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July 6, 2006

Freedom Expands for Homeschoolers

Capping a major legislative effort in which Home School Legal Defense Association worked closely with Home Educators Association of Virginia and the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, Governor Tim Kaine recently signed three bills that increase freedom for homeschoolers in Virginia!

This is the fruit of years of effort. In fact, two years ago, HSLDA and HEAV worked closely together to pass the “high school diploma” bill through both the House and Senate. Chris Klicka, Yvonne Bunn and I provided testimony; thousands of calls poured in, and HSLDA persuaded the Chairman of Senate Education Committee to switch his vote in favor of the amendment, avoiding a tie. Yet former Governor Mark Warner vetoed the good homeschool legislation.

We are grateful to Governor Kaine for signing these bills and taking a stand for homeschool freedom.

The bills bring the following six changes to Virginia homeschool law that went into effect July 1:

1. Option 1 is now available to all parents with high school diplomas.

Old: Homeschool Option 1 was only available to families if a parent had a college diploma.

New: Homeschool Option 1 is now available to any family where the parent holds a high school diploma. (See Superintendent’s memo 124, June 9, 2006 establishing that any degree higher than a high school diploma will also satisfy the requirement.)

2. Including the Standards of Learning (SOLs) in your curriculum is no longer mandatory under Option 4.

Old: Families under homeschool Option 4 were required to use a curriculum that included the state SOLs for math and language arts and also provide evidence they could provide an adequate education for the child.

New: Families under homeschool Option 4 now have a choice. They can either use a curriculum that includes the state SOLs for math and language arts OR provide evidence they can provide an adequate education. (This “evidence” can be proof that the parent can read and write clearly—a well-written notice of intent can establish this.)

3. No prior approval by the superintendent is required.

Old: A local official misinterpreted the homeschool law to say that families moving into a district or starting after the school year began cannot homeschool until the school superintendent gives approval.

New: An amendment makes it even clearer than before that families in either of these situations are not required to fully comply with the homeschool law until 30 days after they have filed a preliminary notice of intent.

4. Assessment Option 1 now includes more tests for parents to choose.

Old: Under assessment Option 1, parents could only use a test that had previously been approved for use in the public schools.

New: Parents can use ANY nationally-normed standardized test. (The composite score must still be at or above the 23rd percentile).

5. Assessment Option 2 is no longer subject to the superintendent's arbitrary discretion.

Old: Families were reluctant to use assessment Option 2. Even though it appeared to offer flexibility in the type of assessments that could be used, there was a potential conflict. The superintendent had broad power to decide whether to accept it as “evidence of progress.” Acceptance of the assessment was completely within his “judgment.”

New: The superintendent’s power to rely exclusively on his “judgment” has been abolished. He is now required to make a “determination.” This requires that he be objective, thus reducing the likelihood of arbitrary decisions. This should give families new confidence to explore assessments or evaluations other than standardized tests.

6. PSAT and AP tests for homeschoolers now required to be available.

Old: School boards were required to notify homeschoolers of the “availability” of the PSAT and AP tests, but were not explicitly required to allow them to take the tests.

New: School boards are required to allow homeschoolers to take the PSAT and AP tests.

Thank you for standing with us for liberty. Your phone calls and visits to legislators were vital in getting these three good bills enacted!