Home Schooling Progress during 2000 Legislative Session

By Delegate Tim Armstead

West Virginians who choose to educate their children at home won a victory in the West Virginia Legislature during the 2000 Legislative Session. Senate Bill 189, passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Underwood, provides for a one-year waiver of the requirement that parents have formal education at least four years higher than the most academically advanced child they wish to teach at home. Under existing law, prior to the waiver provided by Senate Bill 189, parents with a high school diploma who lacked formal education beyond high school were forced to discontinue teaching their children at home when their children advanced beyond the eighth grade level.

Senate Bill 189 will allow parents who have a high school diploma or equivalent to teach their children at home during the 2000-2001 school year, regardless of whether their educational level exceeds that of their children by four years. In addition, as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 189, the Legislative Oversight Committee on Education Accountability (LOCEA), will conduct a study of the "effects of the home instruction exemption on the students being instructed in the home." The study is to be completed by LOCEA on or before December 1, 2000.

The ability of parents to make decisions regarding the best way to educate their children and to share their knowledge and values with their children is extremely important. The passage of Senate Bill 189 will provide parents greater ability to make those decisions during the 2000-2001 school year. Home education in West Virginia has a proven record of success and students who are taught at home have, on the average, excelled academically. The study conducted by the Legislature will permit home educators to effectively present their case for permanent removal of the four-year requirement.

Parents of children educated in the home, as well as such students themselves, effectively persuaded legislators to place the waiver into effect and initiate the study during the 2000 Legislative Session. The parents and students were praised by members of the Legislature for the productive and professional manner in which they worked for passage of Senate Bill 189.

Supporters of Senate Bill 189 argued that, in the absence of the waiver established by the legislation, West Virginia remains the only state in the United States to require parents to have the additional four years of formal education in order to educate their high school age children at home. It is likely that the Legislature will further consider the results of the study undertaken by LOCEA and may revisit the issue of requirements for home educators during the 2001 Legislative Session.

Delegate Tim Armstead, (R-32), represents part of Kanawha County in the West Virginia Legislature and is a supporter of the bill and co-sponsor of related legislation introduced in the House of Delegates during the 2000 Session designed to remove the four-year requirement entirely. Del. Armsteadís email address is: tim1@worldnet.att.net