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Would HB 1013 affect Home Education Association Diplomas?
Howard Richman, 6/12/2014

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.

BACKGROUND ON THE ISSUE:

The question of who should give diplomas to homeschool graduates in PA began when the home education law passed in 1988—the law included graduation requirements without saying who would give the diploma. First the PA Department of Education (PDE) was entirely negative. They said that school districts didn’t have to give the diplomas. They didn’t want to issue the diplomas themselves. Finally, on October 2, 1990, they came up with the idea that homeschool associations should give the diplomas. Dr. Philip J. Mulvihill, chief of the Advisory Services Office at the PDE, wrote me:

It seems more appropriate to me to have the credential for home schoolers issued by a home schoolers organization. The monitoring and evaluation could then be done by individuals familiar with these programs and the quality control could be enforced by those individuals who have a vested interest in maintaining the quality.

Over the next several years, PDE recognized three homeschool organizations to give diplomas to home education program graduates and wrote letters recognizing all of their diplomas. In 1998, the PDE put together a Home School Association Application for Recognition. There are now 10 non-profit home education associations recognized to give diplomas on the PDE website. This PDE policy was never codified into law or regulation. Our association has already awarded over 7,000 PDE-recognized diplomas, and the other associations have similarly awarded many diplomas.

These recognized associations provide students not only with diplomas, but also with transcripts that help current students and graduates get into colleges, get scholarships, get jobs, get promotions, and even transfer when they wish to complete high school in a school. The associations compete with each other not only in fees (the least expensive charges just $35), but also in reputation for quality. The PDE was correct that these organizations would enforce “quality control,” due to their “vested interest in maintaining the quality” of their diplomas.

HB 1013:

Since, House Bill 1013 does not mention the home education association diploma, the Representatives who voted for it in committee didn’t realize that they could be taking away an old option (home education association diplomas) when they added in the new option (parent issued diplomas). They may not have understood the following:

  • Specifying who gives the diploma. The PDE only recognized the association diploma because the home education law didn’t specify who gave the diplomas. HB 1013 would specify who gives the diploma. It states that the parent gives the diploma (which must be signed by the senior year evaluator). As a result, there could be an interpretation that the PDE would no longer need to recognize home education associations to award that diploma.
  • Policy not Regulation or Law. Some representatives may have thought that they were leaving the association diploma alone when they read the following in HB 1013: “Notwithstanding any provisions of this act or any other law or regulation to the contrary.”  They did not realize that recognition of the home education association diploma was policy, and is nowhere found in law or regulation.
  • Diploma must be issued on PDE form. Subsection (2) specifically states that the diploma must be issued on a single universal form to be published by the PDE on its website. As such, this could be seen as eliminating the possibility of home education associations issuing diplomas with their name on the diploma.

OUR AMENDMENT:

Again I would like to reiterate, and I speak for our organization here. We do not object to the new parent-issued diploma of HB 1013. We simply ask that the current option, the home education association diploma, be preserved through the following amendment to Subsection D.1 (2) of HB 1013. (The parts we added are boldfaced.):

(2)(i) The diploma is issued to the student on a standardized  form to be developed by the Department and which shall be made  available on the Department's publicly accessible Internet  website.

(ii) The diploma may be issued by a nonprofit home education association which is recognized by the Department to grant home education diplomas. The diploma would then be issued on a form developed by that associaton. The Department will maintain a list of such associations as well as a Home Education Program Association Application For Recognition on its publicly assessible website.

This is an opportunity for all homeschoolers to come together in adding a new option to the PA Home Education Law – a recognized parent-issued diploma –  without eliminating an old option that many homeschoolers have come to value – the recognized home education association diploma.


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