West Virginia Lawmakers Vote to Ease Restrictions on Home School Parents

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - West Virginia parents will have an easier time home schooling their children if a bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the state House of Representatives this week, becomes law. It would remove the minimum education standard for parents educating their kids at home. More than 300 home schooled children and their parents braved a late season snowstorm to be present for Monday's vote.

The regulation, which has been on the books since the early 1970s, states that parents who teach their children at home must have at least four years more education than their children. That means that if a parent only has a high school diploma, that parent may not teach his or her children past the eighth grade.

The law was suspended a year ago, for one year, until delegates in the House decided whether to make the change permanent. The legislation, House Bill 2595, still needs to be taken up by the state Senate.

Scott Woodridge, a lawyer with the Home School Legal Defense Association, said the bill would remove an "archaic" law that no other states have and was enacted at a time when the success of home schooling was unknown.

"I call it archaic in the sense that home schooling had its resurgence in the early 1970s and no one knew for sure if home school parents really could teach their kids," Woodridge said.

"Laws adopted in that stage of the resurgence tended to be real restrictive and burdensome because no one knew how parents would do. As time went on, scientists found that on test after test and study after study, beyond any quibble, that parents were doing a fantastic job."

Woodridge, whose organization represents 275 families, also called the law "elitist," meaning, "If you have no college degree, you aren't good enough to teach their kids."

According to Woodridge, the performance of the parents is actually measured through assessment tests their children must take each year in order to show the state they are making sufficient progress.

However, the West Virginia Education Association disagrees. Spokesperson Kim Randolph said the assessments aren't enough because there is no standard for administering the exams. She said by striking the four year rule from the books, West Virginia is taking a step backwards in setting standards for education.

"It is an issue of standards for students getting an education," Randolph said. "Private schools and public schools have to meet certain standards to gain accreditation. Standards for both public and private schools keep going up, and this law is lowering the standards for home school children."

Randolph said lessening the restrictions on those seeking to teach their children at home makes the educational system vulnerable to abuse.

"If you want to have a whole group of kids out there who want to get by easy, they now can," she said. "I understand there are some kids who are home schooled very well and others who are not, and somehow there should be standards to monitor that."

John Carey, a home school parent and the head of the Christian Home Educators of West Virginia, compared the home schooling controversy to gun control, arguing that both involve individual liberties that are currently under attack.

"This issue, in many ways is bigger than gun control, except a lot of people like their guns, but they don't love their guns," Carey said. "[Home school parents] love their children and have demonstrated ... over the last year that they are successfully educating their children. It is not fair to the children to take away this right if they have proven success."