John Carey, CHEWV’s long-time legislative liaison, along with board member James Summers spent today at the Capitol, talking with a variety of legislators and staff. They are confident that the legislators putting forth these bills do not wish to hurt homeschoolers but rather were motivated to ensure that Hope recipients have the same educational rights and privileges as homeschoolers do.
- The errors in the original bill that applied the regulations of subdivision 1 to all homeschoolers have been corrected in the current revision of HB3408. This satisfies one of our two major concerns.
- Also, the “second reading” of the bill on the House floor was delayed for one day. That afforded an extra day of collaboration.
However, there still remains a disconnect with our primary concern – that of combining publicly-funded and privately-funded students who are schooled at home.
When the Hope scholarship program was under development, CHEWV (and other homeschool groups) had major reservations about Hope IIP students and privately-funded homeschool students being placed in the same legal category. Based on the sensible concern that a government-funded program could eventually be subject to government restrictions, we worked hard to ensure that a clear legal distinction was put in place. Many legislators agreed, and the new “exemption (m)” was added to the state law as a separate exemption for Hope students.
At that time, lawmakers assured us that Hope IIP students would be kept separate from traditional homeschoolers. Yet HB 3408 and its current “improved” version both eliminate the separate exemption (m) and place IIP Hope students in the same exemption as homeschoolers.
The reasoning given is constitutional concern about equal protection under the law. However, we believe that the equal protection argument is weak at best:
- Most states have a variety of homeschool-style options available. Multiple states have three, four, or even five homeschool options. Yet we are not aware of any other states with equal protection concerns being raised.
- Other states with “educational spending accounts” or “educational savings accounts” are regulated separately from privately-funded homeschooled students. New Hampshire and Arizona are two examples.
HB 3408 in its current form continues to be unacceptable.
WV homeschool families remain concerned that rules placed on Hope students will be applied to all homeschool students. This seems a more reasonable objection than ever since the assurances given two years ago are already threatened by this bill. The very existence of HB3408 undermines claims that homeschoolers have nothing to worry about regarding future legislation. This bill is a reversal of a legislative assurance after less than two years.
The solution is to maintain a separate standalone exemption for HOPE scholarship students. This provides a firewall, so that there is no blurring of the legal lines between students in government- funded programs and students in privately-funded programs.
We are calling for more fervent prayer. Pray for eyes to be opened, minds to understand. Pray for us to have the proper words at the proper time. Pray that anyone with an evil intent will be silenced (God alone knows hearts and weighs motives). CHEWV’s key verse starts with the part you often hear from us: unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. But the rest of that verse seems apropos here: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Pray fervently that the Lord will keep our “city.”
Second reading is scheduled for tomorrow. Any amendment can be offered at second reading.