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Another Unrealistic Trump Policy Proposal: Billions of Dollars for Homeschool Vouchers

| September 18, 2016

donald trump homeschooling vouchers

Billions and billions, but for whom? (Michael Hogan)

GOP nominee Donald Trump has said he plans to spend billions of dollars on so-called school choice programs. The $20 billion in federal funds would be available only to what he says are 11 million children living in poverty who are also “trapped in failing schools.” Families will be eligible for vouchers to send their children to charter, magnet or even private religious schools. Last Friday, he announced the policy would include homeschooling as well.

“School choice is at the center of this civil rights agenda, and my goal is to provide every single inner-city child in America that is trapped in a failing government school the freedom to attend the school of their choice,” he said at a conservative voters conference. “School choice also means that parents can homeschool their children. Hundred percent.”

But there’s one problem with Trump’s homeschooling plan: Impoverished homeschoolers mostly don’t exist.

“Ideologically speaking, this is significant, but practically very few students will use this money to homeschool,” said Milton Gaither, an education professor at Messiah College. Gaither saw the announcement as a gesture to conservative Christians instead of an actual plan for poor families. “I don’t see a mass movement of the nation’s poor applying for federal funding so they can educate their children themselves.”

The National Center of Education Statistics paints a clear picture of who homeschools — and it isn’t poor inner-city families. In 2012, only 5 percent of homeschooling families made less than $20,000 per year — which is just under the poverty line for a family of four. The survey also shows that 83 percent of homeschooled children are white, and almost 85 percent belong to two-parent households. Homeschooling parents are also far better educated than average — about three-fourths of parents have completed at least some higher education.

By comparison, all of the 11 million children his plan targets are in poverty. Two-thirds of children in poverty are non-white. Only a third of poor children live with married parents, and more than 60 percent of parents of low-income children have no higher education.

Christopher Lubienski, an education professor at Indiana University who studies homeschooling, said these families are unlikely to take up homeschooling because of the “huge opportunity costs” involved even if the federal money might soften some of the blow. Single working parents, for example, are unlikely to give up their full-time jobs to stay home and educate their children in exchange for a few thousand dollars via Trump’s vouchers.

Trump has not given any details about how his plan would work — other than to say that states would have leeway in spending the money. The campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the $20 billion in federal spending — which adds up to one third of the Education Department’s total current budget — Trump has asked states to kick in another $110 billion. It is quite unlikely that states would spend anything like that.

Almost identical voucher proposals for impoverished students have failed at both the state and federal levels, and Trump offers no reason why his plan would not meet a similar fate.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., proposed a $24 billion bill in 2015 that would have given poor families vouchers for private schools. The bill failed in a Republican-controlled Congress. Several state governments have also failed to pass voucher programs, including conservative states like Texas and South Carolina.

“If it’s coming out of other school budgets, state legislators have been very hesitant to pass voucher bills even if they like the idea in general,” Lubienski said.

Another reason vouchers for homeschooling haven’t been successful is because current homeschoolers actually oppose them. They see them as a vehicle for more government regulation. Government, after all, isn’t in the business of handing out money with no strings attached.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, which has long fought against homeschooling regulations, is opposed to vouchers. “HSLDA opposes vouchers as they are not a free hand-out from the government and will regulate parental freedoms,” the group says on its website.

The organization has successfully lobbied against bills in Nevada and New Jersey that would have given homeschoolers money. It even called out then-presidential candidate Ben Carson when he hinted at his support for vouchers.

The group, interestingly, has not come out swinging against Trump’s proposal. “Usually when the government is offering free money, there are strings attached, but we don’t know enough about Mr. Trump’s plan to make any comment one way or the other,” said Michael Farris Jr., the HSLDA media relations representative, who said they’ll continue to monitor legislation introduced in Congress next year “to make sure homeschool freedom is protected.”

–Jessica Huseman, ProPublica

14 Responses for “Another Unrealistic Trump Policy Proposal: Billions of Dollars for Homeschool Vouchers”

  1. Layla says:

    Parents ought to be able to freely choose where their kids go to school, even home schooling. This is the great equalizer of education….choices.

  2. Sw says:

    They dont speak English so who will teach them and besides the parents that do work wont have the time because they are too busy with multiple 10$ an hour jobs lol

  3. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    My guess is that it only applies to white male children, and the only religious schools allowed to get reimbursement are ones run by the church of the national knights of the ku klux klan.

  4. melinda says:

    These liberals have been lied to for so long with the media such as this one they don’t know the truth anymore. These corrupt politicians will be weeded out and salaries slashed and there will be your money, GO TRUMP/PENCE!

  5. IMO says:

    My cousin home schooled both his children. Both are now in pre med programs in college.

    I/M/O Cousin Joseph who holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Technolgy and his wife who is a Doctor made the correct decision.

  6. IMO says:

    Now let us look back to 2008.

    President Obama is elected, moves into the White House and sends his daughters off to the private Sidwell School. VP Biden sends his grandchildren to the same Sidwell School.

    The Sidwell School:
    Tuition for 2016-2017

    Lower School
    $39,360 (includes hot lunch and textbooks)
    Middle and Upper Schools
    $39,360 (includes hot lunch)
    Additional annual fees are:

    Middle School Textbooks and Laptop Fee (Grades 5 through 8) $500
    Upper School Textbooks $500 – $700
    Bus Transportation (Optional)
    Daily trips between Washington, DC and Bethesda, MD campuses
    $900 one way
    $1,325 round trip
    Lower School Early Risers (Optional) $225 to $1000
    Lower School Aftercare (Optional) 1 to 5 days per week $1500 to $5,775
    Middle School Aftercare (Optional)

    In 2008 President Obama abolishes the School Voucher program for residents of Washington D.C.

    Any further questions?

  7. jasonb says:

    Another half baked idea from forest Trump…

  8. Rich H. says:

    Response to IMO. I gues that proves that we are all equal, some more than others. Who do you think is paying for these little darlings education? Go Trump!!!!!

  9. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    Well IMO, if I were the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth I’d probably send my kids to a private school as well. That way that don’t get abducted.

  10. Sherry says:

    Segregation by Any Other Name! This is all about a further separation of the rich and the poor. . . which is all too often along racial lines! All of you who constantly disparage and complain about the under privileged being uneducated, uncivilized, uncultured, etc. etc. should be completely against such ideas.

    How in the world do you expect those who have been left behind for generations to “pull themselves up by their boot straps” if we continue to take away those straps by further diminishing “public” schools??? Struggling parents who are working 2 and 3 jobs, to make ends meet, do not have the option of “home schooling”. . . and even if they had the time, they often do not have the higher education themselves.

    Behind the scenes, this ends up creating even further oppression of those who are seeking the EQUAL OPPORTUNITY that currently exists only in “lip service”. It is most certainly NOT their reality!

    The rich can afford to pay for their choice of private (AKA charter/religious) schools. We personally do not have children, yet we are FORCED to pay “school” taxes every year. We are fine with paying taxes for educating ALL children. A stronger, better nation begins with an educated populace. However, we very strongly object to paying taxes for private schools and “homeschooling” for families who choose that form of education!!!

    We need to support our Public Schools for the benefit of ALL!

  11. Ws says:

    This is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in the last 8 years. Everyone knows homeschooled kids are more advanced than public schooled kids. GO TRUMP!

  12. Common Sense says:

    So, he is going to cut $4 trillion in taxes AND:

    he is going to pay for the wall
    fund his storm trooper deportation force
    fund school vouchers
    build up the military
    pay off the national debt
    fund Social Security
    fund child care
    do away with the deficit

    and he can walk on water too.

    Who is gullible enough to believe any of this?

  13. Mondexian Mama says:

    Melinda,There are a number of fact checking sites that show almost every statement issued from Trump is a lie,or at best only partially true. Trump,along with a lot of conservative televangelists realize that some people would rather be lied to than hear the truth. GO PENCE AND TRUMP….right to the curb.

  14. Nancy N. says:

    Sherry, I would have said the same thing about supporting public schools until the public schools stopped supporting my autistic daughter to the point that they could no longer even keep her safe and the district was refusing to honor her legally binding IEP. At that point we had two choices – endanger her safety and allow her to be possibly traumatized by leaving her in the public school while fighting an uphill battle to improve them, or pull her out and find another way.

    That other way ended up being first a year of the publicly funded Florida Virtual School public school program, and then a transition to homeschooling using the Gardiner Scholarship program, a variation on a voucher program that is administered via a non-profit and allows special needs kids to be either homeschooled or put in private specialized schools using public funds. My daughter is now a thriving homeschool student who is finally getting the therapy that she needs thanks to this program.

    The public schools failed my daughter. Bottom line…school districts don’t want kids like mine. They cost more to educate than the funding that is allocated for them. Life as a special needs parent in public school is a constant battle, first in many cases to get your child’s needs recognized at all, and then to get even a fraction of their needs met for a proper education (or even proper supervision and basic care). Kids like mine need special attention. This program allows kids all across the state to get what THEY need. Yes, it’s a form of voucher program. But it’s saving many of these kids from being warehoused and even traumatized in public schools. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it is saving lives as it has allowed many special needs kids to get out of school environments where they would be subjected to extreme bullying, raising the risk of suicide.

    I wish programs like this weren’t necessary. Sadly, they are. I’m extremely grateful that Florida has been a leader in establishing this for the kids who need it most.

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