Gazette-Mail Article

WV lawmakers seek to ease home-school regulations

(Please note that the HB numbers are switched in this article.)

For the second consecutive year, state lawmakers are seeking to ease restrictions on home-school students in West Virginia.

One bill (HB 4175) would remove the requirement that home-school students secure a GED diploma to qualify for the Promise Scholarship, which provides $4,750 a year in college tuition.

“We’re trying to streamline the process for home-school kids to qualify for the Promise Scholarship,” said Delegate Brian Kurcaba, R-Monongalia, lead sponsor of the bill and father of home-schooled children.

The House of Delegates and the Senate unanimously passed the legislation last year, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the bill, saying it could entice students to drop out of high school.

According to this year’s bill, students could qualify for the Promise Scholarship if they score in the 85th percentile on a college entrance exam, like the ACT or SAT. That would be four points higher than the ACT score that public school students must achieve to qualify for Promise. Public school students also must graduate with a 3.0 grade-point average to qualify.

Another bill (HB 4215) under consideration this year would ease home-school testing requirements and limit paperwork that parents must submit to county school officials.

Under the legislation, parents also no longer would have to notify county school systems two weeks before withdrawing their children from public school.

“A lot of parents are pulling their kid out because there’s bullying or some other serious thing going on,” said Don Kincell, board member with Christian Home Educators of West Virginia. “They’re trying to protect them from something the school is either unwilling or unable to guard against.”

Another provision would require county superintendents to show probable cause before getting a court order to deny home schooling.

“We’ve had a lot of counties go beyond the law and actually try to threaten parents,” Kincell said. “The state Board of Education and local boards seem to be trying to tie truancy to home schooling.”

On Monday, several House Democrats raised concerns that some home-schooled children could be left behind if the state eliminates academic progress and testing requirements.

“I’ll see kids on a four-wheeler all day long, and they’re home schoolers,” said Delegate Ralph Rodighiero, D-Logan.

But those who support the bill said home-schooled students typically outperform public school students on standardized tests.

“We should be lifting up the home-school community,” Kurcaba said. “The statistics out there are very good.”

The House Education Committee took no action on the bill Monday. The committee plans to resume discussions and vote on the legislation Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, committee members are expected to take up the bill that no longer would require home-schooled students to pass the GED exam to qualify for the Promise Scholarship.

Monday was “Home-school Day” at the state Legislature.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @ericeyre on Twitter.

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