Prior to the start of the 2014 General Assembly session, legislative researcher, Caroline Barnes, alerted HEAV to several bills that could negatively impact homeschoolers. Religious Exemption Study – HJ 92 Delegate Tom Rust (R-Fairfax, Loudoun) proposed HJ 92, a resolution requesting the Department of Education to study the religious exemption (RE) statute and make recommendations for changes. HEAV viewed this resolution as a potentially serious threat to religious freedom, anticipating follow-up legislation that would attempt to either amend or eliminate the statute. The Department of Education would gather information regarding
(i) how each school board determines religious convictions,
(ii) if the student’s convictions are also evaluated,
(iii) if convictions are ever reviewed again and how often,
(iv) and whether educational progress is monitored.
Delegate Rust presented HJ 92 in the Rules Subcommittee on Studies. The chairman asked for supporting testimony but no one responded. The first witness opposing the measure was an articulate college student who had been successfully educated under RE. She referred to newspaper articles that had drawn negative attention to RE
homeschool families and graciously refuted the accounts as inaccurate and incomplete. Scott Woodruff of HSLDA, Parrish Mort of VaHomeschoolers, and Bob Shanks of HEAV then spoke in opposition to the measure.
Two other young professionals educated under RE also stood to show opposition. The committee agreed by voice vote “to lay it on the table,” meaning no other action would take place. (Failed)
Standardized Achievement Tests – HB 447
HEAV and Home School Legal Defense Association requested that Delegate Randall Minchew (R-Leesburg) delete a section of a large SOL testing bill that included new requirements for homeschool achievement tests. The main purpose of the bill was to reform the SOL testing structure, but the bill also inserted wording that would require
homeschool parents to use the most recently normed standardized achievement tests for yearly assessments. Delegate Minchew did not understand that this would add additional costs for homeschool families and require them to use tests aligned with the Common Core standards—standards that HEAV opposes. Delegate Minchew returned
the bill to its original language, thus protecting homeschool testing choices.
Homeschool Tax Credits – HB 239
At HEAV’s request, Delegate David Ramadan (R-Dulles) introduced tax credit legislation for homeschoolers. The
bill will allow a tax credit for the cost of homeschool-related materials and services for parents who have complied with the home-instruction statute. The credit will equal the amount actually paid or $500 per child, whichever is less―not to exceed $2,000 per taxable year. The bill was left in the Finance Committee. (Failed)
Sports Access – HB 63
Delegate Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) again introduced a sports-access bill, known as the “Tebow Bill.” It passed the House of Delegates with a good margin and little debate in committee because of familiarity with the arguments from previous years. A sixth-grade homeschooler from Manassas passionately described her desire to participate
in gymnastics, but with the changes in the makeup of the Senate Education Committee, the bill was passed by indefinitely (9-Y, 6-N). (Failed)