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Lawmakers consider Promise Scholarship requirement changes for home school students

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill is working its way through the legislature that would allow home school students to be eligible for the Promise Scholarship without completing what’s been an additional requirement.

The Senate Education Committee passed SB 319 a few days ago and sent it to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

Like public school students, home school students have to score a 22 on the ACT or 1,100 on the SAT to qualify for the merit-based Promise. Public school students also have to have a 3.0 GPA. Officials set up the scholarship program to require the passage of the GED for home schoolers as a measurement of their GPA. The state has since changed from the GED to the TASC, Test Assessing Secondary Completion test. The bill would eliminate the requirement of the additional test for home school graduates.

The committee substitute of the bill passed by the Education Committee did keep the passage of the TASC as an option.

The issue has been around for several years. Former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed HB 2674 in 2015.

Tomblin’s veto message read:

“Eliminating the requirement that home schooled students show mastery of certain subjects, rather than simply complete a course of study,provides an unfair advantage of those students to receive a PROMISE scholarship. It could also create an incentive for some students to drop out of the public school system if their performance does not meet the required GPA standard to be eligible for the PROMISE scholarship. I believe this type of advantage was not intended when the Legislature created this merit-based program. Therefore, I disapprove the bill.”

West Virginia Higher Education Vice Chancellor Matt Turner told the Senate Education Committee last week the HEPC doesn’t have a major problem with the bill but would want to monitor the progress of home school students who receive the Promise after they get to college.

“What we’ll do is monitor the cohorts. If this changes and this becomes a problem we can come back and report it (to the legislature) and say, ‘We need to make some adjustments again,'” Turner said.

Turner said he is concerned how some public school students might react to removing the test requirement for home school students.

“I would be concerned down the road if perhaps other students say, ‘Well look we don’t need this GPA requirement anymore,'” Turner said. “You could start to see the erosion of the merit level of the Promise.”

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