By Karen Skelton, VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs Director
The VaHomeschoolers legislative monitoring team has been hard at work this month: we search for bills in the General Assembly which may impact homeschoolers, meet with legislators to discuss these bills, and attend hearings. Our goal is to keep you informed. Following are highlights from the list of 20 bills we are watching and/or taking action on.
HB 1578 Participation in interscholastic programs (Sports Access or Tebow Bill)
Voted favorably out of the House Education Committee on Jan. 18, and passed the full House [60-Y 38-N] on Jan. 24. The bill has crossed over to the Senate for a second round of hearings and votes. Expect a committee hearing on February 9th or 16th. Please see our complete coverage of this bill, and find more info below for ways you can actively help VaHomeschoolers support this bill. Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville)
HB 2007 Dual enrollment courses
In another effort to expand opportunities for homeschoolers, Del. Bell has been laying the groundwork for equal access to low-cost/no-cost tuition for dual enrollment community college courses. This typically applies only when such community college courses are offered onsite at a public high school, and may require a homeschooled student to enroll as a part time student in order to qualify for any lowered tuition as may be granted public high school students. VaHomeschoolers supports. Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville)
HB 2355/SB 1414 Participation in AP and PSAT/NMSQT.
These are companion bills which seek to have school boards adopt written policies that more clearly describe how and when they will notify homeschooling families of PSAT registration. School districts are already required to notify homeschooling families of the PSAT, but the code does not specify how or when that occurs, and some students have missed registration deadlines as a result. VaHomeschoolers supports. Del. Brenda Pogge (R-Williamsburg), Sen. Steve Newman (R-Forest)
HB 1605/SB 1243 Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts
This is the third year that Del. LaRock has introduced a version of an education savings account bill. Earlier versions had more potential for homeschoolers to participate than the 2017 version. We will continue to report on these bills because the details can change at any time (one amendment has already been made this week to HB1605), and because it is noteworthy for families who have children in public school but who are seeking other options. VaHomeschoolers neutral. Del. Dave LaRock (R-Hamilton), Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico)
Other Bills of Note
VaHomeschoolers works hard to protect your homeschool freedoms and stay focused on this mission. We maintain homeschooling as our only agenda and do not advocate for or against bills which are not directly related to homeschooling. With this in mind, we are not taking any position on the following bills, but share them because they may inadvertently affect homeschoolers, may apply when transferring to or from public school, or include information that is typically disseminated through schools to parents.
SB 1519 Meningococcal conjugate; immunizations, requirement of one dose before child enters sixth grade
Adds one vaccine to the Board of Health regulations governing the immunization of school children: one dose of meningococcal conjugate (MCV4) to be administered before the child enters the sixth grade.
This just in as we go to publish: the bill has been removed at request of the patron. Sen. Jennifer McLellan (D-Richmond)
Alternatives to public school
There are four bills seeking to establish statewide access to the Virginia Virtual School. These are typically met with opposition. A joint resolution (put forth annually) to authorize the establishment of charter schools has already failed to pass as of 1/24/17.
How You Can Support the Sports Access Bill
You don’t have to be directly affected by this bill to support it. Our annual member surveys clearly show strong support for amending eligibility rules for interscholastic sports and activities. Families who are not affected directly by this rule continue to support passage of this bill as a matter of equity for homeschoolers in general.
- Contact your state senator and/or any senators on the Health & Education Committee to express your support for HB1578. If you know your senator has supported the bill before, be sure to call anyway and thank them for their continued support.
- Plan to attend the Senate Committee meeting when the bill is on the agenda. The most likely date for this are Thursday, Feb. 9 or Thursday, Feb. 16. Committee meetings are held at 8:30am in Senate Room B. Your physical presence can make a difference, so spread the word and start planning today! You can find information about directions and parking here. We will let you know as soon as we have a hearing date.
- In addition, consider writing a letter, an email, or making a phone call to the governor’s office expressing your support of HB1578. Please encourage neighbors, friends, and family in Virginia to do so as well. Gov. McAuliffe has vetoed this bill two years in a row. Can we prevent a third? Let’s do our best.
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.