A Report on SB 319

by | Feb 14, 2018 | Legislative, News

God Works All Things Together For Our Good

by John Carey, CHEWV’s Legislative Liaison

SB 319, the Homeschool Promise Bill, has made it all the way to the Senate floor!  Your calls have been effective and more calls are now needed.  It is on First Reading today (Wednesday, February 14), Second Reading on Thursday – which is the amendment stage, and then up for final Senate passage on Friday.

On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee took SB 319 up for consideration. The meeting was contentious as Democratic legislators called the removal of the GED requirement as “Dumbing Down” the requirements to obtain the Promise Scholarship.  This made absolutely no sense since the GED has nothing to do with qualifying for college entrance but rather is designed for those who drop out of high school!  Ultimately, the Promise bill was laid over for consideration on Tuesday at 3PM.

On Tuesday, the first bill on the agenda was a gambling bill. The meeting, which was again very contentious, wore on for 90 minutes.  At 4:30 the committee members were worn out, and it looked like everyone was ready to go home for the day. SB 319 had not made it up for discussion. However, Senator Blair, the Finance Chair, asked who had come that day for the Promise Scholarship bill.  Fortunately, CHEWV members Paul and Donna Ludwinski and their 18-year-old son Aron had driven up from Welch. The Chair came to the back of the committee room to speak with them and asked if they could return the next day. Because they could not, he decided to run the bill. Without the Ludwinski family in attendance, the bill would not have been run that day.

Senator Rucker, the lead sponsor of SB 319, then entered the committee room to speak. Senator Rucker, as a homeschool mom, was able to testify from personal experience. Her testimony in support of the bill created a visible change in the way legislators spoke of the bill; she was able to put a face on the issue.

Senator Gaunch also spoke of his personal experience as a homeschool Grandfather. Not only did he share how homeschooling had helped his grandchildren, but he emphasized that to speak of homeschooling in a disparaging way, as was done in the Monday meeting, was not justified. Following the senator’s compelling and heartfelt testimony, Senator Boley spoke of her grandchildren and how one of them had to take the GED before he could go to college.

It was at this point that Senator Sypolt spoke, in detail, of how this bill was an affirmation of what was already in state law. He referred to the 2015 law that precludes discrimination by the state of West Virginia against the homeschool diploma. Sypolt argued that requiring homeschoolers to take the GED was a violation of state law; SB 319 is simply an affirmation of current state law.

Senator Palumbo went on to propose an amendment to remove the GPA requirement for all students equally – public, private and homeschooled – because it is the ACT/SAT score, not GPA, that is the final measure for the Promise. He was absolutely right!  Whereas about 45% of public school students receive a 3.0 GPA, only about half of those earn a sufficiently high score on the ACT to qualify for the Promise.

Yes, God worked it out!  And He used all of us to do it.  It’s my pleasure to represent CHEWV at the Capitol and to head the lobbying effort.  But the Ludwinski family was present to help at the suggestion of Mike Donnelly, WV’s attorney with the HSLDA. HSLDA also provided the legal understanding so that supportive senators could articulate solid and compelling arguments. Both CHEWV and HSLDA asked all of you to help, and you did. Your phone calls and emails were felt yesterday. You may not have been in the room, but legislators knew that you cared about this issue and they responded accordingly.

If the bill passes on the Senate floor, its next stop will be House Education. Please pray and act as we seek to make this change in the law together.  It is God who works all things for our good, but He clearly uses His people to accomplish His good pleasure. Please keep praying and be ready to act as SB 319 moves through the legislative process.

Pictured in header:  Homeschool student Aron Ludwinski with Senator Chandler Swope of Mercer County.