Governor Justice Signs Off on More Freedom for Homeschoolers
by Mike Donnelly • April 3, 2018
After years of legislative advocacy by HSLDA, CHEWV and others, Governor Jim Justice recently signed two measures to ensure fair and equal treatment of homeschooled students in two important areas: access to state scholarship funding and driver’s licensing.
The new laws represent a major achievement for homeschool supporters.
It can take years of advocacy to get even one piece of legislation passed in a session. Yet in the last three sessions, Home School Legal Defense Association—in partnership with Christian Home Educators of West Virginia—has successfully advocated for several critical pieces of legislation that are transforming the homeschooling environment in the Mountain State.
Equal Access to Scholarships
The passage of Senate Bill 319 means homeschooled students will no longer be caught in an administrative Catch-22 that effectively prevented many from applying for the state PROMISE Scholarship.
The scholarship awards students who meet certain academic requirements up to $4,750 toward tuition and fees at West Virginia colleges and universities.
However, homeschooled students who applied for the scholarship in the past were told they had to take either the GED or TASC high school equivalency exams or they wouldn’t be eligible. Many homeschooled students under the age of 17 applied and were accepted at colleges that qualified for the funding, but these same students were prohibited by law from taking the exams unless they were also enrolled in the West Virginia public school credit recovery program.
With the new law taking effect July 1, homeschooled students who apply for the PROMISE Scholarship after that date will no longer have to take the TASC in order to qualify.
For homeschooled students under the age of 17 who are seeking the scholarship before that date, the West Virginia Department of Education has told HSLDA that they are issuing waivers on a case-by-case basis.
Driver’s Licensing: More Power to Parents
Current law in West Virginia grants wide discretion to public school superintendents to determine if a child is eligible to obtain a driver’s learner permit or license. HSLDA has represented homeschooled students over the years who were refused such eligibility certificates for no good reason.
When Senate Bill 364 takes effect May 31, parents will be authorized to issue a statement in lieu of the public school issued driver eligibility certificates for their homeschooled students.
HSLDA wants to express its appreciation to the many homeschooling families and organizations who helped to make this legislation possible.
It’s a real privilege to be able to represent homeschooling families in Charleston, despite the fact you can still encounter hostility to home education there. I was surprised recently to hear some public school teachers actually telling legislators that homeschooling should not be allowed in West Virginia.
This kind of anachronistic attitude demonstrates why it’s so important for HSLDA and CHEWV to be at the capitol on a regular basis and continue to move forward good legislation for homeschooling families.
CHEWV’s legislative liaison, John Carey, has been tireless in his efforts to maintain good relations with legislators. CHEWV’s board has helped with research and advocacy. Hundreds of homeschooling families took action when asked—making phone calls, sending emails and visiting legislators.
State Senators Patricia Rucker and Robert Karnes, both homeschooling parents, were instrumental in their support. Senator Rucker was the primary sponsor on SB 319; Senator Kenneth Man, chair of the Senate Education Committee, was the sponsor of SB 364, and instrumental in helping both pieces of legislation move forward. House Education Committee Chair Paul Espinosa and House Judiciary Committee Chair John Shott contributed by placing the bills on their respective committee agendas.
The home education community has friends in Charleston, but it takes time, energy, and resources to maintain the goodwill. Your support of HSLDA and CHEWV is vital to our ability to continue make homeschooling secure and accepted in West Virginia. Will you take a moment to support both organizations with your membership or a contribution so we can continue to serve you and your family in the capitol?