2019 became a big year for parents. We fought hard to pass several important bills to afford parents more options, involvement, and oversight in their children’s education. These initiatives were often our most strategic and time-consuming legislative battles, even while they were frequently overshadowed by the more hot-button issues. HB 2107 (R-Ransone) was one great bill that has made it to the Governor’s desk. It provides parents the opportunity to review any audio-visual materials that contain graphic sexual or violent images used in conjunction with any anti-bullying or suicide prevention lessons in public schools, and the ability to exclude their child if they deem the materials too graphic.
Unfortunately, HB 2570 (R-LaRock), which would have required schools to obtain parents’ permission for their child to participate in the Family Life Education ("Sex Ed") lessons, failed in the Senate after passing the House with a hard-fought 51 votes. We made this a major priority this year, in light of all the new graphic and aggressively-ideological messaging that is being pushed onto kids in various school districts. We will keep fighting to make this common-sense policy a reality for families.
The flagship school choice initiative in Virginia – the Education Investment Scholarship Tax Credit Program – was successfully expanded to pre-kindergarten this year through the passage of SB 1015 (R-Stanley), and now awaits the Governor’s action. The program has been a huge success in recent years and continues to enable more children in families who cannot otherwise afford private education to receive a private scholarship to use towards a qualifying private school. It's another step towards ensuring that parents to have every opportunity to get the best possible education for their children, according to their values. SB 1590(R-Dunnavant) was another good education choice bill that would have expanded the online “Virtual Virginia” program to all public schools statewide. Unfortunately, after passing the Senate, it failed in the House.
Numerous bills sought to provide protections and opportunities for homeschooled students. Among them, SB 1275 (R-Black) would have allowed home-schooled high school students to participate in the federally-sponsored Junior ROTC program at their local school. After a hard-fought battle, having passed in the Senate, it was defeated on a tie vote in a House Committee. A bill to allow homeschool students to participate in the Driver’s Ed program at their local public school also unfortunately failed.
Finally, HB 2542 (R-Byron) is another great bill that passed and awaits the Governor’s action. It seeks to keep families together by allowing for the temporary delegation of parental or legal custodial powers to a trusted third party for families facing a crisis or extraordinary circumstances. Instead of having to enter “the system” of Social Services, qualifying parents could work with a licensed child-placing agency to have someone care for their kids for a limited time in order for them to work out family problems, deploy overseas for a combat tour, or other scenarios like these.
Overall, despite a few razor-thin losses on a couple of important bills we fought hard to advance, we are thrilled to report that 2019 saw significant gains for parental rights and options!