I haven’t been watching this issue very closely, but if I understand correctly, the voucher program (assuming it survives the November ballot) provides vouchers for homeschoolers in low income families in the neighborhood of 2-3,000 per year per child. (And: vouchers for all of this year’s kindergarteners who are homeschooled regardless of family income. I presume that would apply to future year’s K’ers as well.) And they seem fairly liberal in their definition of low income: one chart I saw put it at an AGI of 49K for a family of 6. Given the low AGI of many Mormons, what with all those kids and that huge mortgage, I imagine that there are lots and lots of families in Utah with four school-aged kids and an AGI under 50K. What that means is that mothers looking for a way to generate income for the family can now homeschool their kids and (assuming they spend about 1K on homeschooling, which is generous for four kids) net 7-11K per year. They won’t have to pay taxes on it and may or may not pay tithing on it. Not a bad deal. No guilt feelings about “working,” more time with the family–sounds like something that many LDS women could get behind.
Will this happen on a wide scale? Would it be a good thing? I don’t know. I’m all for there being more homeschoolers because that means more opportunities for all homeschoolers, but I do see some pitfalls here.
First, those who homeschool for strictly pecuniary reasons (or, if homeschooling becomes very common in Utah, for reasons of social/religious/cultural pressure) are likely to do a crummy job and end up raining down restrictive legislation on the heads of the rest of us.
Secondly, if homeschooling becomes something that “good” Utah Mormon women do–either out of devotion to their children or a desire to supplement the family budget without working outside the home–I think we’re in for a heap of trouble. The potential for homeschooling to become a Mormon cultural mandate or a barometer of righteousness is something to be avoided at all costs (You can just see it, can’t you: “Well, you wouldn’t have to work away from your home or send your children to that mediocre school if you homeschooled them!”)
At the same time, while I’d never willingly move to Utah (NB: That wasn’t a jab at Utah Mormons–that was an expression of personal preference. When you get Half Price Books, an Ethiopian restaurant, and a theological library as good as the Austin Presby Theological Seminary‘s, then I’ll think about moving to Utah), I am salivating a little at the thought of what my homeschool would look like with a budget in the thousands instead of in the hundreds. Holy imported books, educational games, and weekly maid service, Batman!