Through its dedicated team of Government Affairs volunteers, The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers works on behalf of homeschoolers in a variety of ways. Our most familiar work is monitoring legislation related to homeschooling and lobbying on behalf of homeschoolers in the General Assembly, but throughout the year, Government Affairs remains active, safeguarding Virginians’ homeschooling freedoms and assisting families and agencies across the state.
Our General Assembly work begins long before the annual General Assembly session does each January. In the fall, we review what our members have told us, via our annual survey, about their legislative and policy concerns, in order to determine our legislative positions and agenda for the upcoming session. We consult with other homeschooling groups that are active in Virginia (local, statewide, and national groups) in order to ensure that we present a united front, whenever possible. We also meet with the Virginia Department of Education and the Governor’s policy office to discuss their legislative agendas and positions on homeschooling-related topics, as well as to convey VaHomeschoolers’ perspective on important issues.
As soon as legislators begin filing their bills (right around the first of the year), our volunteer team of legislative monitors examines each and every bill to see if it could impact Virginia’s homeschoolers. We focus particularly on bills that address the home instruction and compulsory attendance statutes, the tutor and religious exemption provisions, driver education, truancy, curfews, tax credits, and access to public school services and programs. We also keep a watchful eye out for bills that could inadvertently affect homeschoolers.
Once we’ve identified bills of interest, we lobby as needed to achieve the best outcome for homeschoolers. Sometimes we craft and introduce bills of our own when circumstances warrant. In all cases, we focus on homeschooling topics only, and avoid issues of a religious or partisan political nature.
Virginia’s School Divisions
VaHomeschoolers works with individual school divisions in response to homeschooling families’ calls and emails regarding difficulties having paperwork processed, removing children from public school, or accessing programs through the public school system, among other areas. We always work with homeschoolers to empower them with information and understanding so that they can resolve many of these situations on their own, but in cases where it is clear that a concern is shared by many families, or when a school division is not appropriately responsive to an individual family’s efforts to address a situation, we do contact school divisions to assist with broader problem-solving.
When contacting school division officials, VaHomeschoolers always maintains a positive and professional approach, because this is the most effective way to get good results. Over the years, our school division liaison volunteers have consistently found that public school employees are committed to following the law and to appropriately fulfilling their responsibilities regarding homeschooling paperwork. In many cases, when homeschooling families experience problems, a brief meeting with school division representatives to clear up misunderstandings about homeschooling law and VDOE policy is all that it takes to reach an appropriate resolution. Public school officials are busy people, and are often very appreciative of VaHomeschoolers’ time in helping them to understand homeschooling law and making their jobs easier by reducing complaints and inquiries from homeschoolers. Sometimes we find that the source of the misunderstanding actually lies with homeschoolers, and we can help resolve problems by providing more information to families about the types of information they need to provide.
Our Government Affairs team also conducts regular reviews of school division policies and regulations related to homeschooling, and works with administrators and school boards to ensure that policies are in line with current law. We communicate regularly with superintendents and their staff, and offer our services to answer homeschooling-related questions that they or parents in their divisions may have.
Virginia Department of Education
In its role representing the interests of homeschooling families throughout the Commonwealth, VaHomeschoolers has worked to cultivate and maintain positive, open lines of communication with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The state agency that oversees public education is also responsible, through its numerous school divisions, for ensuring that homeschooling families file the necessary paperwork to comply with the law. In addition, VDOE provides oversight and support to school divisions in their development of policies and practices related to homeschooling, students exiting and re-entering the public school system, partial enrollment, and homeschooled students’ access to PSAT testing, some extracurricular activities, and programs such as Governor’s School. VaHomeschoolers’ strong relationship with VDOE is a valuable asset for homeschoolers throughout the Commonwealth.
VaHomeschoolers’ Government Affairs team meets with staff in the Governor’s Policy Office as needed to discuss policies, programs and legislation directly related to homeschooling.
We develop and carry out all of our legislative positions, policy initiatives, and school division work in response to the guidance given to us by VaHomeschoolers’ membership through our annual Member Survey.
Answers to Your Questions
VaHomeschoolers’ Government Affairs director responds directly to your questions and concerns sent via email to GovtAffairs. Our Government Affairs team also supports the VaHomeschoolers Helpline and Helpdesk teams with answers to questions related to legislation, the home instruction statute, working with school divisions, and much more.
The VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs team reports directly to our membership about our work and about legislative and school division topics of interest to homeschoolers. We issue regular Legislative Updates throughout each General Assembly session, as well as occasional updates to report our work with VDOE, school divisions, and the Governor’s office. We also provide timely news and information via the VaHomeschoolers Facebook page, and write in-depth articles for VaHomeschoolers Voice magazine to educate homeschoolers about legislative issues and related topics.
In addition to our efforts to keep homeschoolers informed about legislative and policy issues of interest to them, VaHomeschoolers educates legislators, policymakers and the media about homeschooling topics. We issue press releases about important legislation, respond to media inquiries, and write op-ed columns and letters to the editor. We have even met with representatives of the Virginia PTA to establish a better working relationship on education issues that affect all Virginia families, whether they choose homeschooling, public school, or private school (or some combination).