Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Weighs In

We submitted a request with questions after my last post to you all. They called my husband very promptly, excellent customer service. The big question on my mind was can ESA contract families continue to get HSLDA protection. I’m not willing to give that up.

The answer is that you can continue to be HSLDA members with ESA contract status. The only thing is they won’t get involved with arguments over what is a qualified purchase. They said, “That’s between you and the state.” So if you buy curriculum and they say, “No, that’s not a qualified purchase,” well you are on your own- HSLDA is not going to go to court for you over that. But if you receive a negligence complaint from a nosy neighbor and CPS shows up—pick up the phone and call HSLDA—that is what they are for. Or if you try to enroll at a community college and they deny you because you are a homeschooler, call HSLDA. They fight these battles and win big all over the country. They’ve been doing this since the 80’s and I recommend that every homeschooler become a member. Even if you never use them you are contributing to the fight.

This is their most recent update email they sent out a couple days ago:

New ESA Expansion Rightly Leaves Homeschoolers Untouched

Dear Arizona Members and Friends:

On June 24, 2002, the Arizona legislature passed House Bill 2853, significantly expanding the eligibility of Arizona students for the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (AZ ESA).

This bill has been touted, among other things, as giving every family in Arizona up to $7,000 per child to attend a school of their choice.

You might be asking yourself: Is this good for homeschooling? Does it affect my right to homeschool my children? Do I qualify? Should I even participate?

The decision to participate is each parent’s to make, but there are some important considerations that may impact your choice.

Please note that this article is not an exhaustive treatment of AZ ESA requirements, eligibility, or other details of the program. Arizona Families for Home Education has also provided a great article on the recent bill.

First, H.B. 2853 simply expands an existing law. The AZ ESA has been in existence for some time and provides public funds for qualified students who fall within specific criteria to use on education. H.B. 2853 would expand the eligibility for an AZ ESA to any student in grades K-12; those public funds would be used in a qualified school. What constitutes a qualified school is defined in the statute.

It does not. To lawfully homeschool in Arizona, parents (or other lawful custodian) must file an affidavit of intent to homeschool. H.B. 2853 does not change this in any way, nor does it change the definition of homeschool, which means “a nonpublic school conducted primarily by the parent, guardian or other person who has custody of the child or nonpublic instruction provided in the child’s home.” You can still lawfully homeschool in Arizona just as you could before.

The short answer is no. Significantly, the statute requires that parents, in enrolling their children in an AZ ESA, must sign an agreement, among other things, to “not file an affidavit of intent to homeschool” (emphasis added).

In other words, if you file an affidavit of intent to homeschool (mentioned above) then you cannot enroll your child in an AZ ESA. The two are mutually exclusive. To make it even clearer, the legislature defines “educated pursuant to an [AZ ESA]” as a child whose parent has signed the AZ ESA contract.

Thus, a parent cannot sign both the AZ ESA agreement and the affidavit of intent to homeschool. This was the law before H.B. 2853 expanded AZ ESA eligibility and it will remain the law if and when the bill is signed by the governor.

While HSLDA is a firm supporter of a parent’s right to direct their children’s education, HSLDA opposes public funding of private home education. As our organization has publicly stated already, “the struggle for homeschool freedom has been one of rolling back needless government intrusion, not one of seeking government help.”

We believe that legislation like this recent AZ ESA expansion bill poses risks to the homeschooling community, risks that HSLDA and others have long fought to guard against. The AZ ESA is similar to other publicly funded education savings accounts—accounts that provide public funds to eligible students to be used by parents for qualified expenses.

While these programs often provide more freedom than sending your child to public school where nearly all of the educational choices for your child are made by others, HSLDA stands for the freedom of parents to choose how they educate their child without governmental restrictions.

Using public funds necessitates government oversight and regulation that is not present when educating your children privately at home under the Arizona homeschool affidavit. For that reason, HSLDA cautions against enrolling in the AZ ESA.

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