Advocacy is for everyone. Any concerned parent can become an advocate for homeschooling freedoms. And so can you. This article is the second in a series of steps you can take to become an effective advocate for homeschooling in your community.
Step 2: Know the Players in Your Community
Plumbers fix leaks and clogs. Electricians fix wires and circuits. Roofers fix leaky roofs. So, who “fixes” the homeschooling laws, policies, and regulations in your community?
Homeschooling laws and policies don’t come out of thin air. They are created by well-intentioned men and women who may not know much about homeschooling. Laws and policies can be created, eliminated, or improved if we work with these men and women to fix them. Effective advocates know who these men and women are, know where to find them, and know how they can help with homeschooling problems.
State Delegates and Senators
State Delegates and Senators write and amend the laws of Virginia, including the state laws governing homeschooling. Your delegate and senator are elected officials who represent your district in the Virginia General Assembly every year, and meet with constituents year round.
To contact your local state delegate and senator, go to the Who’s My Legislator page and fill out the form. (You only need to fill in the asterisked fields.) Within seconds, you’ll have names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and a list of all legislation patroned or supported by your local lawmakers.
School Board Members
School Board members write and amend the local policies and regulations for your school district. The school board also reviews claims for religious exemption. In most parts of Virginia, school board members are elected officials who are accountable to the public. Depending on where you live, you may be represented by two school board members: both the board member for your section of the school district and an “at-large” board member who serves the entire district.
To contact your local school board members, visit the School Division website, select your school district website, then select the “School Board” link to get names, phone numbers, and other contact information. You can also call or write your local school board office for this information.
The Division Superintendent of your local school district is charged by law with reviewing notice of intent and proof of progress paperwork and making sure that it is in compliance with the law. He or she may also be influential in determining local policy regarding homeschooled students.
To contact your local Division Superintendent, visit the School Division page, select your school district website, then select “Division Information” or “Superintendent” or something similar for the Superintendent’s phone number and e-mail address. Your local public school will also have this information.
The Division Superintendent frequently delegates the task of handling homeschooling paperwork to an administrator or staff person with a fancy title like “Home Instruction Specialist” or “Director of Special Education Services.” In addition to processing notice of intent and proof of progress paperwork, he or she may also write semi-annual form letters to local homeschoolers or answer routine questions about homeschooling. While this administrator may be well known to the homeschooling community, he or she has very little legal power or authority; in most cases, he or she is only carrying out the policies of others.
If your school district has a special administrator who handles homeschooling paperwork, you can generally contact him or her through the Division Superintendent’s office. Contact information may also be available on your school district’s website, or on the form letters sent to homeschooling families each year.
Your Mission: Take a few minutes to learn who writes and administers the homeschooling laws and policies in your local community. Make a list of what you find, and keep it handy so you’ll know who to call if you ever have a problem or concern. Think about how this information might apply to your family and homeschooling friends, and who in your community might be best able to help you.
Next Step: Know Your Local Policies.
Article by Celeste Land. Originally published in the January-February 2006 VaHomeschoolers Newsletter. For more information on Virginia homeschooling legal and political issues, please contact VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs.