by John Carey, CHEWV’s Legislative Liaison
Where Things Stand on SB 451 As of This Morning
SB451 passed out of the House Finance Committee early this morning and will be on Second Reading Wednesday. In this morning’s committee meeting, the Chair unsuccessfully attempted to add back more Charter Schools and reinstate ESAs. Three Republicans on the committee, Delegates Westfull, Storch and Anderson, did not support his plan. However, when the bill gets to Second Reading tomorrow, floor amendments are expected to be introduced to increase the number of Charter Schools and restore ESAs.
The Public Hearings
The two public hearings held on Monday were populated by many public school teachers and administrators. However, some parents and other representatives came to show their support for both the ESAs and Charter Schools, some of my friends and former associates from private schools spoke in support of the ESAs, and even a few in the public school spoke in support.
ESAs and Home Schooling
As the bill advances and is amended, it is possible that Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, could be placed back into SB451. If this occurs, it is vital that the regulations governing the ESA program come under a separate section of state code from that of traditional homeschooling. Only by keeping the two systems of education separate will homeschoolers be able to maintain their freedom. If homeschoolers were to receive public money, such as ESA’s provide, then the civil government would seek ways to regulate their education. Public funding is always tied to increased government regulations. No-strings-attached Tax Credits are a superior way to support homeschooling since they are not tied to public funds.
Homeschool Perspective on ESAs
Some have opposed SB 451 ESAs because they believe that public school money is being redirected to home education and that home educators want this to be part of the bill. Nothing could be further from the truth. As has been stated, traditional homeschooling parents fund their children’s education privately and do not depend on government funding. These children thrive because their parents are free to do, before God, what they know to be best for them. Curriculum, teaching methods, and religious education are not subjected to government approval. In comparison, public education has evolved into a highly regulated, top-down form of education. Homeschool parents are content to be left alone. Public funding is the last thing these parents would ever seek to receive.
Other Parents Want More Freedom
At the same time, it should come as no surprise that parents who do not have the time or resources to homeschool would desire public funding so that they, too, can gain the freedom to meet the individual needs of their children. Some want to use ESAs for private schooling, while others want to use the funds for what has been called Independent Study. All want to remove regulations and gain the freedom to create programs they believe to be best for their children. Clearly, homeschool parents are not the only ones who take a stand for their children! As long as there are parents and children, there will be battles like the one we are witnessing today.
As we stand now, homeschooling is not affected by this legislation. Let’s pray that we’re not drawn in.