THSC and the THSC Watchmen always expect a well-fought victory for the issues we support in the Texas legislature. But what we had not expected was for a recently neutral voice on some school choice issues and equal access legislation to change positions and oppose bills that give parents more freedom.

So what are ESAs in the Texas bills?

The Texas Constitution mandates that one of the responsibilities of the state is providing for funding of education. Rather than a “new subsidy,” Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are a free-market alternative to the current education funding model. They are transferring power from government to parents in decision-making for the use of tax dollars.

The ESAs outlined in the Texas bills allow for state funds in the accounts to roll over from year to year and even to be utilized for college. They are indeed, savings accounts.

Unfounded fear

The claim that the cost of this program will be our liberty is without factual basis. There is no evidence of this happening in states where school choice options have been in place. There has also been no loss of homeschool or private school freedom in the five states that have specifically adopted ESAs.

What is the basis for opposing these Texas bills?

While our friends in Virginia at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) have taken a strong position against the Texas legislation, they have not opposed similar legislation in other states.

  • HSLDA remained neutral on HB 2238, filed in the Virginia House in 2015.  This bill was a bill very similar to HB 1335 which they now oppose in the Texas House. The bill in Virginia is virtually identical in concept and application to the Texas bill and some would even consider the Texas bill to have stronger protections for homeschooling. HSLDA’s position on the Virginia bill was officially neutral because, “it specifically protects against encroachment into home instruction programs by the state.”The basis for concern over one bill and not the other is unclear.
  • HSLDA also remained neutral on Virginia’s Tim Tebow bill, HB 1578, which had the same standardized testing requirement included in Texas’ Tim Tebow bill, HB 1323.While they were also neutral on Texas’ Tebow bill for the last six years, they have changed their position as recently as February 2017, saying the testing requirement is now problematic although it has been in previous versions of the bill as well.They now say that using standardized testing is not a good way to track homeschool student performance. It is unclear why this would be considered a problem in the Texas bill but not in Virginia’s.
  • In a 2013 article explaining why they were neutral on Wisconsin’s Tim Tebow bill,  HSLDA rebutted four myths concerning the legislation. Their article states that, “There is not a single state [of 30 giving homeschoolers access to public school sports] in which homeschool laws were made more burdensome after homeschoolers won sports access.”It goes on to say, “In a number of states, the homeschool laws actually improved after homeschoolers obtained access to sports, including Idaho, Iowa, Maine, and South Dakota.” And we can now add Pennsylvania to the list.

    The article concluded by stating that HSLDA opposes sports access bills that “are a clear and present danger to the freedom of homeschool families…”

    As there was no clear and present danger in Wisconsin or Virginia Tebow bills, neither is there danger in the Texas bill.

    The basis for concern over the Texas bill and not others is unclear.

Fear vs. Freedom

The Tebow legislation myths that HSLDA rightly exposes can and should be applied to school choice legislation as well.

History shows no increase in regulation of homeschooling based on parents being granted the freedom to utilize school choice options.

The reason we are free in Texas is because we proactively sued the state and won in the Leeper case. THSC then assertively lobbied the Texas Education Agency to establish a policy for implementing that freedom.

We remain free because of the widespread political activity of Texas homeschoolers and THSC, effectively electing officials who support and defend our freedom.

While we agree with our friends at HSLDA on most issues, in keeping with the spirit of Texas independence we will have to agree to disagree on these. We will not oppose good bills for fear of bad bills coming later.

Instead, we will remain vigilant in the fight for liberty.

Join us in saying yes to freedom and no to fear. Join us in Keeping Texas Families Free by contacting your state senators and representatives in support the Tim Tebow Bill.

Follow The THSC Watchmen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay updated on the legislative session, and consider donating to the THSC Watchmen as they work to protect homeschooling and parental freedoms in Austin by Keeping Texas Families Free!

Texas State Historical Association