July 2, 2007

House Bill 634: Reduces the Requirements for TOPS Eligibility

Representative Steve Scalise


A bill has been introduced to reduce the discriminatory policy imposed on homeschoolers who hope to become eligible for TOPS awards. House Bill 634 passed out of the Education Committee 15-0 and went to the full House. The full House unanimously passed the bill on June 14, 97-0. House Bill 634 now goes to the Senate.

Thank you for all of your hard work and prayers. The TOPS bill passed the Senate on June 25th. Because there were a few minor amendments in the Senate, the bill went back to the House for concurrence. The House agreed to the amendments on Tuesday, June 26th, just two days before the Louisiana Legislature adjourned for the year. Only one Senator opposed the bill, and the House voted unanimously for House Bill 634. Praise God!

The bill now goes to Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco for her signature. We don't anticipate any difficulties.

The passage of House Bill 634 really has been a joint effort. With HSLDA helping mobilize support, your phone calls, and CHEF of Louisiana's work in the Legislature, TOPS awards are now going to be more accessible for homeschool graduates. A number of homeschool parents and students testified in favor of the bill, which also contributed greatly to its passage.

Once House Bill 634 is signed into law, it will be easier for a homeschool student to be eligible for a TOPS award. Under the bill, a homeschool student will have to score 2 points higher than public or approved nonpublic school students on the ACT for a TOPS-Tech or Opportunity Award but only 1 point higher on the ACT for a Performance or Honors Award.

Currently the minimum ACT scores a public or approved nonpublic school student is required to receive to be eligible for TOPS are:
(1) For a TOPS-Tech Award- 17,
(2) For an Opportunity Award- 20,
(3) For a Performance Award- 23,
(4) For an Honors Award- 27.

Thus, a homeschool student would be eligible for a TOPS-Tech Award with a 19, an Opportunity Award with a 22, a Performance Award with a 24, and an Honors Award with a 28 on the ACT.

The passage of House Bill 634 is a victory for several reasons. If the bill had not passed, homeschoolers would have gone back to having to score 3 points higher on the ACT for all TOPS Awards. Additionally, while homeschoolers still have to score higher than their public or approved nonpublic school counterparts, homeschool students are not required to meet the core curriculum requirements established by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Thank you for your part in fighting for greater freedom in Louisiana!

4/30/2007Referred to the House Education Committee
6/14/2007Passed House , roll called on final passage, yeas 98, nays 0.
6/25/2007Passed Senate as amended. Final vote 35 to 1.
6/26/2007Passed House as amended by Senate. Final vote 97 to 0.
6/29/2007Sent to the Governor for Executive Approval.

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA supports this bill

Action Requested:
No action is needed at this time.

The Louisiana state financial aid program, TOPS, is been open to homeschool students who have been enrolled in approved home study program since the end of their 10th grade year. However, in order for a homeschool graduate to receive any TOPS aid they must score at least 2 points higher on the ACT than the minimum score required for public school students.

Currently the minimum ACT scores a public school student is required to receive to be eligible for TOPS are:
(1) For a TOPS-Tech award—17,
(2) For an Opportunity Award—20,
(3) For a Performance Award—23,
(4) For an Honors Award—27.

While HSLDA is neutral on bills that would provide government benefits to homeschoolers we oppose discrimination against homeschoolers. Since Louisiana already provides TOPS funding to students in homeschools HSLDA maintains that the two point difference between public school and homeschool students is too discriminatory.

All Louisiana homeschoolers need to stand together for freedom, whether they choose the private school or approved home study option. In our opinion, reducing or eliminating the two point penalty for approved home study programs would not create a significant risk of increased regulation for families who choose the private school option.

 Other Resources

Bill Text    (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)