West Virginians Experience Close Call
On February 1, 1990, H.B. 4452 was introduced in the West Virginia legislature. The bill was written by the State Department of Education, and the House Education Committee Chairman was the sponsor of the bill. Among other things, the bill provided for amending the home school law to the detriment of home schoolers. The present home school law specifies that a child must achieve an average score of the fortieth percentile on six subject areas tested. If a child fails, he will be tested again after a one-year remediation program. A second failure to achieve an average of fortieth percentile in rankings would render the home school program for that child illegal.
The new amendment would have required the child to score the fortieth percentile on each subject area. This revision would have made West Virginia the most difficult testing state for home schoolers in the union. The new law also demanded that test results must be provided to public school officials by June 30th. Don Fox, President of West Virginia Home Educators, immediately moved into action when he heard of the bill. The bill was assigned to a subcommittee which recommended passage. Attorney Michael Smith of HSLDA and several other private and home educators joined Don in meeting with the bill's sponsor and representatives indicated that they weren't sure why they had requested the change; they said they had to check with others in the Department. The legislative sponsor of the bill supported the home schoolers' position that the bill should be amended back to its original language, and this happened before the bill was passed by the House Education Committee.
Then another amendment was added to the bill to provide for a different means of evaluation for special education children. The bill remained in the Senate Education Committee until the final session. The home schoolers were led to believe the bill was going to die, which would have been fine. However, at the last hour, the language in the bill was attached to another bill, which provided for increasing public school teachers’ salaries throughout the state. The Senate passed it, and the Governor has indicated he will sign it.
The new special education evaluation guidelines which the Department of Education must develop to measure if satisfactory academic progress is being made were placed into exemption “A,” which is the old approval provision for home education. This was exactly what the home schoolers requested! A near disaster was averted because of the mighty hand of God and the diligence of the home school leadership in West Virginia.
The only new requirement which home schoolers must honor is that beginning this school year standardized test results must be submitted by June 30th.