HSLDA recently sent an email to their members that included this line:
Lobbyists who want to reduce your freedom have been visiting lawmakers urging them to support HJ 92. Will you help counteract their influence?
Just who are those “lobbyists”? I happen to know because I read Ryan Stollar’s blog.
Last week, I had the honor of working with an amazing team of homeschool alumni (and one non-homeschooler) in Richmond, Virginia. All of us—representing ourselves and our growing alumni community, investing our own money, energy, and time—traveled to Richmond to vocalize support for HJ 92.
Those “lobbyists” are homeschool alumni. Interesting detail to leave off there.
And what is this “freedom” these homeschool alumni want to reduce? This:
Virginia is the only state in the U.S. that allows parents to claim a religious exemption from compulsory education laws. While parents who homeschool under Virginia’s homeschool statute must have their children assessed by standardized test or portfolio review annually, parents who claim religious exemptions are not legally required to educate their children or provide any proof of educational instruction or advancement.
These homeschool alumni are working to reduce the “freedom” of homeschool parents to not educate their children. Another interesting detail to leave off there.
Virginia House Joint Resolution 92 would call on the Virginia Department of Education to conduct a study of how school districts are applying the state’s religious exemption to school attendance (click here for my previous blogging on the topic). The central issue appears to be whether or not children’s views are being taken into account when granting the exemption, as is required by law.
The law states that the child and the parent must both have a religious objection to school attendance in any form for an exemption to be granted, and it has become apparent over the last several years that many school districts are only asking the parents’ views. HSLDA has been working to keep school districts from asking the children’s views for decades, so this shouldn’t be surprising. HJ 92 would examine how each district is granting religious exemptions in order to determine whether the law is actually being carried out—i.e., whether children are being asked their views.
While some parents claiming the exemption may actually educate their children, the exemption quite literally makes it legal for a parent to not educate their children. Virginia has a homeschool statute already, so even abolishing the religious exemption altogether would be no threat to parents’ ability to homeschool. It would only be a threat to their ability to educationally neglect with impunity. There are currently nearly 7,000 Virginia children whose parents have obtained religious exemptions. We do not know how many of them are being educated.
I want to finish by giving you some resources and then explaining how you can help.
- Why HJ 92 Is Important and Necessary to Support Virginia’s Homeschooled Children, Protect Homeschool Children Working Group
- Virginia: HJ 92, Coalition for Responsible Home Education (view as pdf)
- Virginia: Homeschool Law and Background, Coalition for Responsible Home Education (view as pdf)
- 7,000 Children and Counting: An Analysis of Religious Exemptions from Compulsory School Attendance in Virginia, University of Virginia School of Law’s Child Advocacy Clinic
- Student’s Home-Schooling Highlights Debate over Va. Religious Exemption Law, Washington Post
- A Critical Review of Research on Virginia’s Religious Exemption, Coalition for Responsible Home Education (view as pdf)
How to Help
First, please sign the petition and share it with others.
Second, regardless of where you live, you can call or email any of the following delegates, who are on the committees that matter the most at the moment. Understand that they have received hundreds of calls from homeschool parents at HSLDA’s request, and will continue to receive calls. According to HSLDA’s alert, there will be a committee hearing Friday. If you live in Virginia, your call may be especially important, and if you live near Richmond and can visit any of these delegates, that would help as well. If you are going to make a call or a visit, you may find it helpful to look over the talking points and myths and facts in this packet.
Steven Landes (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1025
M. Kirkland Cox (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1066
Terry Kilgore (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1001
R. Lee Ware (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1065
S. Chris Jones (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1076
Robert D. Orrock (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1054
Barry D. Knight (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1081
Riley E. Ingram (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1062
Jimmie Massie (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1072
Gregory Habeeb (R)
Phone: (804) 698-1008
Johnny S. Joannou (D)
Phone: (804) 698-1079
Kenneth R. Plum (D)
Phone: (804) 698-1036
Algie Howell, Jr. (D)
Phone: (804) 698-1090
David J. Toscano (D)
Phone: (804) 698-1057