American Homeschooling families face at least five threats from the federal government that should cause homeschool parents and supporters to think hard about who they vote for in the 2016 presidential elections, according to a leading home schooling activist.
Will Estrada, a federal lobbyist for the Home School Legal Defense Association, co-chair of the recently established "Homeschoolers for Cruz" coalition and a homeschool graduate, hosted a conference call for homeschool families on Wednesday night and highlighted various ways that federal involvement threatens the power and privacy of of homeschool families.
1. Higher Education
Estrada explained that HSLDA has fought hard to make sure that homeschoolers are not discriminated against when it comes to receiving federal aid for college tuition.
Estrada warned that the Higher Education Act will be up for reauthorization in the next couple of years and added that the the federal government could try to create more regulations, such as more regulations for a high school diploma.
"A threat we see in on the horizon, however, is the Department of Education trying to regulate colleges more and more, trying to attempt to to put more regulations on a high school diploma," Estrada said. "We are safer now, but we are watching very closely what will happen when with the Higher Education Act reauthorization comes up."
2. Early Education
Estrada also stressed that the federal government is trying to take more of a role in influencing how parents raise their children from an early age.
He criticized the Obama administration's focus on preschool, universal preschool, and the Department of Health and Human Services' maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting program, which is voluntary.
"They have really tried to increase the government's role in raising children at earlier years, basically from birth through five, and then to also make sure that parents are trained to be able to raise their children," Estrada said. "There are draft reports coming out from the HHS and the Department of Education saying that parents are 'partners in the raising of their children' — partners with the schools, social workers and government officials. I think this is a threat that we are unfortunately just seeing the beginning of with federal, state and local governments trying to get more and more involved with children at earlier and earlier years."
3. United Nations Treaties
One of the biggest issues that threaten the decision-making abilities of homeschool parents, Estrada said, are UN treaties that take education and parental decisions out of the hands of homeschool parents.
Estrada outlined the UN Convention on Rights of the Child and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities as particularly concerning. He added that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has long been a strong advocate for UN treaties that would have a large impact on the homeschooling community.
"The interesting thing is that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has been one of the most active proponents of UN treaties ever since the 1990's when Bill Clinton was in the White House, when he tried to push the UN Convention on Rights of the Child and then reinforced the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, treaties that will essentially outsource parental decisions to UN bureaucrats," Estrada contended. "Hillary Clinton in the Obama administration helped pave the way for that treaty to be sent to Senate for ratification when she was Secretary of State, thankfully that didn't go through, but that really kind of shows you what we are up against if she were to get in."
4. Common Core
Common Core has been the most hotly debated education issue since the Department of Education began holding up to $4.3 billion in "Race to the Top" funding for states that strongly encouraged states to participate in the set of state education standards.
Estrada argues that not only does Common Core strip important education decisions from local school officials, it takes the power out of the hands of homeschool parents. Additionally, Estrada feels the federal government should have no role in influencing states to join the Common Core.
"There is always going to be a federal attempt to take hold of K-12 education," Estrada stated. "There will be more and greater attempts to meddle with education decisions that we believe are best left to parents and teachers, especially for homeschoolers to make these decisions, not government officials."
5. Department of Defense Databases
When it comes to education, the last place people would expect to see legislation that would negatively impact homeschool families would be in a defense spending bill. However, Estrada explained that the HSLDA had to fight against the passage of the National Defense Authorization Action, an annual bill that funds defense policy, because of a rider that would have allowed the department to track, monitor and collect data on every family and child and where and how they are educated.
Estrada said such a database would track whether kids are educated in public, private or homeschools.
"That is kind of the tip of the iceberg in this push to have data on all kids about how they are being educated, where they are being educated and it's pretty concerning whether your kids are in public school, private school or us as homeschoolers," Estrada asserted. "The government doesn't need this type of data and we are going to be seeing more and more attempts at the federal level to try and increase the data collection of our kids."
Even though the HSLDA has not officially endorsed any one presidential candidate, Estrada offered participants in the call reasons why he has endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, believes he is the best candidate for homeschool families to support.
Cruz has long opposed Common Core and has even co-sponsored legislation calling on the Department of Education to end its role in Common Core. Additionally, Cruz has even promised to abolish five federal agencies if elected as president, including the Department of Education.
"He's not like some of the presidential candidates who supported Common Core and then when it became a hot issued then dropped out," Estrada said of Cruz.