By Karen Skelton, VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs Director
March 27th was a difficult day for many homeschooling families in Virginia as they learned that Governor McAuliffe vetoed HB 1626, the sports access bill that was passed by both the House (57-41) and the Senate (22-13) during General Assembly. Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) has notified leadership and asked for a veto override, something which will occur on Wednesday, 15 April 2015. A veto override requires 2/3 majority of votes in both the House and the Senate. The challenge now is to get an additional six votes by Democratic senators who voted against the bill in February. If you want to improve this bill’s chance of an eleventh hour comeback, be sure to read below for actions you can take.
But before you take action, read this compelling article by our own Jeanne Faulconer, just published today as an op-ed in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Details for Taking Action on HB 1626, Sports Access Bill
The General Assembly will reconvene on Wednesday, April 15th to take up any vetoed bills for an override vote, which requires a 2/3 majority in both houses. The biggest challenge right now is to get an additional six votes in the Senate. In February, all No votes on this bill were cast by Democrats who, along with Governor McAuliffe, seem more interested in playing partisan politics than representing the will of the people. According to an annual poll conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University, statewide support for allowing homeschooled students to participate in local public school sports has increased from 67% to 72% (2012 to 2014.)
Here is a list of the senators who voted against HB 1626, followed by five who abstained:
- George Barker (D-39)
- Creigh Deeds (D-25)
- Adam Ebbin (D-30)
- John Edwards (D-21)
- Barbara Favola (D-31)
- Janet Howell (D-32)
- Mamie Locke (D-2)
- Dave Marsden (D-37)
- Don McEachin (D-9)
- John Miller (D-1)
- Chap Petersen (D-34)
- Dick Saslaw (D-35)
- Jennifer Wexton (D-33)
- Louise Lucas (D-18)
- Tommy Norment (R-3)
- Toddy Puller (D-36)
- Walter Stosch (R-12)
- John Watkins (R-10)
If your senator is on this list, call or email to express support for overturning the veto on HB 1626. And if you are a Democrat, be sure to include that fact so that these senators might come to understand that homeschoolers are represented across the entire political spectrum. You might remind your senator that this bill does not mandate school divisions to do anything; rather, it simply allows them to decide at each locality if they’d like to allow homeschoolers to try out. This would operate the same as a current system that allows school districts to offer homeschoolers part-time enrollment – something already available in 50% of the districts.
Find more information about the sports access issue on our website.
Want to read more? Here is a recent article at Eduwonk.com by Andrew J. Rotherham, a former member of the Virginia Board of Education who writes extensively on ways to improve education.
All the other bills we’ve reported on since January are complete, and some will take effect in July 2015, meaning they can have some influence on the current school year (such as end-of-year testing.) This list will also include the status of two bills that failed but which members expressed interest in knowing about.
Bills that passed
- HB 1754 — Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun) — Amends the Home Instruction statute under Testing Options by specifying that the PSAT, SAT, or ACT may be used as Evidence of Progress. Note this does not include AP exams. This change goes into effect July 1st, 2015, meaning that you can submit such scores for the current school year.
- SB 1403 – Sen. Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield) –This is the Senate counterpart to HB1754. It was “conformed” to the House version, meaning it now has the same language as HB1754 (by removing the International Baccalaureate assessment as a test option.) Effective date is July 1st, 2015.
- HB 1307 — Del. Steven Landes (R-Weyers Cave) — Removes the requirement to submit social security numbers of students enrolled in public schools to Virginia Dept of Education (VDOE). VaHomeschoolers asked Del. Landes to amend the bill to include the words “or receiving home instruction” so that the same protections would be afforded to homeschoolers. Effective date is August 1st, 2015.
- SB 1293 — Sen. Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield) – This is the Senate counterpart to HB 1307, and removes the requirement to submit social security numbers of students enrolled in public schools to Virginia Dept of Education (VDOE). Effective date is August 1st, 2015.
- SB 1383 — Sen. Richard Black (R-Leesburg)– Prohibits school boards from disclosing to the Virginia Department of Education (VDoE), or any other agency, information submitted by parents or students under the Home Instruction statute or religious exemption. Effective date is July 1st, 2015.
Bills that failed
- HB 1753 – Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun) – Originally intended to remove the requirement for Evidence of Progress for “children who begin home instruction on or after the first day of February of the school year.” An amended version left in the requirement for end-of-year testing or portfolio evaluation, but stated that students would not be subject to remediation or other penalty if they failed to show evidence of progress. Passed the House 73-24 but failed to get out of Senate subcommittee.
- HB 2238 — Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun) – Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts. This bill was intended to provide funds for alternative education for disabled students who leave the public schools. After much wrangling and some amendments, it passed in the House and went on to an even more wild ride through several Senate committees. Finally, a tie vote in the Senate (18-Y 18-N 1-A) was decided by the chair, who voted no and defeated the bill. Video of some of the lively debate is available here.
If you have any questions or concerns about this legislation, or any other legislative issue, please contact VaHomeschoolers’ Director of Government Affairs, Karen Skelton, at GovtAffairs