WV officials push Common Core, reject Tim Tebow bill

Sunday, May 21, 2017
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

Tim Tebow headshotLegislators and other elected officials in West Virginia have divulged their hostility toward homeschooling, as well as their reluctance to fully recognize parents’ right to educate their own – with one senator calling for homeschoolers to abide by the Common Core and the state’s governor rejecting equal access to public school resources for homeschooled children.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has been fighting the government’s resistance to homeschoolers in the Mountain State, where officials are pressing them to return to the public schools or conform to their standards.

“Governor James C. Justice vetoed legislation that would have granted homeschool students equal access to public school vocational classes and sports, and a senator who opposed the 2016 homeschool modernization law has continued to disparage home education and suggest new ways to thwart it,” HSLDA reported. “During [the] floor debate on House Bill 2196 – which would have made homeschool students eligible for public high school extracurricular activities – witnesses heard Senator Michael Romano propose that homeschool students be required to follow the Common Core State Standards Initiative.“

War on homeschool

Having been a vocal opponent to home education in West Virginia for many years, Romano’s assault on homeschooling ultimately seeks to take away the inherent right of parents to teach their children as they see fit.

“[Romano] has done everything he can to oppose improvements in state laws that would benefit families who have chosen to exercise their fundamental liberty to educate their children at home,” HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly stressed. “Romano’s invoking the Common Core is tantamount to calling for increased government control over home education. Many parents reject the Common Core’s one-size-fits-all approach as antithetical to homeschooling’s ideal of providing individualized education.”

Romano continues to seek to force the Common Core on homeschoolers, but putting a wrench in is standars, the federally imposed standards are being criticized and derided by a growing number of state legislators.

“Likewise, West Virginia continues to introduce numerous bills requiring the creation of West Virginia-specific standards to replace the Common Core,” Donnelly continued. “No single bill has yet made it through both houses of the legislature.”

Peddling problems

It is argued that it makes little sense for public school officials to insist that homeschoolers enroll in the public schools, especially given that West Virginia public schoolers are among the worst academic performers in the nation – not to mention the fact that home learners far exceed conventionally schooled students in standardized testing across the curriculum and across the nation … on an annual basis.

“If West Virginia’s public schools were among the nation’s top performers, perhaps we could appreciate the governor’s and legislators’ points of view,” the Christian legal expert pointed out. “However, West Virginia public school academic achievement consistently ranks among the lowest, according to various education performance indices. As it stands, legislators have no excuse for making it harder for children to seek alternatives to an educational system that is among the worst-performing in the country.”

Despite this disparity in academic success between the two, Romano continues his verbal assault on homeschooling – a militant approach Donnelly considers to be “actively hostile” against parents’ right to teach their own.

“With legislators like Senator Romano in power, West Virginia homeschooling families will continue to be at risk from increased government interference,” he assured, encouraging West Virginians to vote for pro-homeschooling state officials in the upcoming election. “Several homeschool-friendly bills did pass the House and Senate during the 2017 legislative session, but these unfortunately did not make it past the governor’s veto pen.”

Equal access denied

Donnelly also mentioned how West Virginia’s top politician has opposed some major pro-homeschooling legislation, including one bill named after former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow – a devout Christian who played public high school football as a homeschooler in Florida.

“Governor Justice vetoed H.B. 2196, the so-called ‘Tim Tebow’ bill, which would have allowed homeschool students to try out for public school sports teams,” the HSLDA attorney noted. “He also rejected H.B. 2589, a proposal to clarify that homeschool students should be treated equally for the purposes of enrolling in county vocational schools.”

A majority of the states already have in place laws that allow homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities at public schools, and the Tim Tebow bill is now concentrating its efforts to the south in the state of Alabama.

“Thirty-one other states support some form of equal access for homeschoolers,” the professional athlete’s website TimTebowBill.com states. “The passage of this law will not only benefit homeschool athletes and musicians, but it will also benefit the entire system of education in Alabama.”

The site notes that with 2 million homeschoolers across the United States and 25,000 in Alabama alone, there is still a lot of work to be done to give them equal access, pointing out that 325 homeschooled athletes are now playing NCAA Division I-A sports this year – a number that could be much higher if homeschool athletes are given more opportunities to compete.

“The ultimate goal of any educational system should be to provide the services needed for all students to have a well-rounded education,” Tebow’s site maintains. “Extracurricular activities are one of those services, beyond academics, that help today’s children learn the skills they will need to be tomorrow’s leaders.”

But Justice does not want any part of homeschoolers enjoying the same advantages as publicly schooled students, even though homeschooled parents’ tax dollars also pay for public schools -- schools their children do not attend.

“In his veto message, Governor Justice said that if homeschool students want to participate in a public school’s extracurricular activities, they must enroll in the school as spelled out in Senate Bill 630,” Donnelly informed. “That measure, which the governor did sign, makes it possible for public schools to create virtual schools – rather than requiring students to attend a brick-and-mortar school. HSLDA has consistently opposed virtual public school programs.”

And the vetoing did not stop there.

“House Bill 2589, also vetoed, was another measure that would have required vocational schools run by counties to treat homeschool students equally for purposes of enrollment,” the legal expert added. “Governor Justice said that this bill ‘interfered’ with local control of education and would not allow counties to give public school students preference.”

Homeschool has leaped some hurdles in the state straddling the Appalachian Mountains, but more fierce opposition from elected officials are surely on the near horizon.

“Although there has been progress – notably 2016’s homeschool modernization act – freedom is never free from the risk of being undermined by those who believe that the government should control education,” Donnelly concluded. “Hostility to home education in the governor’s mansion – as well as from key legislators – is a problem that will have to be solved politically … if homeschoolers hope to advance justice and freedom in the Mountain State.”

Ultimately a matter of money

When West Virginian politicians and legislators were looking to pass SB 528 in March to ban homeschooling, the point was brought up that the matter is not about children and their proper education at all – but about money that the public schools are “losing” when children are homeschooled.

“An increasing number of parents have decided to homeschool their kids or place them in homeschool communities for various reasons, including health concerns for the child, bullying, religion, and objections to the Common Core curriculum taught in public schools,” Natural News reported in March. “For the schools, the real concerns over the child boil down to dollar signs. As reported by One News Now in 2014, it was estimated that West Virginia public schools were losing nearly $12,000 of funding per student.”

In a last-ditch effort to drag homeschoolers back onto public school campuses, one school official took matters into his own hands and started an effort to call homeschool parents and pressure them into enrolling their children in local public schools.

“Not willing to take such a substantial loss that same year, Ritchie County Superintendent of Schools Ed Toman forced his staff to contact the residences and places of employment of homeschool parents in an attempt to bully them into putting their children back in public schools,” Natural News’ Thomas Dishaw explained. “During the calls, parents were questioned about their ability to teach their children and asked a series of questions including, ‘What can we do to get your kids back in school?’ Some families were also guilt-tripped when they decided to meet with school counselors at the beginning of the school year and told that their choice to homeschool could result in teachers losing their jobs.”

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