In May 2023, Oklahoma State Legislators passed the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act (HB 1934). Eligible taxpayers can claim it on their 2024 tax return.
From the Oklahoma Tax Commission website,
“Beginning in tax year 2024, a refundable income tax credit is allowed for certain Oklahoma taxpayers who pay qualified expenses on behalf of an eligible student who is homeschooled. The credit will be based on the amount of annual qualified expenses paid on behalf of each eligible student, not to exceed $1,000 per student. This is a refundable tax credit claimed on your 2024 tax return which will be due in April of 2025.”
The vagueness of the rules adds to our misgivings. Currently, no clarification exists for which expenses qualify other than “textbook, tuition, academic tutoring services, and fees for nationally standardized assessments.” If the Commission decides that some or all expenses do not qualify, what happens? This isn’t clear.
The bill unequivocally ensures that the state can track participating families through the student’s social security number, which the parent must give the state, along with details about the curriculum purchased. The state may ask for money back based on the curriculum chosen, so parents may limit their choices to what the state accepts. Homeschooling families incorporating Christian discipleship into their education, which we strongly encourage, would be at a disadvantage because this tax credit gives the state a say in a family’s educational choices.
Homeschool Oklahoma and many of our constituent families have concerns about the tax credit for several reasons. These go right to the heart of why families want to home-educate. Here are some of our concerns.
- If we take state government funds, are we still considered privately funded homeschoolers, or are we now considered publicly funded school-at-home?
- We don’t know what they are doing with the information we give them. We are giving them information about our families that they don’t need to have.
- When we take money from the government, there are strings attached. These strings could come in the form of state regulations on homeschoolers.
- There is no guarantee you will receive the money because of the $5,000,000 cap. If each eligible student takes the total amount of $1000, the cap allows only 5,000 students to be served. Who can take the money is also unlimited. Anyone of any income level can claim they were educated by other means and file early enough to take this money.
- There is no guarantee that expenses will qualify. We are still determining if a Christian curriculum qualifies for this or any subsequent year. If you purchase curricula from a Christian business, those things could be disqualified, like materials restricted by EPIC Charter Schools.
- Receipts must be turned in. This could affect businesses that want to avoid homeschoolers turning in receipts with their personal or business information listed.
- The bill was not in its current form until days before it passed. In ALL versions but the final version, it was a bill concerning parental rights in public schools. The bill in those forms read well and seemed like something most would vote for.
- Why have they included homeschoolers in this bill? It is not to help us since we have repetitively asked our legislators to leave us out of any legislation.
- HB 1934 only helps private school families who are already in these schools. Private schools’ enrollments are full, so it does not help low-income families wanting other options.
We understand that many families who send their children to private schools or participate in state-funded schooling at home want this tax credit. However, we cannot support this tax credit because of the implications that it opens up both now and in the future for homeschooling families in Oklahoma.
Homeschool Oklahoma does NOT support this tax credit and recommends you do not take it.
“What the government funds the government oversees.” – Sarah DeNeui
Homeschool Oklahoma’s mission is to promote, protect, encourage, and equip homeschooling in Oklahoma. A bill was passed under The Parents’ Choice Tax Credit this past legislative session, which will impact homeschooling families in Oklahoma.
Please go here if you would like to know more about the proposed rules and/or give input: Parental Choice Tax Credit (oklahoma.gov). The Tax Commission will accept comments on the rules until 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 12, 2023. Homeschool Oklahoma will have more information about the Parental Choice Tax Credit once the rules have been formalized/finalized. Please watch for more information on our website. If you have more questions, please register to attend our webinar on Oct. 12, 2023
Areas of concern for families in Oklahoma are:
- Claiming this tax credit will notify the state that you are home-educating your student/s.
- You may be required to submit receipts to the State Treasury Department.
- It is possible you may owe federal income tax if you receive a refund from the state due to claiming the tax credit.
We are concerned about the language “qualified expenses.” This is vague, and although vague is how we like our state constitution concerning homeschooling, the vagaries surround the specific term “qualified expenses.”
In the document linked above, a list of qualified expenses can be found [currently under section (b) Definitions, (10) “Qualified Expense” means, (B) For the purpose of claiming the home school tax credit…].
We have questions about these expenses:
- Who is responsible for determining whether my materials are qualified within the Oklahoma Tax Commission?
- Will that person/persons change yearly, and will each individual’s idea of a qualified expense be subjective?
- If the Oklahoma Tax Commission deems an expense unqualified, do I have a way to appeal their decision?
- Will ANY curricula qualify, or only secular materials? If religious curricula or programs are qualified this year, will they still be qualified in the future based on who reviews my expenses?
- What kind of oversight will the Oklahoma Tax Commission have, and if any, could visits to my home be expected?
It concerns HSOK that these questions are not answered in the document and that answers to these questions could be subjective. HSOK continues to promote and protect our families’ rights to home education in Oklahoma.
At the beginning of this year, Oklahoma was one of the few states left in our country that could say, “we are completely free from any state restrictions concerning homeschooling.” But as of May 25, 2023, we are just one legislative session away from having restrictions placed on homeschooling families. That day, Gov. Stitt signed the Oklahoma Parental Choice “Tax Credit” Act.
Homeschool Oklahoma supports parent-funded and parent-directed homeschooling (traditional or constitutional homeschooling). We believe that parents are most informed about what type of education their children need. Now that the governor has signed this “tax credit” bill, traditional homeschooling families are in a precarious situation on two fronts.
The First Front will be an immediate problem with the money a family receives from the State. That primary concern comes from section C.2 of the bill, which states, “The taxpayer shall retain all receipts of qualified expenses as proof of the amount paid each tax year the credit is claimed and shall submit them to the Commission upon request.” This statement gives the State the authority over the use of those funds because it is the State’s money. Since it is the State’s money, parents must use it as the State dictates. Then, the homeschooling that is taking place is no longer parent-funded or parent-directed but is state-funded and state-directed. Therefore, the family taking the tax credit is no longer a traditional homeschooling family.
One might wonder why we can’t just “not take the ‘tax credit.’” Yes, that is the solution to the immediate problem, but remember, we are fighting on two fronts. The Second Front is a long-term problem. With the passing of this bill, we are one step closer to the State placing restrictions on all homeschooling families. The majority of families taking this “tax credit” will be families that are from state-directed and state-funded schooling at home. They are not traditional or constitutional homeschooling families. When legislation comes down the pipeline to restrict these families who take the state money, they will group together ALL homeschooling families. Simply put, they see all parent-funded, parent-directed, state-funded, and state-directed as “homeschooling” with no distinctions. When future legislative sessions pass legislation concerning homeschooling, they will lump traditional homeschooling families in with those who are state-schooling at home.
How do we stop this? We can’t control what is already signed, but we can limit the number of restrictions legislators will place. Traditional homeschooling families must be more involved in their State’s legislature by participating in Capitol Day and keeping up with the latest information. Join Facebook pages that are formed specifically to protect homeschooling freedom in Oklahoma. Volunteer to help Homeschool Oklahoma read bills and make suggestions. Notify your support group or coop about the danger of this bill. Most importantly, tell your State Senator and Representative how upset you are about their actions on this bill. Remember, they work for you.
The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid, was once asked about the future of his country. He replied: “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I ride a Mercedes, my son rides a Land Rover, and my grandson is going to ride a Land Rover, but my great-grandson is going to have to ride a camel again.” I’m afraid we are living this out in our State regarding our homeschooling freedom. In the 1970s, parents went against the current agenda to ensure their children were homeschooled (The Camel) and their grandchildren would have the freedom to homeschool. That is where we are right now (Mercedes and Land Rover). But because of the ease of homeschooling, we have become apathetic and complacent. We think, “we will always have this freedom so why be concerned?” Please be aware that those freedoms can erode quickly, and you may soon find yourself riding a camel.
Other questions you may have:
1. Why didn’t HSOK list HB1934 in the original Legislative Alert? This exact number was a bill that related only to public schools when we posted the alert. Parts of several other bills were combined to create this one bill, with the tax credit added on May 1. It was passed quickly and never got added to the alert because we had trouble getting reliable information about the bill. You can see the whole history and all versions of the bill here.
2. What are the details of how one would claim this Tax Credit? Those are still unclear, but we would encourage you to continue without claiming it to retain your freedom to control your own homeschool.