by John Carey, CHEWV’s Legislative Liaison
As soon as the West Virginia Legislature adjourned at midnight on the last day of the 60-day regular session, the legislature was called into a special session to discuss what the Governor has called “Education Betterment.” Immediately afterwards, the legislature recessed and returned to their districts to get input from their constituents.
At this time, it is unclear when legislators will reconvene to report the results of the public forums that are being held around the state. Some say at the end of April; others, during the interim in June. In any case, it must be before the start of the fiscal year, which begins on July 1st.
When I met with legislators on the last day of the regular session, they expressed their desire to hear from not just public-school parents and students, but from private school and homeschool families as well. In fact, if you want, I encourage you to coordinate with other homeschool families to set up a meeting with your legislators to discuss the issues that are important to you. After all, these folks represent you and are available to meet throughout the year.
Legislators are passionate about trying to do what is best for students and teachers. After many years of receiving reports of problems in public schools, they want to see a change in the system. This is why many current legislators are encouraging Charter Schools and ESA’s: they want to give parents more control over their children’s education, and they want to see new educational approaches that better meet students’ needs. They also want to help public school teachers who want more of a say in how they teach. Legislators want to see a bottom-up approach applied to education that will facilitate success in the classroom.
In the last two decades, I have attended well over 200 education committee meetings at the WV State Capitol and have watched as legislators seek to improve education quality. They really do care and want to be able to look back over their years of service with satisfaction and the knowledge that they made a difference.
At the same time, they do not always understand the needs of homeschool parents. For example, ESA’s are not a good choice for homeschool families, since government money is inevitably followed by government regulation. (Tax credits, which are not government money, would be a better fit for homeschoolers since they do not come with strings attached.) In addition, school sports is an option some home school parents would enjoy—but not at the cost of increased regulation. Legislators also do not always understand the importance of religious liberty and parental rights to homeschool parents and often need reminded with phone calls and letters.
When the legislature meets again before July to discuss how best to improve education, CHEWV will be there to meet with legislators and remind them of the legislative priorities that are important to homeschool families. We will remind them that we are funding our children’s education and doing, before God, what we know to be best for them and their education. By lobbying for WV homeschoolers, we will advance our freedoms and protect those families who have found an educational alternative that has proven to be successful in the Mountain State.
If you are interested in learning more about the issues which have an impact on home education, if you have any questions, or if you are interested in helping to protect the freedom to homeschool, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.