West Virginia public education authorities don’t have a good track record of being open to homeschooling. Unfortunately, they seem to choose disdain and suspicion over dialogue with homeschool families.
And as millions of new families nationwide are declaring their intentions to homeschool, a number of West Virginia public school systems appear more than concerned at the prospect of losing thousands of students.
In some cases, public school officials are trying to discourage families from homeschooling by spreading misleading information. In one county, the board of education discussed passing its own ordinance to restrict home education, even though its members have no authority under state law to do so.
Public school officials in Cabell and Jackson counties are sending letters to families in their districts. In an apparent attempt to dissuade people from homeschooling, these letters are telling families that “homeschool provides no credit for high school.”
This is utterly false.
West Virginia Code §18-8-12 explicitly authorizes homeschooling parents to issue diplomas as well as transcripts—which must be recognized. This section of the law was added several years ago to provide equal standing for all graduation credentials in all education programs recognized by state law.
Follow the Money
But with polls indicating the COVID-19 pandemic may prompt millions of families to decide not to participate in public school programs this fall, public schools are taking steps to secure their funding streams—which is tied directly to enrollment.
Again, this probably accounts for why the Cabell County letter promotes the public schools’ online program as a safe alternative for learning during the pandemic.
However, many families have already discovered that public school distance learning fails to provide the flexibility and custom education that homeschooling does.
When you enroll in a public school program, you are under its authority and supervision and must follow its policies, schedule, curriculum, and guidelines. Many virtual school programs follow state content standards. However, one of the major benefits of homeschooling is that it allows children to progress at their own pace and provides content that better matches each individual student’s capability.
As states grapple with the challenge to education presented by the pandemic, there will likely be many different approaches offered to parents. One thing public school officials should not do is misstate the law to frighten or threaten families who want something other than what the public schools offer. Regardless, HSLDA is here to provide accurate information, offer state-specific advice, and work with families who encounter problems when their homeschooling is challenged.
One parent who says she's found HSLDA helpful is longtime homeschooler Kathie Hess, who is running for the West Virginia Senate.
"With homeschooling gaining momentum at this time, it is always reassuring to know that when a homeschooling situation comes up that needs legal attention, HSLDA's Michael Donnelly is always there at the ready," she said. "I run the largest Facebook support group for homeschoolers in West Virginia (more than 7,000 members), and having been an HSLDA member for at least the last 10 years, I make sure to encourage all of those homeschool families to join for exactly this reason and more."
And there have been challenges to homeschooling.
In Hardy County, school board member Janet Rose expressed doubt about the teaching ability of homeschooling parents. Rose told the Moorefield Examiner that she “always gets concerned when children don’t have the experience of a professional teacher.” She also wants to require all homeschooled children take virtual classes.
Last year, Harrison County school officials expressed concern about children leaving their school system, saying that homeschooling “cost” public schools millions.
I am corresponding with these officials, pointing out that they are spreading misinformation and lack the authority to impose more restrictions on homeschooling families.
For almost 40 years, HSLDA has been serving individual families while protecting the entire homeschool movement. Together, we can keep homeschooling a freely available option.
It appears homeschooling is poised to grow exponentially. Making sure that citizens are accurately informed is something we can all do—and that’s especially important if we have to correct misinformation coming from schools.