VaHomeschoolers Legislative Report: December 16, 2011

by Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs

VaHomeschoolers Invited to Meet with Governor’s Policy Advisors

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is pleased to report that President Parrish Mort and Director of Government Affairs Amy Wilson were invited to meet this week with staff responsible for legislative affairs and policy development for Governor Robert McDonnell.

On Thursday, December 15, Parrish and Amy traveled to Richmond to meet with Julia Hammond, Director of Legislative Affairs and Policy Advisor, as well as Christy Morton, Deputy Director for External Affairs and Policy Development, both serving the Office of the Governor. Topics of discussion included the upcoming 2012 General Assembly, and the wide variety of legislative and policy matters that affect homeschooling families.

VaHomeschoolers emphasized that our legislative and policy positions are directed by our members, via our annual survey, and that homeschooling families are not identical in their views, even on issues directly pertaining to homeschooling, such as tax credits and high school sports access. The topics covered during the meeting were wide-ranging, including tax credits, part-time academic enrollment, high school sports and extra-curricular access, virtual schools, curriculum descriptions, and difficulties getting academic credit encountered by students transitioning back to public school during the high school years.

Governor McDonnell’s Education Priorities

Ms. Hammond and Ms. Morton indicated that education is a high-priority topic for the governor. McDonnell plans to continue to work toward the development of an accreditation scheme and a sustainable and fair funding system for virtual schools. VaHomeschoolers explained some of the drawbacks of virtual schools from a homeschooling perspective, such as lack of flexibility when compared to parent-directed homeschooling, lack of clarity regarding access to special education and other ancillary public school services, and the fact that these programs are tied to the Standards of Learning tests. We also discussed some ways that virtual schools could be made more attractive to homeschooling families, such as by allowing part-time enrollment, finding ways to reduce costs and increase accessibility, and expanding programming to include high school courses.

VaHomeschoolers is pleased that Gov. McDonnell is a strong supporter of homeschool sports access, an area we have been working to address for years. Ms. Hammond explained that the governor “wants this [issue to be] resolved this year.” As the 2012 General Assembly is poised to begin in a few weeks, VaHomeschoolers hopes that this will indeed be the year that high school sports access becomes a reality for homeschool athletes who want a chance to try out.

VaHomeschoolers’ Working Relationships Benefit Homeschooling Families

VaHomeschoolers described during the meeting the positive working relationship that we have developed with staff in the Virginia Department of Education, which helps us to address concerns related to public school divisions and home instruction through administrative channels, rather than through legislation. We explained that two current areas of concern are the lack of clarity about the level of detail required for a curriculum description and the issues that homeschoolers entering public school in high school often encounter in seeking academic credit for work completed while homeschooling. The Governor’s staff expressed an interest in working together with VaHomeschoolers and VDOE to address these concerns.

A working relationship with the Office of the Governor is another way that VaHomeschoolers serves its membership. While elected office-holders and their appointed staff come and go over the years, we will continue to work with Virginia’s executive branch to pursue the interests of the homeschooling families.

If you have questions or comments about this meeting, please email Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs.

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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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