With a quick flick of his pen, West Virginia Governor Cecil H. Underwood signed the bill, temporarily lifting one of the most restrictive home school requirements in the nation. It was law. For one year, the legislature had approved a pilot test to remove West Virginia's unique and unreasonably restrictive requirement that home school parents must have four years more education than their most advanced pupil. The "mountain state" reverberated with the rejoicing of home schoolers within its borders, and home schoolers across the nation rejoiced for their West Virginia counterparts' new freedom.
S.B 189 was a hard-won battle. John Carey of Christian Home Educators of West Virginia frequented the halls and phone lines of the capitol in Charleston until the bill was signed on March 22. Home School Legal Defense Association worked closely with CHEWV to educate and lobby legislators, and to alert HSLDA members for grassroots action. If this one-year experiment is successful, home schoolers hope for more long-term relief from the four-year rule.
This was one of the most significant legislative victories for home schoolers in 2000. Overall, America's home school freedoms were protected this year. In West Virginia and Colorado we won new freedoms. But some ground was lost when Georgia and Connecticut expanded compulsory attendance ages.
In the year 2000, 182 bills were tracked and amendments were reviewed in regular consultation with home school leaders in each state. We tracked 24 home school law bills, 41 compulsory attendance age bills, 4 testing bills, 2 voucher initiatives (Michigan and California), 11 tax credit bills, 2 driver's education bills, 15 religious freedom protection bills, 3 immunization bills, 9 parental rights bills, 27 child abuse bills, 17 truancy bills, and 1 private school bill.
A significant part of defending home school freedom involves state legislation-tracking bills, drafting improved language, lobbying statehouses, and providing expert testimony before legislative committees. HSLDA subscribes to a computerized tracking service that helps us locate and follow legislation in all 50 states. Home school and parental liberties come under attack from different directions: compulsory attendance ages and requirements, private schools, child abuse and neglect, home schools, religious freedom, parental rights, immunizations, state educational standards, education, testing, driver's education, curfews, higher education, and others.
What happens when we find a bill containing one of these red flags? HSLDA attorneys analyze it. If it constitutes a threat to home school-related freedom, we contact state home school leaders to work on a strategy. Sometimes, the leaders are the first to know about a pending bill, and they tell us about it. Often, we alert HSLDA members to contact their state legislators to oppose or support legislation. Our attorneys also call legislators, offer language for amendments, and provide research.
Key to the success of these legislative endeavors is the response of HSLDA members and other home schoolers to alerts. Legislators know home schoolers care about freedom and will act to preserve it-flooding state legislatures with phone calls, e-mails, faxes and personal visits. Thanks to all of you who diligently contact your legislators and support HSLDA to make our work possible.
Ultimately, we know that our success boils down to two factors-eternal vigilance of home schoolers across America and the mercy of an all-powerful Defender. The Lord is unchangeably faithful-yesterday, today, and tomorrow. May He prosper our legislative efforts to defend home school freedom in 2001.