Across the States
Capping a major legislative effort in which Home School Legal Defense Association worked closely with the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) and the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, Governor Tim Kaine recently signed three bills that increase freedom for homeschoolers in Virginia!
Two years ago, HSLDA and HEAV worked closely together to pass the “high school diploma” bill through both the House and the Senate. HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka, HSLDA Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff, and HEAV Board Member Yvonne Bunn provided testimony, thousands of calls from homeschoolers poured in, and HSLDA persuaded the chairman of the Senate Education Committee to switch his vote and support the bill. Yet former Governor Mark Warner vetoed the legislation.
We are grateful to Governor Kaine for signing these bills and taking a stand for homeschool freedom! The bills went into effect July 1, 2006. They bring the following six changes to Virginia homeschool law:
- Homeschool Option 1 is now available to all parents with high school diplomas.
OLD: Homeschool Option 1 was only available to parents who had earned a college degree.
NEW: Homeschool Option 1 is now available to any parent who 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 this requirement: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/
- Including the Standards of Learning (SOLs) in your curriculum is no longer mandatory under Homeschool 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 supply evidence that they could provide an adequate education for their 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 that they can provide an adequate education.
- No prior approval by the superintendent is required to homeschool.
OLD: Although prior approval by a superintendent was not previously required under Virginia law, school officials sometimes misinterpreted the law to say that families moving into a district or starting to homeschool after the school year began could not homeschool until the school superintendent gave approval.
NEW: A new 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.
- Assessment Option 1 now includes a larger selection of tests for parents to use.
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.
- Assessment Option 2 is no longer subject to the superintendent's arbitrary discretion.
OLD: Even though Assessment Option 2 appeared to offer flexibility in the type of assessments that parents could use, there was a potential conflict: the superintendent had broad power to decide whether to accept the assessment as “evidence of progress.” Acceptance of the assessment was completely subject to his “judgment.” As a result, families were reluctant to use this assessment option.
NEW: The superintendent’s power to rely exclusively on his “judgment” has been abolished. He is now required to make a “determination.” This requires him to be objective, thus reducing the likelihood of arbitrary decisions. This should give families new confidence to explore assessments or evaluations other than standardized tests.
- PSAT and AP tests must be made available to homeschoolers.
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 the enactment of these three good bills!
— by Scott A. Woodruff