Government Take-Over in Invented Emergencies (SB1647 – The Oklahoma Empowerment Account Program)
Guest Post by Emily Hladik (Bio below)
SB 1647 creates the Oklahoma Empowerment Account Program under an emergency declaration. As an Oklahoma homeschool mom, I oppose this legislation.
While I believe the state of Oklahoma’s public education is in a state of emergency, this legislation attempts to expand publicly funded education without addressing the actual issues with existing public education. Private schools and homeschooling families that participate in this government expansion will do so at the price of their own autonomy and constitutional freedom. This bill is being promoted as a silver-bullet solution, touted as not growing government and heralded as a champion of protecting private schools and homeschooling in Oklahoma—absurdities.
Supporters of this legislation claim the Oklahoma Empowerment Act (OEA) is the solution to the ills of public education.
It names an “Agency” to be created within the OK Department of Treasury and allows for private contracting of services (see Page 3 and Page 10). The “Agency”, remember that’s the Department of Treasury, will be in charge of creating and approving applicants and setting standards for educational vendors and determining qualified expenses for parents.
Not the OK State Department of Education, not the parents (their choice is limited to the approved vendors list), but the Treasury Department (or the contractor they hire).
In fact, the only mention of the Department of Education comes on Page 8; their part is to report the cost per student enrolled in the OEA program to the Treasury Department. If the Department of Education can’t provide quality education via public schools, charter schools, and virtual schools, why would the Department of Treasury do any better at picking curriculum, programs, and schools to be participants in the OEA scheme?
The OEA is being labeled as an alternative to failed pubic education and promises on Page 15 that the program will not to expand the regulatory authority of the state beyond the means necessary to enforce requirements in the act. Geez, I wonder if it will be as limited and narrow as the US Congress’ use of the necessary and proper clause. From the text of SB 1647, there’s actually much expansion of the regulatory authority of the state already planned.
First, there’s a prohibition on “educational services providers” from sharing empowerment funds with parents (see Page 9). So parents can use funds to pay for a math tutor, but not themselves if they are teaching their children math? Each school and family that participates in the program will be subject to an audit.
Next, the state will approve educational service providers (see Page 9-10), so will homeschool families that want to participate have to be approved? What are the standards and when will those be available for review? What is the process to challenge rulings?
Finally, there will be random annual audits of 10% of OEA accounts, with cases of suspected fraud being referred to the Attorney General (see Page 11-12).
What protections are there for small private schools and parents from bureaucrats, armed with the power to audit and intimidate? What’s the oversight on the audits? And that’s just the “necessary to enforce” regulation authority that’s been disclosed, can you imagine how much more this program will grow government?
Supporters of this bill have made the outlandish claim that this government program actual protects private education and homeschooling. According to these “experts,” government intervention will increase the rights and freedoms of private businesses and individuals. It’s inconceivable, but if it wasn’t for this illogical headline I may have missed this conversation altogether.
I’ve homeschooled in several states, most of which have illiberal requirements.
For example, in Virginia homeschooling families must notify the state of their intent to homeschool. I had to verbally notify the school and filed a letter with the school district of my intent to homeschool my children.
In South Carolina homeschooling families are required to join associations that certify academic progress is being made to the state. I don’t know the history of these states’ homeschool laws, but I do know only Oklahoma has the constitutional right to homeschool. It is a major reason we choose to live in Oklahoma.
Here’s the link to SB 1647 Oklahoma Empowerment Act . I encourage you to read it for yourself and tell your legislator to oppose this government power grab and FIX the publicly funded education system that already exists!
Bio, Emily Hladik:
I am a homeschool mom, creator of www.GreatAmericanStudies.com, and co-founder of Enid Freedom Fighters. I have a M.Ed., have been an adjunct instructor of history and political science, and married to my U.S. Marine (Ret.) husband for over 20 years.