February 24, 2023
In 2021, West Virginia passed a School Choice law that gave state education money to parents to spend on behalf of their children. It included homeschooled students.
West Virginia homeschoolers worked hard to ensure the law had provisions protecting homeschoolers who do not take the government education money from accountability regulations designed for those who do take the money. The protection mechanism was to separate those who take the state money into a group legally distinct from those who do not take the money.
Fast forward to 2023. West Virginia legislators file a bill to delete the protection mechanism of the legal barrier between homeschoolers who take the money and those who do not.
The bill gets a hearing and is passed by the House Education Committee to go on to the entire House for a vote. The reason given to support the bill is weak at best. (Legislators can always come up with some rationale to support bad bills.)
Here is a summary of the issues raised by this bill for West Virginia homeschoolers:
WV homeschool families remain concerned that rules placed on Hope students will be applied to all homeschool students. This seems a more reasonable objection than ever since the assurances given two years ago are already threatened by this bill. The very existence of HB3408 undermines claims that homeschoolers have nothing to worry about regarding future legislation. This bill is a reversal of a legislative assurance after less than two years.
But there is an issue here, too, for US homeschoolers nationally. Prominent School Choice advocates refuse to address it.
What if there are follow-on School Choice regulations placed on homeschoolers who do not accept government funding?
We have a clear Canadian example where regulations were imposed on all homeschoolers because some homeschoolers took government education money:
I have personally observed the consequences of home schoolers receiving government money in other nations. I serve as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Home School Legal Defense Association of Canada.
The province of Alberta had always been one of the least regulated provinces to home school in until, in the early 1990s, legislation was passed to give all home school parents a government voucher of $500 per child.
The very next year, complex requirements were enacted for all home schoolers, transforming Alberta into one of the most regulated provinces. When questioned, the Alberta Minister of Education explained the new regulations were necessary since they had to know about the home schoolers since many were receiving the voucher money.
Christopher Klicka, Home Schooling: The Right Choice, January 2000, pages 216-217
And now we have the West Virginia example of a legislative attempt to dismantle protections for homeschoolers against similar unwarranted regulating.
The pattern is emerging:
- Government gives education money to some homeschoolers along with accountability regulations.
- Non-funded homeschoolers erect a protective legal barrier to prevent the accountability regulations from spilling over onto them.
- Government dismantles the protective legal barrier.
- All homeschoolers become subject to the accountability regulations, even if they do not take the money.
I have written:
Will School Choice advocates try to nullify homeschooler defenses in the future? They have fought step by step against our interests so far. If they continue on their current trajectory, the answer is Yes, they may well do just that.
That future has come. It is now.