Home study bill would reduce parents’ taxes

Lawmaker, public school employee says “the bill just makes sense”

Photo by Alycia Hicks

by Alison Despathy

Many bills introduced into the Legislature have yet to see the light of day in the form of a public hearing, often because they stem from the “other party” or because committees are swamped with well funded, special interest campaigns that crowd out home-grown Vermont legislation.  

A prime example is H.354, sponsored by Representatives Chris Taylor (R- Chittenden-Franklin) and Michael Morgan (R- Grand Isle-Chittenden). As Representative Taylor explained to the House Ways and Means Committee, “This bill would allow families that home study their children the ability to take an annual income tax deduction of up to $1000 per enrolled dependent to help offset qualified expenses.”

Rep. Chris Taylor of Milton

Vermont students deserve and need alternatives to public school education, H.354 helps make this a reality, its sponsors say. Parents are concerned with the trajectory of public schools: controversial curriculum and subject matter, declining academic performance, bullying, and the heavily disputed covid response. Some students struggle in public schools and H.354 would allow families to realistically consider a homeschool path and choose the best educational opportunity for their child. 

Representative Chris Taylor shared the following statements regarding my inquiry into H.354. All offer an important perspective for the future of education in Vermont. 

Why have you sponsored H.354? “I think the bill just makes sense. Families that homeschool are funding the public school system, through their property tax, and not utilizing the resources that they provide. The schools then use the collected taxes to educate other children and the home school family is forced to spend additional money to educate their own child. Allowing them to take a tax deduction for a portion of those expenses creates some equity.”

What prompted the need for this bill in your experience? “For years Vermont has been trying to educate students in a “cookie cutter” fashion expecting all children to learn effectively utilizing the same curriculum and the same environment. My years of experience as a behavior interventionist, working in a public school setting, has highlighted that this is not best approach for some students and in fact can be detrimental to their learning. Building a more inclusive education system that takes the individualized nature of learning into account and accepts home study as a viable option will help Vermont reach its education goals.  In order to do this we need to reduce the barriers, including financial, that unnecessarily restricts options for Vermont families.”

What is your hope for this bill and what it could offer? “My hope for the bill is for it to be passed and create base legislation that can be built on in the future. In passing this bill I also hope to initiate a move towards an education system in Vermont that accepts and supports the need for alternatives such as home study.”

As Vermont home study leader Retta Dunlap explained in her recent Vermont Daily Chronicle article, homeschooling had a win this session. Thanks to Dunlap’s long time dedication and hard work with the Agency of Education and several legislators, more trust and less ‘busy work’ is now offered to homeschoolers.

This is a great step forward. Public schools work for some families and are a nightmare for others. Its supporters say homeschooling can mean the difference between success and struggle, happiness and pain and finding joy in learning versus shutting down. H.354 could set the stage for Education Savings Accounts (ESA), now in effect in 13 states. With an ESA, families have access to funds for a variety of educational expenses. If Vermont is actually concerned with the success and happiness of the children, H.354 and a Vermont-based ESA would offer options versus attempting to monopolize education with a one size fits all approach. 

The influential and powerful Education Alliance—consisting of the National Education Agency, and the Vermont Principals, Superintendent and School Boards Associations–would likely fight tooth and nail against H.354 and ESAs, even though it directly serves Vermont children.

Using the claim of preventing discrimination, the Alliance attempted to severely restrict public funding for any school other than public schools. In response, many families and independent schools pushed back hard and stepped up for education alternatives.  As a result, this bill has mellowed from its original form but Campaign for Vermont spokesman Ben Kinsley thoroughly discussed the concerning issues related to H.483 in his article posted at VDC.  H.483 now sits in Senate Education awaiting judgement.  

Rep. Taylor offered in his testimony for H.354:

“If Vermont truly believes in equitable education, which I believe we all do, then we should be embracing and fostering much needed alternatives and helping families and children navigate the barriers in order to reach their education goals. This bill is a step in the right direction.”

Full disclosure – the author, a Danville resident and Clinical Nutionist, has homeschooled her children for 20 years. “I have experienced firsthand what homeschooling can offer children and families as well as the costs involved. The adventures, working together through the highs and lows of life, the bonding, and supporting children as individuals with varied interests and learning styles are all benefits to the homeschool path. H.354 would help provide homeschooled children with curriculum options, a much desired book or lesson, a tool, a field trip. All would make a tremendous difference in a child’s education and life experiences.”

Categories: Education, Legislation

18 replies »

  1. Oh sure, NOW you decide to give homeschoolers a tax break, suck it, we did ours, 2 decades worth of it, on a single income to boot, so why suddenly the change of heart?! Is it because there’s so many disgusted with the way schools, unions, lobbyists & politicians and their ilk (selfish grifters all of them) are handling things? Perhaps, but nevertheless, if you’re going to do this now, then be prepared for those will demand reparations because they paid taxes for a school system never ever used by their offspring, just sayin’ (Oh it will certainly NOT be me, my mission is accomplished, I’m just here to stir the pot because there are those that are currently in this situation and never should’ve been to begin with!)

    • Reparations lol. You guys sure love your handouts and playing the victim, that’s for sure. There’s no group of people that were more coddled in history then the Boomers and it’s still not enough for most of you.

      • Chris, no victims here except all the taxpayers paying for the grifters in positions of influence over how that money is/was spent.

        “Oh it will certainly NOT be me, my mission is accomplished, I’m just here to stir the pot because there are those that are currently in this situation and never should’ve been to begin with!)”

        What part of that sentence says anything about playing the victim, coddling, handouts?

  2. Providing equity to parents who home school sound very reasonable. We should apply the same reasoning for retired parents who haven’t had kids in school for decades!

  3. This subject will certainly bring up interesting conversations and posts. Balance…looking for a Balance please!

  4. We have home schooled our children (who are productive members of our society) and now our grandsons, yet we still have to pay $3,000+ per year towards a failing “education system.”

    This bill will likely never see “the light of day” in our bought and paid for lobbyist government. Although the proposed tax deduction ( a pittance of the actual cost) would be nice, it won’t matter to us. The more important thing is keeping our children, and now grandchildren, out of the indoctrination claws of the Vermont Agency of Education..

  5. The issue can be solved with a few small towns, a cooperative spirit, love and generosity. One can go against the largest and strongest funded group in the state if they like, but where does it get you?

    Would you donate $100 for 10 years to break the back of these terrible schools?

    Many people would. 112,704 people know we have indoctrination centers, this money would be about 10 million, could take out several towns from the marxist educational control,

    The tipping point would be about 10% of the students opting out, this can easily be done. If you study subversion, you know their goal is to “educate” an entire generation in their ways, we now have 2 generations in Vermont.

    If 80% of Vermont doesn’t know we are supposed to be a republic, not a democracy we have little hope as the baseline knowledge doesn’t exist. IF they get their way they will make good little worker bees of people, not truth, science, civics, morals, ideally, they will train them to give into carnal sexual gratification, to which many are doomed. All part of you will own nothing and be happy. They want your souls…..and you won’t be happy.

  6. Good luck on getting this through. As I understand it not a single bill sponsored by a Republican was allowed to come to the floor this last session.

  7. For my husband and myself I dare say given the choice of paying school taxes to the public education system in place or to homeschooling parents we would rather give it to the parents! We have paid taxes all our lives, now retired, to the public schools, have watched the education go down the toilet year after year but the cost keeps climbing going mostly to the Unions, never seeing better performance in education. This current system is broken I think beyond repair! I hope this bill goes through and the parents trend toward home schooling maybe it would open the eyes of people in this state to what’s happening! We cannot change what has happened in the past our only option is to make the future better for the children!

    • A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a mother who was so upset because she felt she had to unindoctrinate her children every day after school and make sure they were not manipulated and brainwashed

      The Newark school and others gave the gender unicorn to third graders.

      Shouldn’t these kids be thinking about their favorite color, their favorite book or movie or subject, what they want to be for halloween or what they want to do for their birthday.

      The Newark school masked children all last year despite everything we know about the health and legal issues related to masks. Many of us actively tried to educate and bring information to stop this practice until we were shut down by the school board.

      Sixth graders in Fairlee are reading the book Two Degrees for the summer

      Children watch CNN in most schools

      School based health centers are on the rise and are deeply concerning.

      VT bills that want to bypass parental rights for medical treatment and procedures for children are in action. Will these be offered at schools with the parents removed?

      Parents need a viable option to public schools. With the cost of living and basic expenses, it is difficult for a parent to consider an alternative to public school. Also many independent schools are on the same trajectory and are often expensive. There do seem to be several schools holding true to real education and not bringing controversial issues and politics into the schools but these are limited and for those not in a choice district, cost is prohibitive for most.

      We need options for children that are accessible. Some parents believe homeschool is the best route and will prioritize this. Others cannot even consider this notion for many reasons including financial. If there were economic incentives, would this help families? Should the education money follow the children based on what parents determine is best for them? Would an Educational Savings Account for homeschooled children allow parents a real choice? New Hampshire recently implemented ESAs along with 12 other states.

      Others should not pay for a family to homeschool. Right now significant money goes to public schools from education taxes. Should a family choosing to homeschool and paying educational taxes be offered a rebate so to speak? It would not be placing a tax burden on others but it would allow a tax paying family to hold onto to some money and apply it to homeschool expenses versus giving it to the school. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do think it’s an important question.

      These are all important questions and part of the conversation as we seek solutions and alternatives to public school education which does not best support or meet the needs of all children. All will feel differently on this subject and the best approach but I hope the conversation and possible answers evolve as we seek best options for children. Maybe nothing changes, maybe it does?

      Ideally- parents and families will reclaim public schools. This is happening in some states but it takes engaged parents and time. In the meantime, providing alternatives such as homeschool is critical.

      After homeschooling for 20 years and knowing some of the realities and roadblocks involved. I strongly believe H.354 and ESAs offer a base for families to start to consider homeschool as an option. Homeschool certainly won’t be for all but for some it is the best choice in the world. I am grateful for Representatives Taylor and Morgan offering this bill and trying to forge a path and begin a much needed conversation. As a behavioral interventionist, Rep Taylor has witnessed firsthand the need for educational options.

      As we know, many institutions are compromised and as we work and fight to try and ensure they are on the right track, building new models is also an answer in case we are not successful and because there are many ways up a mountain. Ultimately humans are creative and will find new paths especially when it comes to our children’s best interests.

  8. Anybody who thinks they can do a better job of preparing their kids for life in the 21st century and beyond than public or charter schools can, then go for it!!. Their kids have my sincerest sympathy.

  9. My husband and I were not “lucky” enough to have children despite years of trying. Yet we have paid likely over $100,00 or more in taxes for something we never benefited from in any way, shape or form.
    I think that schooling your children should not be the burden of the citizens of the country or your town. It wasn’t that way for a large portion of this country’s history. According to several sources, national compulsory education didn’t occur in the US until the 1920’s. Some states had compulsory education earlier than that, but as a nation, not until the 20’s. That’s 144 years after the Declaration of Independence. And a 103 years ago. Massachusetts was the first state of course, back in the 1600’s. The Congressional Research Service has a “Talking Points” which you can look at here:
    But that only covers the U.S. Department of Education, which was established in 1979. So, there is no easily definable national point in time when school became compulsory. And since federal taxes weren’t collected until after the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913, our forefathers weren’t paying on a national level for schooling. According to the Tax Foundation website, Vermont didn’t start taxing income until 1931. Property taxes however, which I believe is where school funds come from, or used to, is an entirely different issue and seriously, I have been searching for this information for almost an hour and have not found a definitive answer.
    According to the Town of Vernon’s website: “A general act of 1781 allowed towns to vote land taxes for churches, schools and bridges as long as the rate of two pence per acre was not exceeded.” And they also state this: “The act passed in 1781 allowed towns to vote land taxes for the establishment and maintenance of schools. This was followed by other acts which continued to increase in scope and complexity for the funding of education. At one point, nonresidents paid no school taxes but later, as the laws were changed, they paid their share as well.”
    So, there you have it. I have generously donated a portion my income to this state for something I have never and will never benefit from. And now my state legislature has voted to increase my tax burden on a variety of topics and even pay for poor people to have their children cared for while they…work?

    Seriously, when is everyone going to put down their phones/tablets and start paying attention? When is the conservative voice going to stand up and drown out the supermajority? Because I for one, am mighty tired of the crap that goes on in this state and indeed this country. Who is going to bring reason and common sense back to the public discourse and coffers?

  10. I’m a homeschool mom and I have been wary of all the changes the state made this last session. Sure, it makes things easier on us because we don’t have to report as much to the state. And it’s easier on the state because they don’t have to deal with us homeschoolers as much. But this is just the beginning of government interference in our home schools and this article makes that quite clear. I’m all for a tax break because my kids aren’t using school funds, but as soon as you start talking about ESAs then the whole picture changes. ESAs are just a softer and more palatable (to some) way for the government to approve and disapprove what homeschoolers do. Some will argue that the use of ESAs are optional which May in fact be the case. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is all just the beginning of a bigger change. It is the same thing that happened with the magazine ban a few years ago. Gun control proponents claimed it was simply a “reasonable” change and that it would help reduce unnecessary gun violence (which it certainly has not done) and then lo and behold a few years later they’ve got their foot in our doors and are pushing more gun control legislature through our sieve of a governor. Making unnecessary but “reasonable” changes to the homeschool statues is simply the first step in allowing the government to get a foot in the door. I and every homeschooler I know chooses to educate our children at home because we know it is not the job of a highly bloated and inefficient government to determine what my children need to be and know. I don’t want the government— local, state, or federal—in my home school. If H.354 is going to open the door to ESAs then I would rather not have a tax break and keep government money and opinions out of my house. And what about families who don’t have any children at all? Don’t they fall in the same category? Are households that never had children or who’s children have fledged going to be given the same tax break? I doubt that.

  11. Great point Homeschool Mom. Thank you. The last thing we need is more government interference in homeschool. Would definitely not want to see that happen. I struggle with all of the funding going to public schools when they are absolutely not the answer for all and some are really failing children in many regards. Not sure if there is a solution that makes sense but I do wonder with everything going on in public schools and many parents seeking alternatives. Thank you.

    • I’ve always been a proponent of School Choice vouchers for public, independent, and homeschooling. But if the Catch 22 of excessive government regulation is going to accompany every attempt to allow taxpayers to subsidize a parent’s educational choices, then the only remedy is to eliminate the Agency of Education and public funding completely. Parents will simply have to find a way.

      I do, however, disagree with the sentiments put forth by the childless taxpayers, and those whose children left school long ago. Taxpayer funded education subsidies benefit everyone. At least ‘reasonable’, unregulated education subsidies provide comprehensive advantages. A well-educated population is necessary for any developed society. Educated doctors, plumbers, electricians, accountants, machine tool operators, … you name it… if they’re well educated (yes, a big if), everyone benefits.

      But if Vermont’s incestuous governmental crony operators are going to continue to excessively regulate and skim funding to benefit themselves and educational special interest groups (e.g., the teacher’s union), then by all means – shut down the Agency of Education and stop all education funding. Nothing can be as detrimental to our communities as the current system.

      • For thousands of years, civilizations flourished without compulsory publicly funded education. And if our young adults, teenagers and children today are any indication of the success of compulsory education that is currently in place, then we have failed as a society in a major way. That tired old phrase about taxpayer funded education benefiting everyone is tattered and baseless. Case in point is our world today. So, you need to let that go my friend. Smaller government. Not larger. Smaller tax burdens, not larger. That is the answer. That will never occur. Not without a massive revolution. Yup, I said it. We’ve been dancing around that word now for 3 years. It’s time we started talking about it. It’s time we started doing something about it. And for those bots and fact checkers and cancel culture experts out there trolling the internet, I am not fomenting violence or chaos. I am talking about a tea party. I’m talking about a document drafted by honest hard working citizens who want the tyranny to stop.