Top Lawmakers Push for Fair Treatment of Homeschoolers
by Mike Donnelly • January 30, 2018
It was a great privilege last week to meet with some of the highest-ranking legislators in West Virginia to discuss improving opportunities for homeschooling families.
Following the January 16 homeschool day at the Capitol, which was organized by Christian Home Educators of West Virginia, I was joined by the CHEWV legislative liaison, John Carey, and met with the Senate President, Speaker of the House, Chairmen of the House and Senate education committees and the governor’s office.
Although I spent six extra hours in the airport due to weather delays, I was delighted by the available opportunities to advocate for home education.
In our meetings, I communicated HSLDA’s interest in two pieces of legislation that will be introduced in the near future. These would make it easier for homeschooled students to get a driver’s license and would remove the outdated GED requirement for homeschoolers to get the Promise Scholarship. We encountered positive responses from everyone we talked with and are optimistic that the legislation will get the attention it needs to become law.
We hope that with the governor’s new party affiliation he will be more favorable to legislation and less likely to veto it. His new chief of staff is Mike Hall, a former state senator who has supported home education legislation during his tenure in office.
Friends in High Places
Two officials in particular, Senator Patricia Rucker and Education Vice Chair Senator Robert Karnes, were extremely helpful in assisting John and me as we met with so many influential legislators. Senator Rucker was elected in 2016 from Jefferson County, and Senator Karnes in 2014 from Upshur County. Senator Karnes is seeking re-election this year. Both Senators Rucker and Karnes are home educating parents and have been tremendous supporters of our community.
It is invaluable to have individuals of their caliber in the legislature. Both told us that they felt that there was a lot of support for the work we’re doing.
During our conversation with the Senate Education Chair Senator Kenny Mann, we had the opportunity to talk about Senate Bill 528, which caused a big stir last year. Senator Mann made it very clear that he had not meant to create problems for homeschooling families.
He said the law had not properly communicated his intent, which was to deal with specific situations where abusive parents were seeking to remove their children from public school in order to escape scrutiny. He agreed that this was a rare occurrence and told us that he supported the right of parents to homeschool. He shared that he knew of a variety of people who homeschooled and whose children were obviously thriving.
Constantly on the Alert
Last week the West Virginia House Education Committee rejected House Bill 4007, which would have allowed homeschooled students to be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities at the local public school. Currently, the Senate is considering Senate Bill 130, which would also provide homeschooled students with eligibility to participate in extracurricular activities.
Last year I was able to present a national perspective on equal access laws to help the legislature understand the national adoption of these laws. Although HSLDA is neutral on equal access legislation, we follow these proposals closely to insure there are no unintended negative consequences from their passage.
At the CHEWV Capitol day a representative from Governor Jim Justice’s office spoke and commended homeschooling parents for their commitment to their children’s education. He acknowledged the positive track record of homeschooling and shared the governor’s warm welcome.
Advocating for homeschooling freedom is one of the most important things that we do. By working closely with state organizations and homeschool communities, HSLDA attorneys review and track hundreds of bills that are related to homeschooling. HSLDA’s new Legislative Action Center makes our advocacy work more accessible and efficient and we invite you to check it out here.
It is a privilege to serve homeschooling parents. Protecting our freedom is just one of the many things HSDLA does to make homeschooling possible. When we all join together we can protect our freedom and also help each other. HSLDA serves individual member families with information, advice and legal services. Your support is essential to our ability to protect our movement. If you are not a member please join us today!