VaHomeschoolers Legislative Report – January 19, 2005

by Celeste Land, Government Affairs

The Virginia General Assembly opened for business on January 12, beginning what promises to be a very eventful session for homeschooling interests. The legislature is considering an exceptionally large number of bills which directly affect homeschoolers. As always, the Government Affairs team of VaHomeschoolers (formerly known as VHEA) is working round the clock to make sure that Virginia’s diverse community of homeschoolers is well represented in Richmond this year.

This year, VaHomeschoolers has requested two bills (HB 1767 and HB 1770) which we believe will benefit homeschooling families in our state. In this special Legislative Report, we would like to inform our members of the status of these two special bills as they make their way through the legislature.

PSAT/AP Testing Notification

HB 1767 (Dillard, R-Fairfax). This bill, requested by VaHomeschoolers, would require school districts to notify homeschooling families of the availability of Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) and advanced Placement Exam (AP) testing in the public schools. HB 1767 would also require school districts to inform homeschooling families of the availability of financial assistance to low-income and needy students who wish to take these exams.

Unlike the SAT exams, the PSAT and AP tests are only offered to students once a year, and are only administered through the public schools. While the College Boards encourage local school districts to work with homeschoolers, some homeschoolers in Virginia have experienced difficulties registering for these exams, or have even been prevented from registering at all.

HB 1767 would make it easier for teen homeschoolers to register for the PSAT and AP exams through the public schools. VaHomeschoolers supports HB 1767.

Status of HB 1767: On Monday, January 17, VaHomeschoolers lobbyists Parrish Mort and Scott Price spoke on behalf of HB 1767 before the House Education Committee. After a very brief discussion, the bill was approved unanimously by the committee and will soon be voted upon by the full House of Delegates.

Testing and Evaluation

HB 1770 (Dillard, R-Fairfax). This bill, requested by VaHomeschoolers, would expand the number of testing options for parents filing under home instruction statute 22.1-254.1.

22.1-254.1 currently gives parents two options for testing and evaluating their children. They may submit “(i) evidence that the child has attained a composite score in or above the fourth stanine on a battery of achievement tests which have been approved by the Board of Education for use in the public schools or (ii) an evaluation or assessment which, in the judgment of the division superintendent, indicates that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.”

However, since the public schools stopped administering the Stanford 9 exams, there are no “achievement tests approved by the Board of Education for use in the public schools.” So, all achievement tests now come under the judgment of the local school superintendent.

HB 1770 addresses this problem by directing the Superintendent of Public Instruction to maintain a list of achievement tests which can be used to provide evidence that a child has attained a composite score in or above the fourth stanine. This will give parents additional testing options and added flexibility for complying with the law. VaHomeschoolers supports HB 1770.

Status of HB 1770: VaHomeschoolers lobbyist Scott Price spoke on behalf of HB 1770 when it was discussed by the House Education Committee on Wednesday, January 19, 2005. The bill passed the committee unanimously and now goes to the full House of Delegates for its approval.

Before HB 1767 or HB 1770 can become law, they must be approved by the full House of Delegates, the Senate Education and Health Committees, and the full Senate. VaHomeschoolers will continue to keep its members informed of the progress of these important bills as they make their way through the legislature.

Persons wishing to express an opinion on legislation should contact their own delegate or senator as appropriate. For complete text of these or any bills, see “Legislative Information” on the General Assembly’s web page at http://legis.state.va.us/ or contact VaHomeschoolers for more information.

The General Assembly’s Constituent Viewpoint office provides a toll-free, intrastate telephone message center (during session) to take calls from citizens of the Commonwealth wishing to express an opinion on legislation. Callers will be asked to provide their name, address, and the issue on which they are expressing their opinion. The message will be transmitted to the constituent’s appropriate legislators. If a caller seeks additional information concerning legislation or wishes to speak directly with a legislator, the operator will provide the telephone number. The hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The number for the toll-free opinion line is (800) 889-0229. Callers in the Richmond area may dial 698-1990.

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is a non-profit public charity with 501(c)(3) status; your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. A financial statement is available from the Virginia Division of Consumer Affairs upon request.

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