Cruz, Homeschoolers, and the Constitution

Since writing my op/ed for Breitbart and my posts here at RedState, some have falsely asserted that my questions regarding tax-credits for homeschoolers are a politically motivated attack on Cruz and suggested I am in the tank for Trump.  Sadly, even Cruz even repeated the false rumor in his interview with Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) founder Michael Farris.  Cruz said,

“As you know, those allegations are baseless, and they are being pushed primarily by a blogger or two who appear to be supporting Donald Trump and trying to spread misinformation.”

The only thing baseless is that I am a Trump supporter, I’m not.  I’m undecided.  I’d like to be a Cruz supporter but his willingness to follow the lead of Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is disappointing and worrisome.

Senator Cruz didn’t come up with the tax credit idea for homeschoolers and this isn’t the first time the issue caused a storm of protest.  A quick google search by Cruz would have shown that HSLDA has been trying unsuccessfully to “fix” this perceived problem for over a decade.  (Here’s an article from 2003.) HSLDA often appeals to conservative lawmakers who are not yet aware that the homeschool community is deeply divided on this issue.  HSLDA supports the idea but a strong and vocal contingent opposes it.

The debate hit a fever pitch in 2011.  The New York Times did a point-counter point style debate in their op/ed section with the title, “Do Homeschoolers Deserve a Tax Break?”   In his position against the tax breaks Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute highlighted the concern shared by homeschoolers; tax breaks are an Unconstitutional Intrusion.

The sentiment is right: Home schooling parents shouldn’t have to pay for schools they don’t use then pay again for education they do. But good intentions neither make a law constitutional, nor necessarily sound.

In Article I, Section 8, the Constitution gives the federal government specific powers, and the feds may do nothing beyond them. Included among them is nothing about education, so Washington may make no education policy. And no, the taxing power does not allow Washington to do whatever it wants as long as it is connected to taxes. Taxation may only be used in service of the enumerated powers.

It’s in the effects of federal policy that we see the wisdom of adhering to the Constitution….)

…Home schoolers deserve some breaks. At the national level, that means adhering to the Constitution and getting the federal government out of education, which would benefit not just home schoolers, but all taxpayers.”

Susan B. Neuman, former assistant secretary of education  in the George W. Bush administration and Professor of educational studies at the University of Michigan nailed it very concisely in her op/ed for the New York Times,

Home-schooling families are too smart and too savvy to buy into this half-baked plan. They know that tax credits are good for nothing but greater federal intrusion. Is this what the Tea Party had in mind?

The bill is currently not active but the idea lives on in the minds at HSLDA.  Cruz likely jumped on board in early 2015, thinking this may help him win over the conservative homeschoolers who are very politically active.  It is my hope that Senator Cruz has learned the same lesson other politicians are also learning, that the support of HSLDA does NOT always translate into support from grassroots homeschoolers.

We’re too smart and too savvy to buy into half-baked ideas even when they are supported by people who are on our side. And we’re not afraid to let Senator Cruz and anyone else know that HSLDA does NOT speak for us.


Karen Braun is a conservative homeschool mom of 6.  Five are graduated, her two sons are U.S. Marines, and two daughters are still at home.  She writes about education, family, homeschooling,  common core,  and anything else that strikes her mind and the keys at the same time.