My first Legislative Report of the 2020 Session began with acknowledging that the growth of homeschooling is now seen as a threat. I predicted that we might see introduction of legislation to stem the growth of homeschooling or to increase regulation. We saw both.
The first pushback legislation was HB 4440 and its twin SB 637. This legislation, while ostensibly well-meaning, challenged the “innocent until proven guilty” tenet of American freedom. CHEWV posted extensively about the perceived threat in this article – which included a call to action. If passed, HB 4440 would have established a precedent that homeschooling should be viewed as a risk factor for child abuse. I believe that this assumption of guilt, rather than innocence, would have led to even more regulation of homeschooling in the future. Why? Because once established, legislators would have used this legislation to justify further homeschooling restrictions. We currently have the freedom to teach our faith and raise our children as God directs, but if the presumption of innocence were removed just because someone chose to homeschool, that would represent a departure from one of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system. Gratefully, the bill languished in committee.
However, this was not end of the threats to limit homeschooling or to increase regulation. As explained in greater detail in this article, CHEWV and I continued to address questions about the validity and success of homeschooling throughout the entire session. By God’s grace alone, we avoided increased regulation that was heavily and steadily promoted by opposing lobbying groups.
Homeschool Sports Legislation
As expected, and also addressed in my January 21st Report, sports access legislation was introduced, heavily debated, and finally passed in an inferior form.
We believe it is important that our members are aware that CHEWV’s primary purpose legislatively is to ensure that parents continue to have the freedom to direct the education of their children as God leads them. Guided by this commitment to safeguard our freedoms, CHEWV prayerfully resolved over fifteen years ago to intentionally engage in the shaping and passage of any proposed legislation to permit homeschoolers’ participation in public school sports programs. To this end, whenever such legislation has arisen, we have assisted in the crafting of legislation, provided testimony before committees, and expressed our concerns to state legislators.
When asked if we supported sports participation, we stated in committee that while sports participation was a privilege, homeschooled children should be permitted to try out for teams in their area, and this was because their parents believed these programs to be of benefit to their children. While we supported sports legislation in this way, we made it clear to legislators that our home education freedoms must be maintained and advanced.
Since 2006, many families have worked each year to encourage passage of a Tim Tebow bill. These families have come from all over the state of West Virginia. Their efforts in recent years even resulted in the passage of Tebow legislation in 2017, only to then see the governor veto their bill. Each year, their efforts have been supported not only by both the Senate and House Education Chairs , but also by many of the members on their respective committees who feel passionately about this issue. The legislative supporters view it as an issue of fairness, since homeschooling parents’ taxes fund sports programs. They also sincerely believe that participation in sports programs is beneficial to a child’s development.
This year’s legislation is making its way to the Governor’s desk, to await his response. Details are outlined here.
Not only did homeschoolers respond to our call to action related to Raylee’s Law, but homeschool families came out in large numbers on February 4th for Home School Day at the Capitol. CHEWV, WVHEA, and HSLDA all put out a call asking homeschooling families to come, and reports indicate that over 600 attended in order to put a positive face on homeschooling. Along with behind-the-scenes efforts, the direct involvement of homeschooling families makes all the difference! Never underestimate the impact of your presence, nor the power of prayer. We have seen His hand move mountains time and time again.
Now that the session is over and the 2020 election approaches, consider who you would like to see representing you at the State Capitol. Is the candidate or incumbent someone who thinks well of parents who opt to educate their children outside of the public school system? Or does he or she view your efforts to protect your family as a reason to be suspicious of your intentions and character? Take a stand with those who respect and value your choice to homeschool.
Finally, we remind you that Christian homeschooling is constructed on the vital pillars of parental rights and religious freedom. The Bill of Rights upholds the right of parents to direct their children’s education, and the courts have agreed. Since this legal precedent has come under substantial attack across the nation in the past couple decades, it is good to be reminded of these court decisions:
Wisconsin v. Yoder in 1972:
“The history and culture of Western civilization reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring tradition.”
Pierce v. Society of Sisters
“The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right and the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”
It is a privilege for me to represent the homeschooling community at our State Capitol. Thank you for your prayer and financial support. A special thanks is in order to those who gave to our first-time-ever legislative fund. Not only does this fund directly offset costs of our lobbying effort, it frees up other member monies to serve homeschooling families.