Homeschool legislation is advancing in the General Assembly! Victory comes committee by committee, and although we’re not there yet, we’re moving toward some major changes.
Read my summary below for a round-up of the legislative activity this week. The next two weeks will be critical for many bills. Remember to pray for your legislators and those in authority.
Director of Homeschool Support and Legislative Affairs
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CURRICULUM DESCRIPTION PASSES THE HOUSE!
HEAV asked Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-James City and York Counties) to introduce a bill to limit a curriculum description to a “list of subjects to be studied during the coming year.” HB 1208 has passed the full House of Delegates (77-Y, 23-N). You can see the amended statue below, with the new language that passed the House in italics.
§22.1-254.1(B) Any parent who elects to provide home instruction in lieu of school attendance shall annually notify the division superintendent in August of his intention to so instruct the child and provide a description of the curriculum, limited to a list of subjects to be
followed for studied during the coming year, and evidence of having met one of the criteria for providing home instruction as required by subsection A.
The Next Step:
HB 1208 will now go to the Senate side, first through the Senate Education and Health Committee, and then to the full Senate for a final vote.
SENATE VERSION MOVES FORWARD
At HEAV’s request, a companion bill to Delegate Pogge’s legislation in the House was introduced in the Senate by Senator Dick Black (R-Loudoun, Prince William). SB 564 passed the Senate Health and Education Committee (9-Y, 6-N). The language is the same as Delegate Pogge’s bill above.
Both bills address the growing difficulties homeschoolers are facing as some superintendents have decided to require that increasingly detailed information be included in a curriculum description. “Although additional requirements may be without malice, they are creating confusion for homeschoolers,” said Black as he introduced the bill to the committee members.
I (Yvonne Bunn) testified that homeschoolers were asking for a simple clarification of a “curriculum description” that will bring consistency to all school divisions. Scott Woodruff of HSLDA explained that there was no definition for a curriculum description and passing this legislation would help solve the problems that have developed. Scott Price of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers stated they supported the bill and looked at it as a “housekeeping” measure.
As anticipated, Virginia Association of School Superintendents representative Tom Smith opposed the measure as he had also opposed the companion bill on the House side. He wanted “more scrutiny for homeschoolers and a list of subjects would not suffice.”
The Next Step: The Senate version is now on its way to the Senate floor for a vote early next week.
SPORTS ACCESS ADVANCES!
The House Education Committee reported HB 947, Delegate Rob Bell’s (R-Charlottesville) sports access bill, with an amendment that included “the provisions of this act will expire on June 30, 2017.” The bill passed with a 14-8 vote. The committee heard testimony from many homeschooling parents, but the most compelling testimony came from homeschooled students.
Homeschooler Patrick Foss–recognized by ESPN as the thirteenth best soccer player in the U.S.–has played soccer around the world as a member of the U.S. National Team, but can’t take the field with his friends at the local high school. Because of his athletic accomplishments, Foss has been awarded a full soccer scholarship from the University of Virginia.
Chris Freund of the Family Foundation testified for the bill and said it was an issue of fairness. He reported that a recent Mason-Dixon poll showed that 69% of parents wanted students to have equal access across all demographics.
Opponents of sports access included the Virginia High School League (VHSL), the Virginia Education Association (VEA), and the PTA. They all argued that allowing homeschoolers to try out for high school teams would be unfair and take away slots from public school students.
The Next Step: Now that sports access has successfully advanced from the House Education committee, it will be voted on by the full House–for the first time ever. We can expect the House vote early next week.
NOTE: The House and Senate convene each day at noon. You can view the House or Senate floor debates and votes here. There are several ways to let your legislator know your opinion. This page will give you lots of easy options!
Your membership and donations to HEAV enable us to continue monitoring legislation and help us to guard and promote homeschooling freedoms.