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A great amendment was added to HB 1013 today!
I am very pleased that Pennsylvania House Bill 1013, a bill that improves the PA Home Education Law, was amended on the House Floor today in a way which should please all homeschoolers. Supervisor-issued diplomas (also signed by the evaluator) will be recognized by law, and there is also specific language putting into law that homeschool associations recognized by the PA Department of Education can also issue diplomas.
HB 1013 has now been referred to the Appropriations Committee and will likely pass at the end of this month as part of the grand budget compromise between the Republicans in the House, the Republicans in the Senate and the Corbett administration.
Here's what happened today. First, Representative Mark Longietti proposed the amendment that we had asked him to propose, but it was narrowly defeated. The vote was 99 in favor and 103 against. Nine Republican representatives voted for Longietti’s amendment, even though Longietti is a Democrat.
Then Representative James R. Roebuck, the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, proposed two amendments to the bill. They were both defeated because Republicans, almost unanimously, voted against them.
Then Representative Will Tallman, whose wife Suzanne is the homeschool liaison at the Pennsylvania Department of Education, proposed a great amendment which leaves the new provision recognizing parent-issued diplomas intact, but adds in new language continuing recognition of diplomas issued by “an approved diploma-granting organization.” That amendment adds two new sections to the bill. To Section D.1 (1) it adds:...
Background on the Home Education Association Diploma
Currently homeschooled students can only receive a Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) grant for college if they have either:
Pennsylvania's House Bill 1013 would add a fourth option, a parent-issued diploma that is also signed by the home education program evaluator. Our organization favors this new provision, but when we read HB 1013 carefully, we became very concerned. While adding the parent-issued diploma, the bill may have inadvertently taken away recognition from the home education association diploma.
In order to understand this unintended consequence, it is necessary to understand the history and recognition of the home education association diploma option.
The PA Home Education Law Implied a Diploma but Didn’t Say Who Would Give It
When the PA home education law passed in December 1988, Pennsylvania became the first state in the country to recognize high school graduation from a home education program. It did so through language that was in the original bipartisan home education bill put together by Republican Representative (now Congressman) Joe Pitts, and continued in the second version of the bill put together by Democratic House Education Committee Chairman Ron Cowell. I am referring to Section D of the home education law which states:
At the 11th hour, just before passage in the House, the Appropriations Committee, at the request of Governor Casey’s Department of Education, removed Section D from the bill. That was when we realized that when a law specifies graduation requirements, it implies that there is a diploma.
When the bill came up for a vote in the House, Representative Cowell put the graduation requirements back into the bill with an amendment. He told the House:...
HB 1013 does not threaten the PHAA Diploma
HB 1013, a bill that passed the PA House Education Committee on June 4, specifies that parents and the senior year evaluators give the diplomas that are provided for in the PA Home Education Law.
When I read it, I realized that it left out the ten home education associations that are currently recognized by Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) policy to issue those diplomas. I concluded that it could end recognition of the organization I direct, Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency (PHAA). I was wrong!
Although HB 1013 threatens the right of PHAA to issue recognized diplomas, it does not threaten PHAA’s right to accredit home education diplomas. In the unlikely event that HB 1013 were to pass without change, the parent and evaluator could sign the parent-issued diploma and PHAA would add its recognized seal of accreditation.
I would like to publicly thank Suzanne Tallman, the homeschool liaison at the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for correcting me on this issue. After she read my June 12 posting on this board (Would HB 1013 affect Home Education Association Diplomas?), she wrote an e-mail to one of our board members, Laszlo Pasztor, explaining my mistake. Here’s the relevant part of her email. First she quoted what I had written:...
Would HB 1013 affect Home Education Association Diplomas?
On June 4, House Bill 1013 passed the House Education Committee. In many ways it is a good bill. It continues the important role of the homeschool evaluator in homeschooled students' lives. It would greatly reduce the hassle of complying with the homeschool law. It also provides for a recognized parent-issued diploma (also signed by the evaluator) that is entitled to all of the rights and privileges of a normal high school diploma.
But when I read the bill carefully, I became very concerned. While adding the parent-issued diploma to the law, the Representatives in the House Education Committee may have taken out recognition for the home education association diploma. As founder and Executive Director of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency (PHAA), one of those diploma granting associations, I was concerned about the possible harm to our current students as well as to those who would have wanted our diploma in the future.
The more that I heard from Representatives and from the proponents of the bill, the more I realized that it was not their intention to take away recognition from the home education association diploma. See, for example, the latest posting on the CHAP website (HB 1013 will not change homeschoolers’ choice to receive a diploma from a diploma program). Although I disagree with the conclusion of this article, I was pleased that it was not the intention of CHAP to take away recognition from our diploma.
HB 1013 may actually be a golden opportunity to not only clarify that parent-issued diplomas could be formally recognized by law, but also that the 24-year PDE policy of recognition of home education association diplomas also be given full recognition by statute. The two options can work very well together and give parents in Pennsylvania even more options to choose from as they educate their children into the high school years. Our organization, PHAA, has proposed a very simple amendment that would not at all affect the parent-issued diploma, but would eliminate any unintended consequences that might happen if HB 1013 were passed as currently written. We believe that all homeschoolers could work together to help pass this legislation with this amendment....