The 2019 WV Legislative Session began with an effort in the Senate to improve public education by introducing Charter Schools – an effort that died in the House after teachers went on strike to protest. In a surprising move, the Tim Tebow bill was discharged on the House floor but then died just two days later. A Home School Tax Credit Bill passed House Education but was never put on the Finance Committee agenda. Thankfully, in the end, a bill that helps homeschoolers applying for the Promise Scholarship passed both houses and now awaits Governor Justice’s signature
Charter Schools and ESAs
The 130-page Education Omnibus Bill, championed by senators who are passionate about improving education in West Virginia, contained provisions for creating charter schools as well as Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), among many other things. While charter schools do not have the flexibility that homeschooling provides, they have been shown to provide more local control than is available in the public school system. ESAs would have provided government funds for public school parents to send their kids to private schools if they otherwise could not afford to do so. Most Delegates did not support the Senate bill and tabled it indefinitely.
ESAs versus Tax Credits
CHEWV’s main concern with SB 451 was to ensure that the ESA portion did not negatively affect the homeschool exemption, because government money nearly always precipitates government regulation. On the other hand, tax credits do not come with strings attached.
When legislators perceived that ESAs were not going to pass the House, they decided at the last minute to advance HB 3063, a bill that would provide tax credits for both private and homeschool educational expenses. While this bill passed House Education, there was not enough time for it to gain a hearing in House Finance.
The Tim Tebow Bill
A bill to enable homeschool and private school students to participate in public school sports was once again advanced by House delegates. After hefty debate by committee members, the bill was taken off the House Education agenda without a vote. Then in a surprise move on the House floor, when it appeared the bill was dead for the session, Delegate Ellington made a motion to Discharge the bill from the committee and place the bill on first reading. It passed First and Second Readings, but two days later, on Third Reading, the Tebow bill was tabled by the House indefinitely.
The Bright Spot: SB 636 The Promise Scholarship Emergency Rule
SB 636 was passed by the legislature and is on its way to the governor for his signature. When the Home School Promise Bill was passed in 2018, it created the need for a rule change in the Higher Education Policy Commission policy that governs the Promise Scholarship. This 2019 rule change, accomplished by the passage of SB 636, reflects the intent of the 2018 legislature to allow homeschool students to receive the PROMISE without having to take the GED/TASC.
CHEWV thanks all our members and friends for their prayer support, involvement, and especially for the membership money that makes our lobbying efforts possible. We would also like to thank HSLDA for the constant support they provide as we work year-round to defend and advance homeschooling freedoms at the West Virginia State Capitol.