Legislative Alert

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Be updated with timely information concerning your rights. During the Oklahoma legislative session you will receive information that may apply to home education.
 
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Proposed legislation:

Senate Bill 830 - Yen

Parents who educate their children home are not currently required to immunize their children. This is because they provide other means of education to their children and they are not considered to be operating a school. Since homeschool children are not enrolled in a public or private school they are not required to show proof of immunization. However, HSLDA and OCHEC oppose this bills as a parental rights issue.

Senate Bill 830 is going to eliminate one main option that Oklahoma parents currently have to object to the immunization of their child. Oklahoma law currently allows a parent to submit either 1) a certificate from a licensed doctor that a child’s condition is such that immunization would endanger their life or health, or 2) a written statement that objects to the immunization of their child. The parent’s objection to immunizations could be for any reason, religious, philosophical , or otherwise.

Removing this option would significantly limit a parents options when they have concerns about even just giving one particular immunization to their child(ren). Even if a parent had provided all of the recommended immunizations but wanted to decline one specific immunization to their child they would not be able to enroll them in school under Senate Bill 830. Under this bill every child attending public or private school would have to have all of the immunizations required in Oklahoma. Currently a child entering Kindergarten would need 16-17 immunizations and a boy or girl who attends child care in Oklahoma would need anywhere from 16-22 total immunizations. For more information on the immunization go here: https://www.ok.gov/health2/documents/IMM_School&Childcare_Guide_Imm_Reqs_OK_2015-16.pdf . So, hypothetically, if a parent didn’t want to give their child the Varicella (Chickenpox) vaccine their only option would be to have a doctor state that this vaccine would endanger their child’s life or health if Senate Bill 830 were to pass. It is highly unlikely that any parent would ever be able to get their doctor to state this.

Some people have asked if they teach their children at home through a public school at home program are they exempt from the immunization requirement. The answer is no. The law is clear, for the child to be admitted to school this bill would apply to them. Virtual schools are schools and therefore any person seeking to have their children admitted into these programs would be required to either show proof of immunization or have a doctor sign a medical excuse. Under Senate Bill 830 no parent would be able to provide a written exemption anymore.

For those parents who have previously submitted an exemption for their child they would have to prove the immunization status of their children or get a medical exemption by the 2016-2017 school year.

ACTION - Call Senator Yen's office and let him know that this is not a vaccination issue but rather a parental rights issue and it oversteps the governments role in the lives of its citizens.

The next two bills are ones which could be positive for the homeschool community.

Senate Bill 1280 - Loveless

With SB1280, we have worked very closely with HSLDA in helping write this bill. We did so in order to take a pro-active role in in writing our own legislation in hopes of keeping Education Scholarship Act's and Vouchers out of legislation for home education. It is going on the offense instead of always being on the defense. There are two types of tax credits, one is refundable, which means at some point money will exchange hands. The other is a non-refundable tax credit, which means no money ever changes hands.

This bill creates the Parental Choice Tax Credit Act. It is a non-refundable income tax credit for educational expenses. Qualifying expenses include enrollment in a qualified (private) school and the expenses that are associated with that. The bill also would allow parents who provide instruction by other means (i.e. homeschoolers) for their children from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The expenses that could be claimed by homeschool families would include tutoring fees, correspondence school fees, the cost of computer equipment, software and services, textbooks, workbooks, curricula and other written materials used primarily for academic instruction.

The allowable income tax credit is based on a complex formula that would be calculated each year by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The allowable tax credit will be based upon the income level of the family but could be up to $2,500 or 50% of the average per-pupil public expenditure for the previous fiscal year for each child you have educational expenses.

The bottom line is that this tax credit could reduce a parent’s income tax liability based upon the educational expenses that they have paid for their family. It would be up to each family to decide whether they wanted to claim the credit. Since the credit would not be refundable it would only allow parents to keep more of their own money. Any parent claiming this tax credit, assuming it passed, would not be taking state funds.

The sponsor has expressed an interest in including private special education service expenses as a qualifying expense.

ACTION - None at this time. We will let you know if we require any future action.



 Congressional Senate Bill 306 (Federal)

Currently a homeschool student’s educational expenses are not covered under Coverdell savings accounts. These accounts allow an individual to deposit their own money into an educational savings account to benefit a student. The language in Senate Bill 306 dates back well over a decade and mirrors some other language that has been used on the federal law and it does include the term “home school” in the definition of private school. However, it does so only to broaden what parents could use the private money that has been deposited in their child’s account. Simplified, this is a specific savings account used for education similar to a what a health savings account would be. If a parent didn’t want to participate in the Coverdell they don’t have to participate.

It is uncertain whether this change would allow homeschoolers in Oklahoma to use money in a Coverdell account for their educational expenses since they are providing other means of education and they are not classified as a “school.” We might need to add something to Oklahoma law if this bill were to pass in Congress. While it might not be beneficial for Oklahoman’s, homeschoolers in many other states would benefit greatly from this.

ACTION - None at this time. We will let you know if we require any future action.