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Joy in the Journey, Summer 2016

Free Cheese


by Linda Patchin

Being a stay-at-home parent is an adventure that rewards the whole family. We know this. Our influence will be felt upon future generations. Our greatest contribution to the world may be someone we raise.
These are inspiring words, but they don’t help us pay the bills. We all know that the biggest cost to raising children ourselves is the loss of an income. We may be saving the average expense of day care, currently $7,000 annually, but we do so while losing an income.
Most of us have reconciled ourselves to this. We understand that our contribution to our family transcends finance. We provide the heart of our home. Who can put a price on this kind of love and sacrifice?
But suppose that we could. Imagine if some well-intentioned legislator offered tax-funded, universal day care for all the children in our state. Could those who choose not to outsource their parenting get a piece of this government cheese?
Our generous legislator determines that yes, by golly, we may. He says that we can have a debit card loaded with $5,000 to spend raising our child, and the state will pocket the extra $2,000 that they would have paid a day care center. Win, win. He’s going to call us Parent Providers.
Are you doing the math? Those extra dollars could be life changing. Before you rush out to take advantage of an offer that sounds too good to be true, let me share a horrendous little secret with you… There is always free cheese in a mousetrap!
As an intentional, full-time parent we’re used to our freedom. We are in charge of discipline, naps, feeding schedules, media usage, etc. It’s a lot of work, but we don’t mind because we love our children. We want the best for them.
What is our freedom worth to us? We know that the government doesn’t (or shouldn’t!) give away money without accountability. Where will we draw the line? How much incentive will it take for us to trade freedom for freebies?
We can have $5,000 per child as long as we agree to evaluation of our child by an outside entity. Protocols have been established to address the failures of Parent Providers who are not measuring up to the government standard. Are we ready to meet someone else’s expectations for our child?
We can have $5,000 per child, but we would first have to enroll them in a public day care for 100 days. It will be okay. They’ll only be a little bit sick from all of the garbage that they will be exposed to.
We can have $5,000 per child as long as we agree to raise them in a secular environment. We might be able to slip in an occasional prayer, Bible verse or Christian storybook, but we should feel a little guilty since we did agree to this rule when we took the money. Our evaluator might even turn a blind eye to our little indiscretion. Wink, wink.
Do you suppose that there might be people out there who would take the $5,000 as a Parent Provider and not really intend to parent their child? After all, it is a nice financial inducement. They can play the odds that their evaluator can be fooled, at least for a while. And don’t forget, all they have to do to get a pay raise is have another baby!
Some may feel justified in taking their $5,000 per child allowance because they pay their fair share of taxes and it’s about time they got something back for it. Watch the shell game closely as they pay higher taxes to pay for universal day care, in exchange for a little allowance back.
It might be hard to look childless, elderly and single neighbors in the eye, who also pay their fair share of taxes, now higher, to pay for our piece of cheese. Never mind that we benefit daily by driving on tax-funded roads, while receiving police and fire protection, and so forth. Never mind that the money the state “saves” by paying a Parent Provider wasn’t previously being spent, which will result in tax hikes for everyone.
My imagination has run pretty wild hasn’t it? In our state at least, we aren’t seeing many calls for universal day care, so what is my point?
Some states have passed legislation that would provide financial benefit to homeschool parents. These bills go by many different names and are a bit different in every state, but they all offer an exchange of money for freedom.
The legislators who put such bills forward seem to genuinely care about home education, but they do not understand the high value we place on our freedom. Private home education will be sacrificed to pay the heavy price of incentivizing school choice.
They craft ambiguous language, which does not define terms like educational expense, and allowable use. They leave the responsibility for determining eligibility to an elected office holder who could use the position tyrannically, or who might be replaced in the next election by someone with an even more tyrannical disposition. They allow far too much wiggle-room for fraud.
For example, in Arizona, one opt-in mother used her child’s educational allowance to pay for a high definition television and an abortion. She was indicted on suspicion of misusing her sons’ taxpayer-funded Empowerment Scholarship Account as Arizona’s voucher program is called. She’s an example of one who got caught using these accounts fraudulently. There are many more.
We all know that it doesn’t cost $5,000 to homeschool a child. Can we think of ways to spend this money that are not wasteful? It can’t be used to pay our mortgage, or to put food on our table. It can’t be used to pay ourselves for teaching our own child, or even the neighbor’s child. It can’t pay for most extracurricular activities. It can’t be saved until college. Why would anyone want to involve private home educators in such nonsense?
Homeschool freedom will be collateral damage in the quest to acquire the holy grail of school choice. Education Savings Accounts (ESA) and Education Scholarship Accounts, are nothing more than recycled voucher plans. When every parent has the option of spending government money on a private education, the cost of a private education will rise significantly. These schools don’t have the infrastructure in place to suddenly receive thousands upon thousands of new students, so they will need to raise their fees.
My biggest concern however is the effect that ESA’s will have upon homeschool freedom in our state. Positive public opinion will quickly shift when education taxes increase, and stories of opt-in fraud hit the news. It will be nearly impossible for the general public to distinguish private home education from publicly-funded ESA recipients. Our good reputation will suffer as a result.
I urge freedom-loving homeschool parents to look this gift horse in the mouth. This updated voucher program may promise a few dollars, but at what cost? When Idaho home educators are offered free cheese, we should recognize that it is being presented on a gilded mousetrap. Please don’t bite the bait! I cannot bear the sound of a snapping mousetrap.


Linda completed her homeschool journey several years ago when her youngest son graduated from high school. She is excited to be a guest speaker at three state conventions this year. She loves serving on the CHOIS Board of Directors.

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