Mitt Romney has said publicly that parents who home school their children should get a federal tax credit to help offset the expense of teaching. “I also believe parents who are teaching their kids at home, homeschoolers, deserve a break, and I’ve asked for a tax credit to help parents in their homes with the cost of being an at-home teacher,” he said.
He then explained that he supports giving parents more educational options, including charter schools or vouchers, but felt that those should be restricted to state and local governments.
I don’t *get* this at all. In an increasingly polarized society between the rich and the poor, often geographically based, why make some educational incentives state and local based, but give a federal home-schooling credit? It’s more complicated than it needs to be. And considering state and local budgets, it’s really the same as offering a break to some of the population and telling others that they’re out of luck. Specifically, it penalizes working mothers who don’t feel comfortable sending their children to public schools. Oh yeah, I’ll say it again: a homeschooling credit without an accompanying private school credit is discriminatory against working mothers.
To be clear, I support the concept of homeschooling. My sister-in-law homeschooled my niece and nephew for a short time because their school system in rural South Carolina was not getting the job done. Ultimately, my sister-in-law went back to work and the kids went to private school. Under Romney’s proposal, my sister-in-law would have received an economic break for homeschooling but not for sending her children to private school while she worked – and I feel fairly confident saying that South Carolina would not have, on its own, provided an equivalent tax break for private schools.
I have often said that I support public education. In the US, however, the differences from school to school are dramatic and sometimes, it is not feasible to send your child to a public school. In a perfect world, there would not be a financial incentive to send your children to private schools or alternative forms of education. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where some public schools are unsafe and underperforming. And if you offer a financial incentive to one set of alternatives, like home school, why wouldn’t you extend that to other alternatives? Is the message that you’re sending that staying at home with your children is always better? Is that fair or realistic?
Education is a tricky thing. We all want our kids to have the best. But throw economics into the mix, and it’s tough to be middle class in America where your educational choices for your children are often made for you. In this country, we’ll subsidize bigger homes but not better schools. And now Mr. Romney suggests that if you can afford (or desire) to stay home with your children, we’ll subsidize that, too. Why is that remotely fair?
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