March 17, 2008

Legislative Round Up: Governor Signs Bills Improving Homeschool Law

First of all, on March 11, Governor Tim Kaine signed H.B. 1183 into law, effective July 1, guaranteeing families who file a notice of intent the right to submit two new kinds of year-end assessments:

1) An evaluation letter from a person licensed to teach in any state, or a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline, having knowledge of the child’s academic progress, stating that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress; or

2) A report card or transcript from a community college or college, college distance learning program, or home-education correspondence school.

This is a major step forward for homeschool freedom. Previously, public school superintendents had simply refused to consider these types of assessments. Your phone calls were instrumental in this victory! Home Educator’s Association of Virginia and Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers provided major support.

Special thanks go to Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, who filed this bill at HSLDA’s request. His leadership was pivotal during the struggle for passage. Our thanks go as well to Governor Kaine, who has consistently signed bills to improve Virginia’s homeschool law, and under whose leadership the Department of Education has developed an excellent working relationship with homeschool organizations.

Secondly, on March 5, Governor Kaine also signed H.B. 767 into law, simplifying and easing the homeschool start-up requirements. Previously, a family filing a notice of intent had to show one of the following at the beginning of the year: 1) possession of a high school diploma; 2) possession of a teacher certificate; 3) use of a state-approved correspondence course; 4) use of a curriculum that included the state standards of learning (SOLs) for math and language arts; or 5) ability to provide an adequate education. H.B. 767 combined 3) and 4) and simplified them so that the only requirement is the provision of a “program of study or curriculum.”

Effective July 1, the four start-up options therefore will be: 1) possession of a high school diploma; 2) possession of a teacher certificate; 3) provision of a program of study or curriculum, or 4) ability to provide an adequate education.

We have helped families during many struggles in the past when parents tried to begin their homeschool program under the start-up option that required including the state standards of learning. Goochland County, for example, caused great turmoil in the homeschool community a few years ago when they began calling families in and demanding to see their books so they could determine whether every math and language arts SOL was included! We are glad to see this go!

Also under the old system, using a correspondence program would only satisfy the start-up requirement if it was previously approved by the Department of Education. The Department wanted to get out of the business of approving homeschool correspondence courses and instead simply trust homeschool families do their own research.

As of July 1, families can forget about wondering whether their favorite correspondence program has been approved—or whether it includes the SOLs. Any program of study or curriculum will suffice if that is the start-up option you choose.

Although two homeschool-friendly tax credit bills and a sports access bill failed to become law, bills HSLDA members opposed also failed to become law—H.B. 1540, a bill that would have undermined parent-taught diver education; H.B. 438, tying learner’s permits to attendance; and the original version of H.B. 1382, which would have allowed social workers breathtaking new power to file lawsuits against families.

God has truly used this legislature to bless Virginia homeschoolers.