Amendment Reduces H.B. 356’s Impact on Homeschooling
by Scott Woodruff • March 15, 2019
As I mentioned in an earlier article, I had asked the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Edith Patterson, to amend House Bill 356 so it would not unintentionally impact education ministries that serve homeschool families. I attended the March 7 legislative hearing on the bill.
True to her word, the bill was amended by the legislative committee so that it would clearly not impact education ministries.
Furthermore, the amendments simplified the bill dramatically and the red tape is gone. State-approved schools and church-exempt schools no longer need to make additional filings of any type under the bill.
The only extra work the bill creates lands on the plate of the Department of Education. The Department must annually give a list of all state-approved and church-exempt schools to county authorities responsible for occupancy permits and fire inspections. The Department already maintains those lists, so no new list needs to be created. The Department only needs to send the relevant county officials the contact info for the schools in their respective counties.
The local authorities, presumably, will respond in a timely manner if they look at the list the Department sends and determine that something may be amiss.
The Department already checks for health, fire safety and zoning compliance of state-approved schools. Church-exempt schools, however, may be on unfamiliar ground. Church-exempt schools might therefore want to take a proactive approach.
It might be a smart move for church-exempt schools to get some legal advice and do some checking and see if they are in compliance with any fire safety or zoning rules that apply to them. If they discover something out of order, they will have more time to address any issues than if they were to wait to see if the bill becomes law.
The bill will now go to the floor of the House of Delegates for a vote. HSLDA will continue to monitor the bill, but we are not opposing it at this point.
Epilogue: The bill passed the House as amended, but it died when the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee gave it an unfavorable report.