We are more than halfway through the 2023 legislative session! There are currently NINE bills that OKHPR supports and are still working their way through the legislature. These bills cover topics such as parent participation in schools, scholarships for children with disabilities, election reform, gender identity issues and more. We have also moved HB 1935 as a bill to watch. This bill has undergone major changes from its original state, so we are keeping a close eye on it and the potential effect on homeschoolers. Please read more about this decision below.
We understand that there has been a lot of concern over HB 1935. There have even been a couple of disagreements between some of our 56 Senate District Captains and the OKHPR Board. Unfortunately, these misunderstandings and disagreements have led two Senate District Captains to step down. One Captain believed that OKHPR was not supportive enough of the tax credit bill while the other Captain left because she believed OKHPR supported it too much. We would like to speak out to make our position abundantly clear.
For the last several years OKHPR has been proud to partner with organizations which advocate for homeschooling freedoms. While we may have small disagreements about the path to education reform, we find common ground on the foundation that Oklahoma MUST remain the most free state in which to homeschool. Some of these organizations have staunchly opposed voucher bills, but have historically advocated for tax credit bills as an option for education reform instead. In one conversation dated January 25th 2022, a leader of a local homeschooling organization stated “Does OKHPR have a formal position on these school choice bills? Why not a tax credit instead? Much cleaner, far more students and their families can benefit, no outside management needed, no worry about strings attached that will eventually tighten up regulation on private schools and homeschoolers.”
In a public post dated March 5th 2022, the Constitutional Home Educators Alliance (CHEA) stated “ESAs are different than tax credits, which do not increase government regulation.”
CHEA also helped advocate for two tax credit bills in 2019 and 2022.
Homeschool Oklahoma has also supported tax credit bills including SB 1083 at the beginning of the 2023 session, as seen on their newsletter here.
Additionally, HSLDA has historically been one of the largest supporters of tax credit bills.
On February 7th of this year a Senate District Captain sent a message to a group chat with other Senate District Captains and members of the OKHPR Board. She asked, “Have we been very vocal publicly on where our group stands on this issue?” The following two messages are the responses from OKHPR Director Liza Greve.
Later that month, on February 20th the first language for HB 1935 was released. This bill was originally a tax credit for children in private school or children educated by “other means of education”.
On February 21st we made the decision to add HB 1935 to our list of bills to support.
This bill has changed significantly as it has gone through the legislative process, including being contingent upon the passage of HB 2775 (a teacher pay raise bill). Other changes include an increase in the private school tax credit and a decrease in the tax credit for families utilizing “other means of education”. There has also been considerable amount of fighting between Senate and House leadership about these bills which we have kept our members up to date on via our weekly email newsletter.
Even so, the bill in its current state does not use the words “home school” or “home education” anywhere. It only states “other means of education”. This is positive because when phrases are used in legislation they must be clearly defined. We do not want to open the door to the state legislature to define home education. Oklahoma is the only state in the US that protects “other means of education” in our state constitution. This offers tremendous protection to families that choose to homeschool in Oklahoma.
However, because of the substantial changes to the legislation in the Senate we knew that our homeschooling families would likely no longer support these bills. CHEA and Homeschool Oklahoma are opposing the bill, while the HSLDA is watching it. Additionally, House Leader McCall has given an ultimatum that he will not hear the updated bills on the House floor. Due to these issues, we have not released an updated opinion on these pieces of legislation since February 22nd 2023.
These bills, despite their numerous changes, have passed both chambers closely along party lines. All republican Senators voted in favor of the bill.
Despite all of the differing opinions and disagreements, OKHPR is committed to our original promise to take each bill one at a time and to carefully consider all ramifications.
It is unfortunate that OKHPR has lost two Senate District Captains who were on polar opposite sides of this issue and did not like our refusal to take a hard line stance. Our organization has never been an organization with a focus strictly on education. Instead our focus is on parental rights. While these issues often overlap, we try to take a stance that advocates for the rights and privacy of all educational options. Legislators have asked us to be involved in the parental rights of schools which involves holding schools accountable, providing more informed consent and opt outs/ins as they relate to curriculum, and other issues of school reform that give parents more rights and choice. Legislators have seen our effectiveness over the last 8 years and school reform has quickly become a top issue in our state. Among our 20k members we have families who utilize educational models such as homeschooling, charter schools, private school, and public school. Our goal is to fight for the rights of all of our families and that’s not always black and white. We will never be a single issue group as health & parental rights is such a broad category.
After careful consideration we have decided to move HB 1935 from *support* to *watch*.
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