Originally Sent: 1/17/2014
|From the HSLDA e-lert service|
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Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.
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Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:
As you know from our last e-lert, Virginia Delegate Thomas Rust (R-Fairfax) has filed a measure, HJ 92, that seeks to question your freedom to practice your faith as you homeschool your children under the religious exemption statute.
Despite the many, many phone calls he has received, he refuses to understand that his most important job is to protect freedom. He refuses to pull back from HJ 92.
Now it is time to bring our message to the members of the House Rules Committee, where HJ 92 is now pending.
1. Sometime before Friday, January 31 (the committee might meet on that date), call, email, write, or visit your delegate if he or she is on the Rules Committee. See the list of committee members below. Use our Legislative Toolbox to find out who your delegate is. You can use information in this e-lert to craft a message for your delegate. Or your message can be as simple as: “Please do not support HJ 92. No study is needed. The religious exemption statute has been a cornerstone of religious freedom in Virginia for 37 years.”
2. If you live in Del. Rust’s district and have not gotten through to him by phone or email, please continue trying to contact him. If you do not live in his district, you can step down from efforts to call him.
3. No additional emails or calls are needed to the chairman of the Rules Committee, Delegate Bill Howell. (If you live in Delegate Algie Howell Jr.’s district, please contact him.)
Steven Landes (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1025
M. Kirkland Cox (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1066
Terry Kilgore (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1001
R. Lee Ware (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1065
S. Chris Jones (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1076
Robert D. Orrock (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1054
Barry D. Knight (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1081
Riley E. Ingram (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1062
Jimmie Massie (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1072
Gregory Habeeb (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1008
Johnny S. Joannou (D)
Phone: (804) 698-1079
Kenneth R. Plum (D)
Phone: (804) 698-1036
Algie Howell, Jr. (D)
Phone: (804) 698-1090
David J. Toscano (D)
Phone: (804) 698-1057
A study by Dr. Brian Ray showed that students homeschooled under the religious exemption score 33 percentile points higher than others on standardized tests.
The study itself would place an administrative burden on the state Department of Education and local school boards. But the measure provides no funds to cover these additional expenses. It is an unfunded mandate.
No study is necessary. All five of the questions that HJ 92 proposes can be answered right now—without a study.
The first question is how school boards decide if an exemption should be granted. The simple answer is that they follow the clear requirements of the statute.
The second question is whether school boards ever review their decisions. The answer is simple. Laws already on the books would allow a school board to review its decision if there is a good reason to review it.
The third question is whether school boards require an exemption to be renewed. The simple answer is that some do and some don’t.
The fourth question is whether school boards monitor the education of exempted students. The simple answer is no. They are exempt from all government education mandates.
The fifth question is whether the religious exemption statute should be amended to better carry out the state’s duty under the Virginia Constitution to provide free public education and compulsory attendance. This question shows that Del. Rust does not understand the Virginia Constitution.
The simple answer is that the religious exemption statute was never intended to implement the education sections of the Constitution. It was intended to implement a far older, and far more foundational part of the Constitution: Article 1, Section 15, which guarantees the free exercise of religion.
One homeschool graduate recently criticized the religious exemption statute claiming that because it allowed his parents to homeschool him without government mandates, he had to take remedial classes when he enrolled in community college. This complaint does not hold water. Sixty percent of all community college students take at least one remedial or developmental class. And despite the education he got at home, now he attends Georgetown University, one of the nation’s top 25.
Between 1976 when the religious exemption statute was enacted and 1984 when the home instruction statute was enacted, religious exemption was the only way to homeschool legally. It’s not likely, but if the home instruction statute were ever repealed, the religious exemption statute would still allow families to homeschool their children if they believe that enrolling their children in public school is against God’s will for them.
A number of Virginia Amish families stop providing formal education to their children once they finish 8th grade. These families could be in danger of criminal prosecution if the religious exemption statute is threatened. Many other deeply religious families place such an emphasis on separation from the state that they would refuse to file a notice of intent if the religious exemption were not available. They, too, could be in danger of prosecution if the exemption is threatened.
The religious exemption statute works so well and with so little controversy that during its 37 years of operation, it has generated only one lawsuit that has come before the Virginia appellate courts.
Legislative studies are often used to clear a path so more laws can be enacted. It’s obvious that Del Rust’s real plan is to use the results of the study (if it is conducted) to somehow support him in trying to take away some of your rights in the future.
Our web page for HJ 92 provides a link to additional talking points about HJ 92.
The Home Educators Association of Virginia, the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, and HSLDA are united in opposing HJ 92.
Thank you for standing with us for freedom!
Scott A. Woodruff
HSLDA Senior Counsel
P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>
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