This is the fifth in a series of posts that I’ve decided to do as a post-session look at the bills considered by Virginia’s General Assembly. For now I’m focusing on bills that passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate. At some later point I might also write about bills that were considered, but did not pass. In my last post in this series wrote about HB 1035 which dealt with eminent domain reform. This post will look at HB 1208 which clarifies the requirements related to what homeschooling parents must submit to school officials.
HB 1208 Home instruction of children; limits required description of curriculum.
SUMMARY AS PASSED:
Home instruction of children; curriculum description. Requires that the description of the curriculum, which a parent electing to provide home instruction to his child in lieu of school attendance must submit to the school division superintendent, shall be limited to a list of subjects to be studied during the coming year. This bill is identical to SB 564.
Full text of bill available here.
Chief patron: Delegate Brenda L. Pogge (R) - House District 96
Co-patrons: Senator Richard H. Black (R) - Senate District 13 (sponsor of SB 564).
Passed the House of Delegates 77-23. Passed the Senate 25-14. Signed by Governor McDonnell on April 4.
In Virginia (as with most states) parents that decide to educate their children at home are required to abide by certain regulations. Depending on the locality,some school boards have made the decision to impose more requirements on parents who homeschool than might be actually required by state law based on their understanding of the term “description of the curriculum” under current law. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, “many school districts interpret this term in dramatically different fashions, causing unnecessary confusion and extra work for homeschoolers.”
Quite simply, HB 1208 removes the guesswork for both localities and parents. The bill specifies that a description of the curriculum is simply a list of the subjects that will be studied. The bill does not affect instruction standards that must be met by homeschooling parents; those are subject to a separate process.
The only witness to testify against the bill when it was brought up in committee was a representative from the Virginia Education Association who claimed that the bill "lowered the standards" for homeschooling. Since standards are a separate issue, it seems like the VEA representative was likely uninformed about either HB 1208 or the existing homeschool laws. Either way, that testimony likely had very little effect since the bill passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate by comfortable margins.
I think the implications for liberty are fairly obvious with this bill. It is parents and not government that should have control over the upbringing and education of their children. For those parents who have taken upon themselves the responsibility for the education of their children, every measure that limits the ability of the government to interfere is something to be glad about.