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North Dakota home schoolers seek tax break

BISMARCK - Families that home school their children are saving the state a lot of money and that should earn them a tax break, they said Monday.

Rep. Chris Griffin, D-Larimore, is sponsoring House Bill 1335 on behalf of constituents. It would allow home-schoolers to deduct up to $2,000 of the cost of buying curriculum materials and other school supplies.

He read testimony from constituents Debbie and Mark Korsmo, farmers who have three children and are expecting a fourth.

"We gladly pay for these expenses out of our own pockets," the Korsmos wrote. "At the same time we're saving the state a significant amount of money by not having our children in the public schools."

The Korsmos also pay property tax to support the Northwood schools, and state sales and income taxes, they said, and so they are taking on a double burden, they wrote.

Other states already have such tax deductions, the Korsmos wrote. "We believe home schooling is good for the state on many different fronts."

Rep. David "Skip" Drovdal, R-Arnegard, said that when local families' children are not attending public schools, the schools miss out on state money for those children, and that raises the taxes for everyone else in the district. A tax break would mean public money is being given to the home schoolers.

"We have to provide the classroom for those students whether they're there or not," he said.

Griffin said the Korsmos' request is made because they pay property tax and state income tax that are then used to fund public schools.

Jim Bartlett, executive director of the North Dakota Home School Association, said home school parents pay twice for the education of their children.

"They really save the state a lot of money," he said. Conservatively, he said home schoolers save the state $5 million in 2004-05.

"Two weeks ago we had a call from a lady who was ready to home school and her son, who is a special needs student, currently receives $40,000 to attend an agriculture class and a gym class at the public school. So when that child begins home schooling, it saves the state and the taxpayers $40,000," Bartlett said.