CHARLESTON, W. Va. – West Virginia lawmakers want to make it easier for homeschooled students to receive a Promise Scholarship – a $4,750 a year grant toward college.
Legislators introduced one bill to eliminate a requirement for homeschooled students to earn a GED before qualifying for a Promise Scholarship, and another that would reduce red tape and reporting requirements for parents, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports.
The latter would also allow parents to remove their kids from public schools without giving two weeks notice, as is currently required, and would task superintendents with providing a good reason for objecting to a parent’s decision to homeschool their children. The legislation, HB 4175, would also eliminate a high school diploma requirement for homeschool instructors.
“A lot of parents are pulling their kid out because there’s bullying or some other serious thing going on,” Don Kincell, Christian Home Educators of West Virginia board member, told the news site. “They are trying to protect them from something the school is either unwilling or unable to guard against.”
Officials in some areas of the state are apparently aggressive in their fight against parents who want to educate their own children.
“We had a lot of counties go beyond the law and actually try to threaten parents,” Kincell said. “The state Board of Education and local boards seem to by trying to tie truancy to home schooling.”
The Promise Scholarship bill, HB 4215, would award scholarships to home school students who score in the 85th percentile on the ACT or SAT college entrance exams, which is significantly higher than the threshold for high school graduates. Public school students, however, must also have a 3.0 grade point average to qualify, according to the Gazette-Mail.
“We’re trying to streamline the process for homeschool kids to qualify for the Promise Scholarship,” state Republican state Delegate Brian Kurcaba told the news site.
Democrats hate the bills, with some claiming homeschooling parents simply let their children run wild.
“I see kids on a four-wheeler all day long, and they’re home-schoolers,” Delegate Ralph Rodighiero said.
Rodighiero is sponsored by the West Virginia Education Association, the statewide teachers union, which typically opposes all educational options that don’t directly benefit its members.
Ballotpedia lists the WVEA among Rodighiero’s largest contributors in the 2010 elections.
Regardless of the obvious conflict of interest, the Charleston Gazette-Mail used the delegate’s argument to urge against the homeschool legislation in a recent editorial.
The news site’s concerns are purportedly centered on academics and ethnic sensitivity.
“Especially troubling is a plan to let home-schooled youths obtain Promise Scholarships without first passing a high school GED test. The bill would require home-schooled students to score at least in the 85th percentile on a college entrance exam … but all these exams are not interchangeable. The SAT, for example, is not a comprehensive test. It omits specific subjects essential to a high school diploma,” the Gazette-Mail opined.
“Every West Virginia teen, regardless of where educated, should meet the basic benchmark of earning a high school diploma first.”
And another thing.
“Public school student mix with youths of many different ethnic and economic backgrounds, so they learn first-hand that society is widely diverse,” the editorial continued. “We worry that home-schooled children may wear blinders and know only the views of their parents.”
Ironically, the news site pointed out in the story on the proposed legislation days before the editorial that it’s not really the homeschool students that officials should be worried about the most.
Kurcaba pointed out that home-schooled students regularly outperform public school students on standardized tests.
“We should be lifting up the home-school community,” he said. “The statistics out there are very good.”