VaHomeschoolers Legislative Report – February 20, 2012

by Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs

Please Take Action Now to Support HB 947 in the Senate!
Curriculum Description Bill Progress Continues; Update on Homeschool Tax Credit Bill

Valentine’s Day was “crossover day” in the Virginia General Assembly. Crossover is the deadline for bills to be approved by legislators in their body of origin (the House of Delegates or the Senate) so that they can move on to the opposite body for consideration in their journey toward becoming law. Three homeschooling-related bills successfully met the crossover deadline, while another has been continued until 2013.

Take Action Now to Support HB 947 in the Senate

HB 947 To Be Heard

Del. Robert Bell’s (R-Charlottesville) homeschool sports access bill (HB 947), which would allow homeschooled students an opportunity to try out for sports and other programs at their local public high schools, has crossed over to the Senate, where it appears that it will be heard by the Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 8:30 a.m. Del. Bell has asked that homeschooling families please attend the bill’s Senate hearings to show their support.

This bill is facing a more difficult path in the Senate than it did in the House of Delegates. Our senators are less familiar with the topic because every homeschool sports access bill since 2005 has originated in the House of Delegates. This is the very first time such a bill has passed the House and made it over to the Senate side of the General Assembly. Opponents to the bill are working hard to build political pressure against it. Much of the media coverage has included misinformation and it has generated significant negative commentary from the general public. VaHomeschoolers has fielded many media calls and worked to provide reporters with accurate information about HB 947. We are also providing facts and position papers to senators, but contact from constituents who support the bill is crucial to the bill’s success.

Senate Success is Uncertain

This bill is not by any means a “sure thing” in the Senate; in fact, there is a good chance it might not pass. It is important that supporters of HB 947 contact their senators and make their voices heard, beginning with members on the Education and Health Committee. VaHomeschoolers’ Government Affairs team has met with a number of legislators; as a result, we believe that we can make no assumptions regarding how our senators will cast their votes. The past voting history and political party affiliation of your senator is not necessarily a clear indicator of his or her stance on this bill; nor is any other factor. Contacting your senator to request a YES vote on HB 947 demonstrates this issue is important to constituents; it is an effective method of supporting this legislation and does affect the voting decisions made by our legislators.

How Can You Support and Help?

VaHomeschoolers’ Government Affairs team met with Del. Bell last week to discuss strategy for the bill. Here are three things that homeschoolers who support this bill can do:

  1. It is especially vital that you contact your senator before March 1 if he or she is part of the Education and Health Committee (see below). Write, call or email to voice your support. If your senator is not on the committee, it is still vital to make contact to show your support for HB 947 and raise awareness, as opponents are doing so already. (Who’s My Legislator?)
  2. Plan to attend the hearing in Richmond on Thursday, March 1 to show your support (view details below). If your homeschooled child would like to testify, please help him or her prepare a brief 1-minute statement to read if there is an opportunity for testimony. (Del. Bell will be coordinating testimony just before the hearing begins.)
  3. Encourage other homeschoolers, friends, and family members in Virginia to contact their senators to express their support for HB 947. Please ask them to read VaHomeschoolers’ updated overview of reasons to support HB 947.

VaHomeschoolers is the only statewide homeschooling organization that is lobbying in support of homeschool sports access. If you value the overall work our Government Affairs team is doing for all issues, please keep your VaHomeschoolers membership up-to-date and consider making a donation to support our work. Our Government Affairs committee members are all volunteers, but the work still incurs costs that include the fees of our professional lobbyist, transportation expenses for frequent trips to the General Assembly, and printing and postage costs for information and publications supplied to our legislators and school officials. Memberships and donations support this work and help to expand our reach and effectiveness.

Senate Education and Health Committee Members

View 2012 Session Members online or find your senator below.

Curriculum Description Bills Update

Two nearly identical bills aimed at clarifying the curriculum description requirement contained in the home instruction statute continue to make progress toward the governor’s desk. Both HB 1208, patroned by Del. Brenda Pogge (R-Williamsburg) and SB 564, introduced by Sen. Dick Black (R-Leesburg), have successfully crossed over in the General Assembly. SB 564 passed the Senate on February 7 and was heard on February 15 in the House Education Committee, which assigned it to a subcommittee to be “conformed” to make its language identical to that contained in HB 1208. Meanwhile, Del. Pogge’s bill, HB 1208, has been assigned to the Senate Education and Health Committee, where VaHomeschoolers expects it will be met with approval in the near future.

VaHomeschoolers supports HB 1208 and SB 564.

Homeschool Tax Credit Bill Continued Until 2013

Del. David Ramadan (R-South Riding) is the patron of HB 1006, which would provide a state tax credit to offset homeschooling-related educational expenses. This bill was continued until 2013 by the House Finance Committee. VaHomeschoolers spoke with a staffer in Del. Ramadan’s office, who said that “almost all of the tax credit bills” this year were continued, due to larger issues in working out the state budget, and that this bill “was not singled out.” Del. Ramadan plans to modify the bill in response to the committee’s input and re-introduce it next year.

VaHomeschoolers is neutral on HB 1006.

Sports Access Hearing March 1

If you plan to attend the hearing, please email VaHomeschoolers so we can get in touch with you with the latest information or if the hearing is rescheduled.

  • WHO Homeschooling families and friends who support HB 947
  • WHAT Hearing of the Senate Education and Health Committee
  • WHEN Thursday, March 1 at 8:30 a.m. (Please plan to arrive 30 minutes early so that the bill’s supporters can coordinate with Del. Bell.)
  • WHERE General Assembly Building, 910 Bank Street, Richmond, Senate Room B
  • WHY Be present to show your support and to allow homeschooled students to testify in favor of the bill

Contact VaHomeschoolers

If you have any questions or concerns about this legislation, or any other legislative issue, please contact 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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