Several states are considering bills that would level the playing field for homeschool students in a range of issues—from finding jobs to paying for college.
The results so far provide cause for hope.
Protect and Serve
In Alabama, Senate Bill 67 would clarify that homeschool graduates are just as qualified to serve on a police force as are any other adults who have completed high school.
As HSLDA staff attorney Dan Beasley explained, “the current law unfairly discriminates against graduates who do not have state-issued diplomas.”
Because the minimum education standards for police officers in Alabama require a diploma from an accredited high school, homeschool graduates who wish to apply for law enforcement jobs have to obtain alternative credentials, such as a GED.
Beasley said this requirement seems especially unfair, considering that homeschool diplomas are recognized as fulfilling the education requirement for those who wish to serve as firefighters.
S.B. 67 would correct this inequity by adopting the standards for firefighters and applying it to police officers.
A Question of Residency
In Nebraska, lawmakers are working to end an inequity that has forced some homeschool parents to navigate unnecessary bureaucracy.
Legislative Bill 92 would establish that a diploma issued by a Nebraska parent is sufficient for proving that a high school graduate really is a Nebraska resident and qualifies for in-state college tuition.
“It’s just leveling the playing field,” explained Beasley.
He pointed out that, under the current policy, homeschool parents have been made to produce additional documentation to establish what should be a given—that they do indeed reside in the state.
“One mom was asked to show the deed of her home,” added Beasley. “This unfairness is alarming to Nebraska homeschool students who have applied for and received college scholarships—which are then placed in jeopardy until they can prove they are in-state students.”
Meanwhile, West Virginia legislators are considering a bill that would make it easier for homeschool teens to find part-time work.
Currently, high school students who want a job must first obtain a work permit from their local public school superintendent. Senate Bill 435 would allow these superintendents “to authorize school principals or administrators at nonpublic school to issue a work permit.”
HSLDA senior counsel Mike Donnelly said this means homeschool parents could approve their own children for work.
“It’s a common sense approach for reducing red tape,” Donnelly added.
Change in Atmosphere
Donnelly and Beasley said that all of these bills are making good progress and stand a reasonable chance of being enacted.
Given the struggles home education advocates have faced in the past, Donnelly added, the prospect of witnessing the passage of even more improvements to homeschool law is especially gratifying.
For example, Donnelly said, “ten years ago in West Virginia, homeschool law was restrictive and the atmosphere in the legislature was hostile. Since then, we’ve had quite a revolutionary change.”
As in other states, grassroots activism by homeschool families, combined with the increased presence of state groups such as CHEWV, WVHEA, and Heritage Communications, have helped bring changes for the better.
Another huge help is the fact that a growing number of adults who homeschooled their children or who were homeschooled themselves are getting elected to office. Included in this group is Patricia Rucker, who chairs the West Virginia Senate’s Education Committee.
As Donnelly puts it, “Thanks to a lot of work by families and friends, we’ve been able to push some good legislation.”
And there’s more to come.