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Education tax credit bills continue to omit homeschoolers

Homeschooling 1By Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

If you’re a homeschool family in Iowa, you understand the costs involved in educating children quite well. Not only do you pay to educate your own children, but through your property and income taxes, you pay to educate others’ children, as well.

But this legislative session, homeschoolers – or at least the vast majority of them – have been left out of bills meant to provide education tax credits for those who execute their rights to educational freedom in Iowa.

In Iowa, there are two kinds of homeschool families. Those who participate in competent private instruction register with their local school districts and may be required to provide structured curricula, take part in annual assessment testing, and allow themselves to be supervised by certified educators.

Those who participate in independent private instruction, which was created by the General Assembly as part of an education funding compromise in 2013, do not register and have no requirement to submit their curricula for review, take part in annual assessment testing, or submit to certified supervision. CPI and IPI are treated equally under Iowa Code, and a vast majority of homeschool families have opted for the new IPI option.

But legislation now being considered in both chambers of the Iowa Statehouse create the appearance that House and Senate Republicans no longer see it that way.

The latest example is contained in House Study Bill 203, offered this week by the House Education Committee chaired by state Rep. Ron Jorgenson (R-Sioux City), which is the House version of the education savings accounts bill. It contains a number of differences over its Senate companion, Senate File 240, but the biggest is that it completely ignores homeschoolers – whether pursuing CPI or IPI – in its eligibility provisions.

HSB 203 also has a 12-year phase-in, beginning with kindergarteners in FY 2018 (beginning July 1, 2017) and adding one grade level each of the next 12 years. The remaining provisions of the House’s proposed legislation square with those in SF 240.

Despite the omission of homeschoolers entirely from the bill, it has the support of The Family Leader, as well as the Iowa Catholic Conference and the Iowa Association of Christian Schools. The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, the Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa State Education Association, the School Administrators of Iowa, the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Rural School Advocates of Iowa, the Urban Education Network of Iowa, the Area Education Agencies of Iowa, and the League of Women Voters of Iowa are all opposed to the proposed legislation.

Another bill proposed this week, Senate File 364 offered by state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), creates a non-refundable individual income tax credit equal to the first $500 in costs for purchasing the educational materials of dependents receiving competent private instruction. The bill provides the same credit, regardless of the number of homeschool students in the family, and it ignores homeschool families who participate in independent private instruction entirely.

The Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants is “undecided” on both HSB 203 and SF 364. No other lobbyist declarations have been made on SF 364 as of this writing.