I'm sure by now many of you have heard the murmurings and read articles on the possibility of Alabama joining states across the nation to provide taxpayers with ESA (educational spending accounts) to utilize to help children in failing schools or otherwise give a financial boost to students. I have not been ignoring your inbox messages, and the truth of the matter is we've known that this was coming for over a year. I have not been quick to respond until the final bill was drafted and made public, but please note that part of the reason we changed our Capitol field trip was so that we could obtain some guidance on ESA from those who had more knowledge than we did. With the help of Homeschool Alabama, we submitted a letter to Representative Billingsly at our Capitol field trip.
First, let's start by attaching both the Senate and House companion bills here so that you can read them in their entirety.
Secondly, when reading these you should note that the PRICE Act is not a homeschool bill. These bills were drafted to benefit private, (mostly rural aka White) Christian schools. In fact, the ACEA (Alabama Christian Education Association) held a closed-door meeting in March to discuss support for passing this legislation. (I asked for an invitation but it was declined!) Infer what you wish here, but our cultural and historical facts remind us that great harm is done to us by people who are only interested in preserving their own self-interests. (Sidebar: a friend once told me that in every crime drama follow the older, rich, White man who has the most to gain).
Thirdly, as you know, government funding rarely comes without strings attached (hello there post-stimulus inflation!) Homeschool leaders were given assurances that the bills would not place an undue burden upon homeschoolers and there would be no revision of our homeschooling statute Alabama Code Section 16-28-1. However, there is problematic language in the bill that could alter homeschooling as we know it within our state. Specifically, parents taking ESAs are tasked with providing “a challenging education…that is appropriate for his or her age and skill level”. The question becomes who determines what is challenging, and who determines what is appropriate for age/skill level? It’s a slippery slope that I hope we don’t have to travel.
Additionally from my reading of the bill, those who take ESAs would need to be required to enroll in a church cover as outlined by Alabama code Section 16-28-1. This has been ubiquitous for many because that lack of homeschool oversight has led many families to deem their homes as a private school and therefore they neither report to the state, nor use a church cover to homeschool legally. While I am more than happy to enroll you in my private business that serves as a church cover, I recognize that many families operate without a cover and this is very much your prerogative (cue Bobbie Brown music).
To that end, Black Homeschoolers of Birmingham have decided to follow the position of HSLDA on this issue and oppose the passing of the PRICE Act. I have reached out to HSLDA attorney, Kevin Boden, to hold an informational Zoom call for our community. That is tentatively scheduled for this coming Monday or Wednesday time to be determined and the link will be shared within our private space via Wix Spaces and via email.
It is no surprise that the announcement of the public debate of this bill by the Senate Education Policy Committee was announced an hour ago and will be held tomorrow morning at 9:00 am. If you’d like to voice concerns, some guidance is provided here:
I will keep you updated as more information becomes available.
Sincerely Your servant co-leader and ready for the SY to be over homeschooling Mama,