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Senate Joint Resolution 53 would add an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution to allow a tax credit for any head of household who provided a homeschool education to one or more of their dependents under the age of 19. The head of household could claim one half of the property tax paid the previous year for each child, up to a maximum of the total property tax amount paid the previous year.
While HSLDA is generally strongly in favor of education tax credit bills, there are several concerns about this amendment. First, the bill uses the phrase “homeschooled” and then defines it as an “educational program provided through a means other than a public or private school.” We would prefer slightly different language.
However, a bigger concern is that this amendment would only apply to parents educating their children at home. HSLDA generally supports legislation that applies to anyone who has educational expenses for their school-age child. As a policy, HSLDA does not advocate for special treatment for homeschooling families; instead we advocate for the freedom to educate our children and the opportunity to be on equal footing with other educational choices.
In addition, SJR 53 is a constitutional amendment. The amendment would require further regulation to be adopted for the implementation of this credit. At this time there is no information on what those regulations would be. Given the fact that Oklahoma is unique in protecting homeschool freedom under the state constitution this amendment has the potential to create a system of verification of who is homeschooling and what it is. This is extremely troubling. It is possible that any of the regulations that would be adopted for the implementation of the tax credit could be applied to all homeschool families at a later date.
While HSLDA is currently neutral on SJR 53 it is extremely likely that we will oppose this bill as more information becomes available.
For the reasons stated in our summary above, HSLDA is currently neutral on SJR 53 will likely oppose this bill in the near future.
02/03/2014 (Senate) Introduced; first reading.
Homeschoolers currently pay for the public education system while they privately educate their own children. This "double taxation" is seen by many to be unjust. While almost all homeschoolers would like to be free of the tax burden of public schools they do not use themselves, a significant number of homeschool leaders are concerned about any effort to get benefits from the government. Vouchers (direct payments from the government to private schools or homeschools) are unacceptable because of the controls and loss of freedom that comes with the money.
As an alternative to vouchers, HSLDA recommends another vehicle: educational tax credits. Parents and individuals who provide for a child’s education should be allowed to keep some of their tax money that would otherwise have been used to fund public education. This goal could be accomplished through a tax credit.
Educational tax credit legislation can typically be divided into two categories: tax credits for individuals or corporations who contribute to a non-profit scholarship fund and tax credits reimbursing parents for educational expenses incurred for their children. Arizona passed an educational tax credit law which falls into the first category while Minnesota and Illinois passed a tax credit falling into the second category.
Education tax credits offer several benefits:
• Educational tax credits will give parents true choice in education. This tax credit will help reduce the “double tax burden” on parents who choose private or home education.
• Education tax credits will benefit public schools. By encouraging students to attend private schools or homeschools, the tuition tax credit will reduce overcrowded public school class sizes and the student-to-teacher ratio, making more teachers available to public school students.
• Education tax credits will benefit low-income families. Most educational tax credit proposals provide a credit for businesses and private individuals who contribute to a nonprofit scholarship fund, which are usually dedicated to helping low-income families. This type of credit provides an incentive to help give low-income families true choice in their children’s education.
While HSLDA supports the general idea of educational tax credits, we do so only when the credit would apply to all educational expenses (i.e. not singling out a particular group of educators) and when it will not negatively impact homeschool freedom. With the concern in Oklahoma that House Bill 2621 could implement a foundation for future regulation of all homeschoolers, we are currently neutral on this bill with a strong possibility that we will oppose this bill as more information comes out.
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For more information on educational tax credits, see our memorandum