With a week until crossover day, which is generally the death knell for bills that haven’t passed at least one full house of the West Virginia Legislature, the House of Delegates on Tuesday advanced multiple school-related bills.
With only eight of the 100 delegates voting no, and three not voting, the full House passed House Bill 2775. That bill would require every public high school student to complete a personal finance course to graduate.
Currently, high schoolers who don’t take Advanced Placement Government and Politics, a college-level class, are required to pass a course called Civics, most often offered during their senior year.
The Civics course includes requirements to study the U.S. Constitution, landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases and other social studies topics — plus personal finance.
Delegate Cody Thompson, D-Randolph and a social studies teacher, said the bill will allow more time in Civics to actually focus on civics, while teaching kids in the separate personal finance course how to balance a checkbook and perform other necessities.
“We’re seeing with students now that they’re not getting personal finance at the level they need,” Thompson said.
The bill now heads to the state Senate. The state Board of Education would have to come up with the course’s required content.
The House Education Committee also advanced Tuesday a new “Tim Tebow” bill to the floor of the full House, after the committee didn’t take up the Senate version.
The legislation, House Bill 3127, would allow home-schooled students to participate in the public school sports and bands overseen by the state Secondary School Activities Commission if they take one online public school course.
SSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan said home-schoolers can currently participate in the sports and band of the public school their address is zoned for if they take four online courses and are vaccinated like public schoolers.
While HB 3127 would lower that requirement to one online class, it would keep the vaccination requirement and require home-schoolers submit their scores on tests of their choosing.
The chosen tests would have to be nationally normed standardized tests, like the Iowa Assessments. Nationally normed tests, unlike West Virginia’s public school standardized tests, are graded on a bell curve.
The bill would require a home-schooler’s average results on these to be “within or above the fourth stanine in all subject areas.” That means 77 percent of students nationally could score above them before they’re rendered ineligible.
Jamie Buckland, legislative liaison for the Raleigh Educational Association of Christian Homeschoolers, said of the House bill, “We feel like this is a good first step toward gaining access that is acceptable.”
But Buckland said she wished there wasn’t a requirement for even one online course to be eligible.
“I feel like that’s a concession that was made today in order for us to start to take steps toward a partnership with the SSAC,” she said. “I know from my homeschool it would be frustrating for us to have to sacrifice a course that I’ve designed for my children just to put them in front of a computer screen for a virtual school program.”
The full Senate already passed its own version of a Tim Tebow bill, Senate Bill 131, last week. It would go further by allowing non-SSAC member private school students to participate if they don’t have band or that sport at their own school.
Only nine of the 34 senators voted against the bill: Bob Beach, D-Monongalia; Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; Paul Hardesty, D-Logan; Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam; Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha; Kenny Mann, R-Monroe; Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha; Roman Prezioso, D-Marion; and Mike Romano, D-Harrison. Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D-Ohio, was absent.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, assigned the bill to House Education, but that committee hasn’t taken it up. The full House killed a similar bill last year, with only 46 of 100 delegates voting yes.