School Choice and Your Child's Tuition

Vouchers, School Choice, And Your Child’s Tuition

By Edward Murray

School choice has been a debated topic for many years, and while you might think it’s a good thing, there are compelling reasons to reconsider. Although it is sometimes difficult to determine causation from correlation, there is the potential-future issue of inflating tuition rates due to state funding. Consider St. Paul Catholic school in St. Petersburg, Florida, which recently explicitly stated that they would raise the price of admission with the new voucher program. 

St. Paul Catholic School at 1900 12th St. N in St. Petersburg is one of many private schools expected to take advantage of Florida's expanded voucher program this year.
St. Paul Catholic School at 1900 12th St. N in St. Petersburg is one of many private schools expected to take advantage of Florida’s expanded voucher program this year.

On the face of it, one would think that state funding to aid families’ migration to the free market would be a positive. Of course, from that statement alone, it’s obvious that anything state-funded can’t be a free market; these are diametrically opposed ideas. But just for argument’s sake, let’s consider the prevailing idea that more money given yields more opportunity for choice.

Wouldn’t this bring costs down? Likewise, shouldn’t all U.S. families be on board with vouchers, ESAs, tax credits, and the like?

For some time now, many in the home and private school world have been sounding the alarm on these so-called school-choice policies. The primary issue raised concerns parental autonomy vs. state accountability (tantamount to coerced regulation). Let’s face it, when any policy is put on the books for spending, rarely does the growth of regulation shrink or go away. It typically grows. Regulation always follows funding.

And we want it that way, right? If the government is going to spend our tax dollars, don’t we want them to track the money and assure us it is spent responsibly? Again, this regulation over parental choice is the very reason why private options exist.

State-Funded “Choice” Will Inevitably Inflate the Cost of Private Education

However, there is another principle that private educators warn of: State-funded “choice” will inevitably inflate the cost of private education.

Consider the fact that all organizations need money to sustain their work, whether for the short or the long-term. As long as decisions don’t sink the buyability of a product, given the opportunity, companies will consider how better to fund their work.

This is exactly what is happening with St. Paul Catholic in Florida. After Gov. DeSantis (R) signed into law the state’s newest voucher program, representatives of the school stated,

“…we decided that we need to take maximum advantage of this dramatically expanded funding source. So instead of paying $6,000 per child, families at the school who are St. Paul parish members will now be charged $10,000 per child. Nonmembers will be charged $12,000 per child, instead of $7,000. Discounts for multiple-student families will be eliminated. Based on those numbers, and factoring in the $4,000 tuition increase, St. Paul could bring in nearly $1 million more in the school year starting this fall. Voucher critics said the decision was predictable, and expected more private schools to follow suit…”

Of course, one might argue that this still mitigates the cost of the program (likely only to aid families who can still afford it), and this would be true… at least for the present. However, keep in mind the annual increases in private K-12 and higher education.

From my experience working in higher ed. (public and private) …not only does tuition tend to increase every year, but institutional administrators always also factor in going rates for other similar institutions competitive in the same fields. Also, keep in mind that it isn’t necessarily popular to gravitate towards the cheaper education option. Rather, many opt for the more expensive programs because cost often indicates quality (i.e., people reason, “the greater the cost, the better the education”).

Moreover, even if tuition doesn’t appear to increase on the surface, an increase in tuition paid might occur even if the sticker face remains unchanged. These increased, hidden dollars are typically reflected in other ancillary fees and like charges.

Currently, it can be a little hard to examine the U.S. statistics due to the infancy of these programs.[1] However, many who claim that there is no data for inflation should rather backtrack that notion. Barnum notes that some school choice programs (ones with unrestricted subsidies) “lead to price increases yet no change in enrollment…” He continues, “…private schools did not admit additional students, but did raise tuition — by an amount the researchers estimated to be roughly the same as the public subsidy.”[2]

Consider Ty Rushing, who recently reported how Iowa’s private schools hiked their tuitions in response to Gov. Kim Reynold’s (R) voucher-ESA plan.

“While some private schools introduced minimal tuition increases—Holy Trinity Catholic School in Fort Madison increased tuition by less than a percent for parish members and about 3% for non-parish members—others swung for the fences including one Dubuque school that increased tuition by 40%, or an Anamosa school that literally doubled tuition.[3]

Of course, I don’t blame them for wanting to better their programs, increase their functionality, and provide adequate salaries for teachers. But one can’t deny the obvious connection. Brian Mudd (who denies the connection) even argues,

“In attempting to discern what the impact of school vouchers may mean for tuition rates it’s helpful to see how much capacity there is within the exiting private schools as it’s unlikely rates would be increased unless they’re at capacity with demand outstripping supply.”[4]

Yet, this is exactly the state of hundreds of private institutions needing to made ends meet.

At the end of all this, maybe St. Paul’s decision doesn’t seal the deal for many to correllate state funds and increasing tuition. Yet, the argument is not without warrant. It is worth everyone’s consideration, especially those who grasp the current political climate, who understand the dangers of our ever-increasing debt, and who are concerned with expanding government overreach (which is embedded in all our collective COVID-19 trauma).

Tuition is going to keep increasing, because they’re going to keep raising the voucher amount.”

Holly Bullard, Chief Strategy Officer for Florida Policy Institute

Holly Bullard, Chief Strategy Officer for Florida Policy Institute, states, “Tuition is going to keep increasing, because they’re going to keep raising the voucher amount.” With many raising the alarm, we should all heed the caution and prepare for tax increases to pay for these schemes. 

For more on this issue, see Enright, Marsha Familiaro, “I Run a Private School and am Against School Vouchers. Here’s Why.” Foundation for Economic Education, May 19, 2019.

See also, “ESAs: What You Need to Know with Israel Wayne.” Refining Rhetoric, Episode 31. Feb. 1, 2023.


[1] Hungerman and Rinz (Notre Dame and NBER) cite a study by Angrist, Bettinger, Bloom, King, and Kremer (2002), who find that winning a lottery in Bogot ́a for a voucher worth $190 raised average private school tuition and fees by $52 so that every dollar of voucher funding raised tuition and fees by about 27 cents, close to what the point estimate here suggests (vouchers worth $820 per user on average increase per-student revenue by $280 at baseline, or about 34 cents per dollar spent on vouchers).

[2] Barnum, Matt, “Do vouchers actually expand school choice? Not necessarily — it depends on how they’re designed.” Chalkbeat, June 20, 2017. https://www.chalkbeat.org/2017/7/30/21107261/do-vouchers-actually-expand-school-choice-not-necessarily-it-depends-on-how-they-re-designed

[3] Rushing, Ty, “Kim Reynold’s Private School Voucher Plan Led to Tuition Hikes.” Iowa Starting Line, May 12, 2023. https://iowastartingline.com/2023/05/12/kim-reynolds-private-school-voucher-plan-led-to-tuition-hikes/

[4] Mudd, Brian, “Q&A: Will Florida’s Universal School Choice Plan Raise Tuition Rates?” News Radio WJNO, iHeart.com. May 28, 2023. https://wjno.iheart.com/featured/brian-mudd/content/2023-03-28-qa-will-floridas-universal-school-choice-plan-raise-tuition-rates/

Edward Murray profile headshot

Edward Murray currently serves as Manager of Special Projects and Policy Research for Classical Conversations® and The Homeschool Freedom Action Center. He is a native of Augusta, GA, and an alumnus of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, where he earned his M.Div. He lives in Newport News, VA, with his wife and three children.

A young boy and girl concentrate on their homework, writing together at a table

Oklahoma Bill HB 4130 – A Deeper Analysis

By Elise DeYoung

In recent months, Oklahoma and Michigan, two states that have historically had low regulation on homeschool freedoms, have sought to pass restrictive laws. These states both claim to be passing homeschool registration and oversight laws to prevent the abuse of home-educated children.

Since homeschooling became legal in 1992, many states have tirelessly attempted to oversee and regulate a parent’s right to home education. If you wish to learn about your state’s homeschool laws, you can do so by visiting HSLDA’s website.

You can learn more about the specifics of Michigan’s proposal and its problems here.

In Oklahoma, Rep. Amanda Swope has introduced HB 4130, which would require homeschool parents to send in a letter to the Department of Human Services requesting to homeschool their child, provide the information of every adult involved in the child’s education, and go through biannual background checks performed by the DHS.

While the intentions of Swope may sound noble at first (who wouldn’t want to put an end to the abuse of children?), this bill is founded on a false premise and represents a trend of state aggression towards homeschooling. For these reasons, Americans, especially in Oklahoma, must strongly oppose Swope’s bill to restrict and regulate homeschooling families.

The Narrative is Fabricated

The entire reason for the bill rests upon the premise that there is an epidemic of abuse among homeschooled children, and we need new legislation to address it. Sadly, for Swope and her bill, the statistical facts strongly contradict this narrative.

First, all of the evidence available shows that “homeschooled children are abused at a lower rate than are those in the general public, and no evidence shows that the home educated are at any higher risk of abuse.”(Ray, 2018) What’s more, a Gen 2 Survey found that homeschooled students are actually 257% less likely to be sexually abused than their government-schooled peers.

It is ironic that Swope’s proposed solution to the fallacious low abuse rates among homeschoolers is government regulation. This has yet to help public schoolers who experience constant state oversight. What makes her think it will help the homeschoolers in any way?

Additionally, according to the statistics, if Swope were truly concerned with addressing child abuse in her state, she would turn her attention to the place where children suffer the most—government schools.

Even if there were high rates of abuse among homeschooled children, there are already nationwide laws on the books that protect all children from abuse, including homeschoolers.[1] There is no reason to pass another bill. Oklahoma simply has to enforce the ones it already has in place.

So why do Swope and those who support HB 4130 want to pass it so badly? The answer is increased government oversight and regulation on homeschooling.

Government Overreach

To understand the extent of the government overreach within HB 4130, we must examine the document ourselves.

Letters of Intent

Paragraph F. reads, “On or before the school district start date, parents making the decision to choose homeschooling, podschooling, or microschooling shall submit a letter of intent to the Department of Human Services.”

A Letter of Intent can easily be dismissed as “normal” because many states require homeschooling parents to write a letter outlining their intent to homeschool. However, most states require parents to submit it to their local school district or to their state. The purpose of this is to inform their state schools that it is not responsible for their child’s education.

The difference is that with this bill, Oklahoma parents must submit their letter of intent to the Department of Human Services. Later in the bill, the letter of intent is referred to as “a request to homeschool” and may be denied by the DHS. Denial of a fundamental right to educate one’s child is an egregious abuse of power. Since when did the DHS (the civil government) have the right to determine whether a family has the right to homeschool their children?

The bill continues by explaining what information parents are required to surrender:

  • The names of the homeschooling parents
  • The social security numbers of parents.
  • The names of all the homeschooled children
  • The home address of the family homeschooling
  • The names of all individuals living at the home address
  • The names of “any associated individuals or organizations assisting with the child’s or children’s schooling.”
  • Along with “A brief statement for the decision of schooling”

Furthermore, this bill requires you to “reapply” for homeschooling by sending in a “subsequent letter of intent” every time you make a change in your initial decision to homeschool, whether it is “a result of a move or otherwise.”

Background Checks

Paragraph H. says, “When the Department of Human Services receives a letter of intent, it shall perform an initial background check on parents, other adults within the home, and any adults assisting in the children’s schooling.”

The fact that the DHS wants to perform background checks on parents to decide whether or not they have the right to home-educate their children is Orwellian. It also begs a fascinating question:

Why does this bill not include background checks for the parents of public school students? Those students are home, with no government supervision, for three whole months. Why isn’t Swope concerned about abuse in those homes?

Background checks on “parents, other adults within the home, and any adults assisting in the children’s schooling” is both a disturbing invasion into the homes of home educators and will also cause a multitude of issues for tutoring programs and independent educators who will now be subject to background checks by the DHS.

Biannual Checks

Moreover, parents must repeat all the regulations examined so far biannually. “The Department shall maintain a system to conduct biannual checks of the database and compile a database of individuals, facilities, and organizations that perform and assist with homeschooling, podschooling, or microschooling.”

This regulation means that by the time an Oklahoma homeschool student has graduated, the DHS will have made 24 reviews on that child’s security information, address, family members, homeschool organizations, and teachers.

The bill concludes that the DHS may deny “requests” to homeschool and will deny them if any adult involved in the child’s education has a “pending child abuse or neglect investigation” against them.

Constitutional Home Educators explains the danger of this vague wording: “There are so many loopholes here that could allow DHS to deny your request to home educate. It does not say just an abuse or neglect conviction; it includes a pending investigation. All it takes is an accusation.”

Oppose HB 4130

This bill represents an outrageous abuse of government authority and power. First, it is completely unnecessary and will be totally ineffective. Regulation does not reduce abuse. Second, the bill is designed to empower government-run agencies to dictate a parent’s right to home educate and to regulate that right if it is “approved” by the state. This bill is a blatant abuse of power and must be ardently rejected by the citizens of Oklahoma before it is instated and enforced.

Homeschool freedom is a right that many before us have fought to win. We cannot allow the state to deceive us into surrendering this right for a fabricated narrative and a false promise. All Americans must stand in support of Oklahoma citizens as they fight on the front lines for educational freedom.

Elise DeYoung is a Public Relations and Communications Associate and a Classical Conversations graduate. With CC, she strives to know God and make Him known in all aspects of her life. Elise is a servant of Christ, an avid reader, and a professional nap-taker. As she continues her journey towards the Celestial City, she is determined to gain wisdom and understanding wherever it can be found. Soli Deo gloria!


[1] (n.d.). 2022 Oklahoma Statutes Title 21. Crimes and Punishments §21-843.5. Child abuse – Child neglect – Child sexual abuse – Child sexual exploitation – Enabling – Penalties. Justia US Law. https://law.justia.com/codes/oklahoma/2022/title-21/section-21-843-5/

the back of a security guard wearing a bright green neon vest

Problems with the Michigan Homeschool Registration Regulation Proposal

By Elise DeYoung

This past month, I had the opportunity to speak to a Kentucky mom about her homeschool experience and the state regulations that Kentucky has in place for homeschoolers. I shared how Classical Conversations has strong feelings regarding state involvement in homeschooling. We believe that the state has no place in our classrooms and actively work to bar state intervention and influence. She asked me how much state regulation is too much, specifically in my state of Michigan. What a timely question!

Any State Regulation is Too Much Regulation

I explained to her that the position of CC is that any state regulation is too much regulation.

Recently, in Michigan, there has been a move to enforce homeschool registration, requiring homeschooling parents to inform their local government schools of their intention to homeschool. This Kentucky mom stopped me short and said, “Oh! We have that in Kentucky. Don’t worry about it. I only have to fill out a form saying I am homeschooling and turn it in to our local school. It really isn’t bad at all.”

Many Michigan residents and homeschool parents share this opinion. What is the harm in filling out a simple form?

Before concluding whether a homeschool registration is “really bad,” we must first understand what Michigan lawmakers are proposing and why.

In December of last year, Dana Nessel, the Attorney General of Michigan, proposed on X[1]

“implementing monitoring mechanisms” onto homeschooling to “ensure that all children, including those homeschooled, receive necessary protections [from abuse].” This demand comes after two families, the Flore family, and the Brown family, were allegedly found to have abused their children while homeschooling them. Nessel charged these parents with thirty-six child abuse crimes and with a conspiracy to commit these crimes [2].

In support of this announcement, House Education Chair and Representative Matt Koleszar wrote on X[3]

“Michigan is one of only 11 states that doesn’t count or register homeschooled children, and abusive parents are taking advantage of that to avoid being found out. It’s time to support all Michigan students and change that. Michigan cannot allow this loophole to continue.”

Their position is clear: Due to the alleged abuse of some homeschooled children, Michigan should enforce a homeschool registration bill – which would inform the state of who is homeschooling and where they are – so that it can protect the children within homeschooled families from abuse. Or, as Koleszar says so innocently in an interview on CBS[4], “We just want to know where they [the children] are.”

This argument seems very convincing at first. If signing a form saying we are homeschooling will save children from abuse, shouldn’t we just do it?

It is tempting to say yes; however, Michigan residents must oppose the homeschool registration proposal because:

  • the narrative is dishonest
  • state oversight does not protect children from abuse
  • state regulations always increase over time

The Narrative is Dishonest

It is important that we put the claim of Nessel and Koleszar – that abuse in some homeschool families justifies state oversight – into a statistical perspective.

Researchers have conducted many studies to address the question, “Do homeschoolers experience higher rates of abuse than public schoolers?” Each study has come to the same conclusion.

“Homeschooled children are abused at a lower rate than are those in the general public, and no evidence shows that the home educated are at any higher risk of abuse” (Ray, 2018)

On the contrary, A Gen 2 Survey found that homeschooled students are 257% less likely to be sexually abused than their public-schooled peers.

This begs the questions:

  • What is homeschooling doing right?
  • What is public school doing wrong?
  • Additionally, if there is more abuse in the public school system, shouldn’t our representatives focus their efforts there rather than seeking to regulate homeschoolers?

State Oversight Does Not Protect Children from Abuse

The main problem Koleszar has with Michigan’s current “lack of oversight” into homeschooling is that the state government does not know where a vast number of homeschooled children are. “They have simply fallen through the cracks,” said Koleszar on CBS. Because of this, the Representative says that the state has no idea whether these children are being educated, cared for, or, God forbid, abused by their parents. The solution offered is to put these children on a government database.

This solution assumes that government oversight prevents the abuse of children, and we must address this assumption. 

This is not the case.

For instance, consider the previous statistics that prove that there is more abuse in government schools than there is in homeschools. Students who attend public schools sit under the watchful eye of the government day in and day out. The state knows where they are.

Additionally, Michigan requires that teachers are all trained to spot signs of abuse and are required to report any suspected victims and abusers to the state.[5]. Do all these government regulations, requirements, and oversight result in lower abuse rates? The statistics prove that they do not.

But let’s set public schools aside for a moment and focus specifically on abuse in homeschools. Would state regulation decrease the abuse found here? Once more, the answer is no.

Nessel uses two families, the Flore and Brown families, as examples to prove why Michigan needs to register homeschooled children to the state to stop them from being abused.

Both examples fall apart when you learn that the children who were allegedly abused by their parents were adopted and foster care children. This is extremely significant because children in the adoption agency and the foster care system are already well known by the government – they know where they are.

Israel Wayne makes this point during an interview with CBS, saying,

“The two families that attorney Dana Nessel is using as examples are families who adopted children out of the foster care system, and legally, you can’t homeschool children who are in the foster care system, so this is not a fair illustration. But these children were deeply known by the Department of Child Services. Actually one of the fathers in that situation was actually a  CPS investigator by occupation… they were already on a government database, and so if they were truly child abusers (that has yet to be proven), they [the children] weren’t protected simply because their name was on a government database.”

In the exact examples cited by Nessel and Koleszar we can clearly see that being on a government database did not protect these children from the alleged abuse by their parents. What makes us think the results will be any different if implemented at a much larger scale?

The issue of the abuse of children being undetected is a Child Protective Services (CPS) issue, not a homeschool issue.

Wayne concluded his interview by stating that a homeschool registration “is not actually going to do what is being claimed. This will not protect children.”

Regulation Always Increases

During his interview, Koleszar was asked an insightful question by the CBS host, “Well, I imagine a lot of parents would say “Surely, they are going to want to do more than just knowing where the children are,” I mean, receiving a letter that says this child is homeschooled, how would you make that jump from understanding if they are in a safe situation to understanding if they are being educated. Surely there would have to be some kind of home visits, some kind of interaction, right?”

He responded by saying, “It’s fair to say that, but I think right now the main thing we need to do is know where – we have a lot of children who have fallen through the cracks, and we just want to know where they are.”

This answer is extremely telling. Koleszar refuses to admit the probability of increased oversight in the future while recognizing it as a “fair thing to say.”

We have already seen how children being on a government database will not stop them from being abused. So, if Koleszar is really concerned with minimizing the abuse of homeschoolers, he will have to instill more and more regulations to have the chance to attain his goal.

Registrations will turn into home visits, which will turn into state tests, which end in a state-regulated curriculum. We have seen this progression in other states, like New York and Massachusetts, that now have extremely high homeschool regulations. HSLDA has researched homeschool regulations by state.

The only result that will come of this proposal by Nessel and Koleszar is an eventual increase in government control and oversight of homeschooling without the promised results of reducing the abuse of children.

The Solution

“The present study’s findings, along with prior limited research, indicates at least three things for policymakers and others to  consider. First, there is no empirical evidence that homeschool students are at any higher risk of abuse than public school and private school students; some evidence indicates that the home educated might be at lower risk. Second, there is no empirical evidence that state control (regulation) of homeschooling does anything to reduce the potential for abuse of homeschool children. Finally, there is no credible empirical evidence that increasing any current levels of regulation of homeschooling would reduce the potential for abuse of homeschool students.(Ray, 2018)

Michigan residents must oppose the homeschool registration proposal because

  • the narrative is dishonest
  • state oversight does not protect children from abuse
  • state regulations always increase over time

Instead of unnecessarily and ineffectively regulating homeschoolers, the state should enforce the laws and make use of the child protective services that Michigan already has in place to help protect children from abuse in all places.

“Our view is that we don’t want to see abuse protected, we want to see every child protected. But we believe the best way to   do that is to prosecute known child abusers with existing laws that we already have on the books. And so, we believe that child protective services and state agencies need to use laws that we already have rather than creating needless bureaucracy that won’t actually protect children.”

– Israel Wayne

Elise DeYoung is a Public Relations and Communications Associate and a Classical Conversations graduate. With CC, she strives to know God and make Him known in all aspects of her life. She is a servant of Christ, an avid reader, and a professional nap-taker. As she continues her journey towards the Celestial City, she is determined to gain wisdom and understanding wherever it can be found. Soli Deo gloria!


Resources and Further Reading

For more information on this issue, you can listen to Israel Wayne. If you are interested in learning how you can help promote homeschool freedoms in your state, visit Classical Conversation’s Homeschool Freedom Action Center, Israel Wayne’s website, and Family Renewal.


[1] Nessel, Dana. X, 6 Dec. 2023, twitter.com/dananessel/status/1732395669824880823. Accessed 8 Jan. 2024.

[2] Nessel, Dana. “Attorney General Dana Nessel Charges 4 Adoptive Parents with 36 Child Abuse Crimes, Conspiracy.” Michigan Department of Attorney General, 4 Dec. 2023, www.michigan.gov/ag/news/press-releases/2023/12/04/attorney-general-dana-nessel-charges-4-adoptive-parents-with-36-child-abuse-crimes-conspiracy. Accessed 15 Jan. 2024.

[3] Koleszar, Matt. X, 5 Dec. 2023, twitter.com/koleszar_matt/status/1732025556818968823. Accessed 8 Jan. 2024.

[4] “Breaking Down Homeschooling, Childcare in Michigan.” CBS News, uploaded by CBS Detroit, 6 Dec. 2023, www.cbsnews.com/detroit/video/breaking-down-homeschooling-child-care-in-michigan/.

[5] Laws and Model Policies That Guide School Health Service Programs in Michigan. 2nd ed., Michigan Association of School Nurses, 2013. p. 7. Accessed at https://www.michigan.gov/-/media/Project/Websites/mde/2021/10/18/ADA_Laws_and_Model_Policies_July_2021_final.pdf