By Karen Skelton, VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs Director
The 2017 General Assembly adjourned on February 25. The VaHomeschoolers legislative monitoring team is now able to inform you of the outcome of most, but not all, of the bills we’ve been tracking. A few bills that passed are now waiting for action by the governor: to sign into law, to take no action and thus allow the bills to become law, or to veto them. Based on actions on the same bills in 2016, we do expect some more vetoes to come before the deadline of March 27th. Following are summaries of six bills of potential interest and relevance to homeschoolers.
HB 1578 Participation in interscholastic programs (Sports Access or Tebow Bill)
Governor McAuliffe vetoed this bill the day it arrived on his desk after it cleared both chambers of the General Assembly. He continues to hear from (and agree with) opponents who argue that homeschoolers do not abide by the same academic and attendance standards as public school participants. However, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) established a Homeschool Committee in October 2016 in which it compared the eligibility requirements of public school students with homeschooled students. The comparison appears favorable. If VHSL decides to change its own policy, it removes the need to move a bill through the General Assembly.
Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville)
HB 2007 Dual enrollment courses
This tuition equity bill passed the House but failed to pass the Senate Finance Committee due to a tie vote of 8-8. Del. Bell has already stated that he intends to submit this bill again in 2018 to establish equal access to low-cost/no-cost tuition for dual enrollment community college courses. Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville)
Del. Bell has sponsored a number of bills over the years in support of the homeschooling community. If you would like to send a message of thanks to Del. Bell, he can be reached at rob
HB 2355/SB 1414 Participation in AP and PSAT/NMSQT.
These companion bills passed without incident through both chambers. With no opposition expected from the governor the change should take effect July 1, 2017. The initial bills asked for school boards to adopt written policies that more clearly describe how and when they will notify homeschooling families of PSAT registration. An amendment added the preACT exam to the policy. School districts are already required to notify homeschooling families of the AP and PSAT exams, but the code does not specify how or when that occurs, and some students have missed registration deadlines as a result.
Del. Brenda Pogge (R-Williamsburg), Sen. Steve Newman (R-Forest)
HB 1605/SB 1243 Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts
Del. LaRock’s house version of this bill passed, but the Senate added a re-enactment clause, which is a legal term meaning ‘to kick the can down the road.’ This means the bill must pass again in 2018 in order to take effect. It also faces a veto by the governor on or before March 27, and is expected since he vetoed it in 2016.
Sen. Dunnavant’s senate version failed to cross over after a 21-19 senate vote was retaken and turned into a 20-20 tie vote. The lieutenant governor casts tie-breaking votes; his vote ended the bill.
The purpose of these bills is to redirect money allocated to local public schools to the parents of children with disabilities or in poverty and allow them to use the money for educational expenses.
Del. Dave LaRock (R-Hamilton), Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico)
SB1041 Drivers Ed examination re-takes
This bill makes two adjustments to drivers education exam policy: it lowers the age from 19 to 18 to reflect similar policy changes in 2017, and it broadens the definition of “licensed and approved driver training school” that a person may use to prepare for a re-take of the exam if they have failed it three times. This bill was approved by Gov. McAuliffe and will take effect on 7/1/2017.
Alternatives to public school
Four bills were introduced related to the Virginia Virtual School this year: HB1400, SB1240, SB1380 and SB1570. The latter two were folded into SB1240, which is identical to HB1400. (Having House and Senate versions of the same bill can improve chances of passing.) HB1400 is a good example of the re-enactment clause: it passed in 2015, but the addition of a re-enactment clause required passage a second time. It did pass in 2016, but then was vetoed by the governor. Expect the same outcome in 2017, or as some have described it, “Groundhog Day.”
Many thanks to this year’s legislative monitoring team, to lobbyist Scott Price, and to those of you who contacted your representatives or the governor about these or any other bills. Finally, we appreciate all our members who filled out the Annual Member Survey in September 2016. Your input provides direction for our legislative work each year.
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.