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HB 1013 does not threaten the PHAA Diploma
Howard Richman, 6/19/2014

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:

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.

Then she continued:

This is incorrect; home education accreditation agencies clearly are identified in regulation:

22 Pa Code § 121.21 Requirement for higher education grant applicants

(a) A State higher education grant applicant shall be a graduate of or attending an approved secondary school, or be a recipient of a Commonwealth secondary school diploma

(b) An approved secondary school shall be any public or private secondary school, located in this Commonwealth or elsewhere, including foreign institutions and United States schools overseas, which in the judgment of the Department of Education provides a course of instruction at the secondary level and maintains standards of instruction substantially equivalent to the standards of instruction of the public high schools located in this Commonwealth.

(c) For purposes of the State Higher Education Grant Program, an approved secondary school shall also include any home education program that is accredited by any home schooling accreditation agency approved by the Department of Education. If the home education program lacks the requisite accreditation, certification by the appropriate local school official attesting that the home education program is in compliance with section 1327.1 of the Public School Code of 1949 (24 P. S. § 13-1327.1) shall be submitted to the Agency by the appropriate local school official.

[PDE note: "the Agency" is defined in 22 Pa Code § 121.1. as PHEAA.]

The wording of this regulation apparently goes back to the brief period of time when Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency was the only home schooling organization whose diplomas were recognized. When it is juxtaposed with letters written by the PDE at that time, it is clear that PDE was recognizing PHAA as an “accreditation agency,” approved by them to accredit home education programs.

PHAA may be the only “accreditation agency” that was approved by the Department of Education. If you check out the PDE website, none of the other associations listed have the words “accreditation agency” in their names. You will also find that the PDE describes the ten recognized home education associations as “diploma-granting organizations,” not as “accreditation agencies.” Specifically:

This table lists the diploma-granting organizations that currently are authorized by the Department to grant home education diplomas for Pennsylvania residents only. They may not grant a home education diploma to anyone who is not a resident of Pennsylvania. Additionally, they only may grant diplomas to students who have submitted a homeschool affidavit to their superintendent of schools.

We continue to favor the following amendment to Subsection D.1 (2) of HB 1013 which preserves the non-boldfaced language already in the bill, but adds recognition for the home education association diploma through our amendment shown in boldface:

(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 also 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 association. The Department will maintain a list of such associations as well as a Home Education Program Association Application For Recognition form on its publicly accessible website.

Our amendment simply preserves and makes into law what is already PDE policy. We hope that homeschoolers can unite in giving homeschoolers the new option of a parent-issued diploma without taking away the old option of an association-issued diploma.


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