket for all my children’s books and supplies and learning aids, etc.
To imagine the situation from my perspective, parents of public schooled children, just imagine our government taxing everyone to pay for just my kids’ education. Something tells me the public wouldn’t take too kindly to that scheme, even though home education is consistently both less expensive and of a higher average quality than public education, and forgetting that only roughly 3% of American students are homeschooled versus the approximately 85% who attend public schools.
Using Coverdell ESAs To Cover Homeschooling Expenses
Momentarily setting aside the futility of waiting for the American government to subsidize my wife and I homeschooling our children, I still need to pay for my kids’ education somehow. That’s where this bill, S.306 could really come in handy.
I assume you’ve heard of HSAs – Health Savings Accounts. Well a Coverdell ESA is just like an HSA, only for educational expenses instead of medical expenses.
If you haven’t heard of ESAs before I just told you about them, don’t feel bad. I had never heard of ESAs myself before today as I was reading about S.306. Now that I have I feel like having one would be hugely beneficial to my family.
We already have an HSA, and we’ve found it absolutely invaluable when paying for prescriptions at the pharmacy or Co-Pay at the doctor’s office. If I could just pay for curriculum and other such expenses out of an ESA, that would really help me and my family cover the expense of homeschooling.
For a frame of reference to those who are unfamiliar, the cost of our family’s homeschool curriculum has come to around $1,000 a year for the past several years. And that’s with only the three oldest kids old enough to buy for. It may logically double in cost per year when the younger three are old enough to start school. Plus that $1,000 a year doesn’t factor in additional learning aids, supplemental materials, books, computers, or internet access either. That’s just the minimum books to get the year started.
Buying all those things with an ESA would mean having more money with which to buy what we need, and perhaps more and better books and materials. You may be wondering why that would be. Quite simply it’s because ESAs, just like HSAs, are tax-free. That means I can put $100 in and have it actually be $100 instead of $75-80 after the government takes its cut.
And more than just helping my family continue homeschooling, paying for more and better materials for our kids, I suspect S.306 opening up ESAs to homeschool families would make homeschooling possible for a lot more families who want that experience for their children, but have been intimidated by the costs involved. That prospect is hugely exciting to me because I believe home education is awesome and I want to see as many families as possible doing it.
The Weak Criticism of S.306 Doesn’t Require Much Thought to Dispel
Now some critics – most of them seeming to have a pro-Trump bend and an ax to grind with Cruz – have attacked both S.306 and Senator Cruz for opening up homeschooling to the tentacles of government intervention. And the allegation that those critics have made does of course concern me, that this bill supposedly meant to help homeschool families could be used someday by the federal government to get their foot in the door and force homeschooling families to teach things which go against their conscience.
The critics’ line of reasoning goes that S.306 is going to define homeschool families as accredited private schools in order to grant them access to Coverdell ESAs. If a homeschool family is going to be treated like an accredited private school, that’ll mean government inspectors coming into my home to make sure I’m teaching my kids evolution, the LGBT agenda, anthropogenic Climate Change, or other Progressive causes. That would certainly disturb me very greatly.
There’s just one thing: private schools don’t presently have to promote evolution, the LGBT agenda, anthropogenic Climate Change, or other Progressive causes, do they? I certainly didn’t think so, anyway. I thought that was the whole reason so many parents send their children to private schools instead of public schools in the first place. With this simple question I believe the criticism of S.306 is shown to be a paper tiger.
That said, as a man who was both homeschooled from little on up and who is now working with his wife on homeschooling six kids, I enthusiastically support this S.306 put forward by Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz. Short of freeing me from the bondage of paying for a public education system I’ve never used and my children never will, allowing Coverdell ESAs to cover homeschooling expenses would at least allow me to to keep more of my own money to invest it as I see fit in the education and enrichment of my own children. It may not be everything I could hope, but it is one big step further in the right direction, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for by any stretch of the imagination.