Within hours of the close of the 2021 legislative session, stories began popping up across the state claiming that Indiana homeschool families would be given educational funding in the newly passed budget. While the details of the bill are yet to be worked out, we know that home education remains a non-public and privately funded option under Indiana law. And, families enrolled in public school programs are no longer defined as homeschoolers.
This year multiple bills were presented and pushed in the name of homeschooling and school choice, in spite of IAHE’s expressed concern for the impact on the current freedoms we enjoy. Taking advantage of the large numbers of new-to-homeschooling parents who were unprepared to make the sacrifices home education often requires, many school choice lobbyists and legislators seized the opportunity in the midst of a global pandemic and pushed for funding to follow the student, creating a long-term shift in the face of a short-term crisis.
In the Budget Bill passed by the Indiana General Assembly this week, an Educational Scholarship Account (ESA) program for children with special needs has been established. Full details of the ESA program will be developed and managed by the Indiana State Treasurer and/or Indiana State Board of Education.
In testimony by legislators regarding ESAs earlier this year, it was stated that participating students would no longer be considered homeschoolers but would be labeled as ESA students. No one knows yet what the ESA program will look like or how the funding amounts will play out, but, as always, IAHE cautions all families who accept government dollars for education to consult an attorney for counsel on what freedoms will be exchanged for funding.
While it will take months for the full impact of this new program to be fleshed out, IAHE has reviewed the initial ESA language and these points should be highlighted:
To participate, a child must:
- Have an IEP, ISP per 511 IAC 7-34, choice scholarship education plan per 511 IAC 7-49, or a 504 plan in place before the ESA account is established
- Take statewide assessment
- Meet the annual income qualification requirement
- Not be simultaneously enrolled in a school that receives tuition support (Ex: No double-dipping by being enrolled in a public school AND taking ESA funds or taking both a school choice voucher and ESA funds.)
- Not receive a choice scholarship for the same school year
- Not currently be included in a school corporation’s ADM
- Have a student test number established by the state
Public Money Demands Public Accountability
As many critics of the ESA program and voucher expansion have stated, public funding should come with public accountability. The freedom that Indiana homeschoolers have long enjoyed and treasured rests on the very foundation of providing a private education without funding AND without government oversight.
LEARN MORE: An Oxymoron: Publicly-funded Homeschooling
IAHE understands that parents of children with special needs have far more expenses in educating their children. IAHE does not advise in areas of public funding for home educators other than to recommend that the parents fully understand the programs and requirements.
Disclaimer: IAHE is not an attorney and does not offer legal counsel. The full budget bill can be found HERE and ESA language begins on page 195.