As we head quickly toward legislative season, it has become important to explain the stakes.
Where Are We Now?
The 1986 exemption from mandatory public school attendance that first allowed modern era homeschooling was a hard-won battle. Since then, we have continued to work diligently to remove unnecessary hurdles and maintain the legal recognition of the parents’ right to direct the education of their child with minimal government intrusion or entanglement.
Exemption C2, the homeschooling exemption, is minimally entangled with the government. There is no overseeing committee, no application or approval process, and relatively little regulation. Those freedoms, too, have been extremely hard won over decades of effort working with (and often against) state legislatures and the educational bureaucracies.
When West Virginia’s school choice legislation was passed in 2021, CHEWV worked hard to keep the Hope scholarship exemptions separated from the 1986 exemption for privately funded homeschooling – because we know that government funding means more regulation and less freedom.
Currently, Hope students, learning pod students, microschool students, public school students, private school students, and homeschoolers are all separated in the law – in entirely different exemptions. Each option has its own requirements specified in the law. And that’s how it needs to stay.
Where Are We Headed?
Based on this past legislative session and the chatter since, we have reason to believe that private homeschooling freedom is threatened. Under the guise of a worthy cause – equal rights and privileges for Hope students – we could all find ourselves being grouped together under the same regulations.
That is unacceptable.
It’s true that all students should have access to diploma equity, the PROMISE scholarship, and other benefits enjoyed by privately-funded homeschoolers. However, that equality needn’t come at the expense of private homeschooling. Assuring these benefits for Hope students can and should be accomplished by adding wording to the proper sections of law addressing those specific benefits – not by grouping everyone who does school at home under the same legal definition and requirements.
It’s imperative to keep privately-funded options completely LEGALLY separate from government-funded options. Privately-funded homeschooling that is led by the parent is the ultimate safety net for every child because it brings the child fully back under the loving safety and authority of the parent. We know that government funding is a desirable perk for many families, and perhaps even necessary for some families for private school tuition. BUT we still need to maintain the separate legal category for the “safety net” – so that it will always be there when any family needs it – without government pre-approval, without stipulations on what curriculum can be used, without unnecessary government intrusion.
Both privately-funded homeschooling and Hope individualized instruction programs can be used by parents to effectively educate their child. We can form co-ops and learn together, we can take field trips together, we can be friends and play together. But we cannot confuse the two legal exemptions. We can’t merge them together in the law and still maintain the integrity of that legal safety net for any family could one day need it.
What’s the Next Step?
What is needed right now is three-fold.
- Pray. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the Lord protect the city, the watchmen watch in vain.” Pray for the Lord to go before us and protect that which we’ve gained by His grace over the past three decades. Pray that He would disarm those who work against us
- Become knowledgeable. We recommend our recent article explaining how the private homeschool exemption is the safety net for all parents. Read carefully for how privately-funded homeschooling is different at its core than any type of government funded option.
- Use discernment. Sometimes proposals are well intended but will have unintended negative consequences. Sometimes words may sound good and reasonable, but they may be purposefully designed by an enemy of homeschooling who is seeking to lay groundwork to limit our freedom. Things that sound good or are well intended can still be very dangerous.
Please stay abreast of this issue throughout the coming months. It matters little whether you are a Hope recipient, a pod school student, or a private homeschooler. We all have a stake in maintaining separate legal exemptions. We can all be integrated in our educational activities, but maintaining this legal separation keeps us all safer as we move ahead.