A bill heading to the Senate floor looks to alleviate pressure for West Virginia homeschool parents.
The West Virginia Senate Education Committee approved a bill a few weeks ago that aims to alleviate some pressure off of West Virginia homeschool parents. Senate Bill 541 looks to change the way homeschooled students are evaluated. The Republican-backed bill will next head to the full Senate for approval.
Under current law, West Virginia homeschool parents must provide annual academic assessments to their local county school board at the end of grade levels 3,5,8, and 11. The law’s current format is in place to ensure that homeschooled children are meeting required academic levels. If approved, the new legislation will only require caregivers of homeschooled students to submit academic assessments once for the child’s entire homeschool career, with the requirement being that the parent submits the assessments at the end of the child’s first year of homeschooling. If the county board deems the child as meeting or exceeding requirements, no other tests would ever be required.
Led by West Virginia Republican Senate member Mike Azinger, Senate Bill 541 would implement drastic changes to the current laws set in place. Azinger and other supporters of the West Virginia homeschool bill suggest the legislation will alleviate pressure from homeschool parents. To support the notion, supporters like Senate Finance Chair Eric Tarr, argued that only one assessment is needed throughout a student’s homeschool career. Stating that any types of issues would be seen within the first year, Tarr and other supporters believe the ongoing need to document evaluations is redundant. “In the first year, those types of problems are going to be seen. If you have somebody who’s been showing that they’re adequately serving their child and their educational purposes for a year, they’re not going to suddenly turn and go the other way,” said Tarr. Similarly, others who advocated for the proposed bill have a strong belief that a student’s education should ultimately stay between the parent and the child.
While the West Virginia homeschool bill passed the Senate Committee in a 20-13 vote in February, there are still adversaries fighting the bill as it makes its way to the Senate floor. Democratic Senator Mike Romano expressed heavy opposition to the bill as he argued that the proposed legislation could lead to some homeschooled students falling behind without accountability. Iterating that the state would be making a “terrible mistake” by turning a blind eye to kids’ education assessments over a span that could reach 12 years is irresponsible of the government. “I wouldn’t want that to happen in public school, wouldn’t want it to happen in private school, wouldn’t want it to happen in parochial school, [and] wouldn’t want it to happen to homeschoolers,” Harrison said.
According to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, (CRHE) homeschool assessments and evaluations differ quite a bit from state to state. Currently, a total of 24 states require assessments. Much like with West Virginia homeschools, however, nearly all the states offer options that allow homeschooling parents to circumvent the required assessments. Of the most stringent states, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia homeschools (for the foreseeable future)homeschooled students are required to be assessed. However, most states often require little accountability with low thresholds for intervention. As West Virginia homeschool parents and lawmakers look to make the state more relaxed on assessment requirements, the move comes at a time when homeschooling options remain on the rise. According to reports, the number of West Virginia parents opting for a homeschool curriculum has drastically increased following the COVID pandemic. After the sweeping victory for backers of the bill, Senate Bill 541 will once again be voted on as it heads next to the Senate floor.