Reaffirming Homeschoolers’ Right to Issue Diplomas Despite New Statutory Language in the Budget Bill

Summary: To reaffirm our right to issue homeschool diplomas, we need to
(1) Continue to follow the strategy that has worked for homeschoolers working together through WPA for over 30 years.
(2) Be aware of the new statutory language on homeschool diplomas that could make it more difficult to have our diplomas accepted and work to minimize the damage that this language does.
(3) Understand how the new statutory language initiated by a homeschooling organization based outside Wisconsin became law despite hard work by homeschoolers working together through WPA to oppose it, so we can prevent additional statutory language that undermines homeschool diplomas.

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Reaffirming Our Right to Educate Our Children According to Our Principles and Beliefs Despite New Sports Legislation

Summary: The new legislation allowing homeschoolers to play public school sports (and participate in extracurricular activities) gives us both the opportunity and the necessity to reaffirm who we are and what we stand for as homeschoolers. We need to:
 (1) Act in ways that minimize the risks raised by the new sports legislation.
 (2) Understand how the legislation was passed so we are prepared for future challenges like this.
 (3) Maintain our independence of public schools and their standards and approach to education (more…)

How Questions about School Enrollment and Withdrawal Forms Affect Our Parental Rights

The extent to which we maintain our parental rights and responsibilities depends on how we think, act, and react, especially when dealing with public officials, including school officials.

The question of whether our child is officially enrolled in a public or conventional private school provides a good example of how we can think, act, and react. To maintain our rights, we can and should understand and make clear to others that “officially enrolled” means we have formally registered our child for the coming school year and/or sent our child to school when it opened in the fall.

School districts increasingly seem to want to claim that a child is enrolled until the child is formally withdrawn which some districts claim requires that a parent or guardian sign an official withdrawal form. But such practices assume that the school rather than the parent has control over a child during the summer and, more importantly, that the public school is where the child should be during public school hours unless the child is formally withdrawn. However, the compulsory attendance law states only that a parent or guardian shall cause a child to attend a school. It is up to the parent or guardian to decide which school and to ensure that the child attends. The legal requirements and penalties have to do with whether a child is attending a school, not whether a child has been formally withdrawn from a school. Homeschoolers often begin homeschooling in the middle of the school year. Filing the PI-1206 form is all that is necessary. This acknowledges that the parent is responsible for their child in accordance with the statutes and does not require that parents sign a withdrawal form.

Please inform WPA if your local school officials claim your child is officially enrolled simply because they attended a public school last year or if they insist that you sign an official withdrawal form before beginning homeschooling.

How New Homeschoolers Can Deal With Challenges from School Officials

Summary: School officials sometimes challenge parents who remove their children from a public school to begin homeschooling. Here’s how to minimize the chances of this happening to your family and what to do if it does. Note that how you respond depends on when you are beginning homeschooling.

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Updates on Legislation on Sports and Diplomas

Update July 22, 2015  Change in Whether Homeschoolers Can Play Public School Sports

As explained in our previous email on July 13, 2015 (see below), the Governor’s partial veto removed from the Budget Bill the provision that would have, in effect, forced the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) to change its rules governing whether homeschoolers are eligible to play public school sports. Because of the Governor’s partial veto, about which he wrote, “I object to this provision because I do not believe state statutes should stipulate the participation and membership requirements of a private athletic association,” (Governor’s veto message July 13, 2015, pages 3-4), and because the WIAA had consistently and strongly opposed the sports provision, we expected that the WIAA would maintain their rule that athletes must be full-time students in the school on whose teams they are playing.

Unfortunately and to our surprise, the WIAA’s Board of Control has temporarily suspended, ONLY as it applies to homeschoolers, the requirement that participants in public school sports be enrolled full-time in the school on whose team they are playing. (See the July 22, 2015 News Release on the WIAA website.) This appears to allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports as long as they meet WIAA’s other requirements for eligibility that all athletes must meet. (The question of whether this will become a permanent change to the WIAA Constitution, Bylaws and Rules of Eligibility will be on the agenda at next April’s annual meeting of the WIAA membership.)

We expect the WIAA to issue further information in the near future. The number of issues that need to be resolved and special cases that need to be considered demonstrate the complexities involved in a situation like this and the risks to our homeschooling freedoms as details are ironed out.

Update July 13, 2015  Good News on the Sports Provision in the Budget Bill

Thank you to all of you who worked to oppose the homeschool sports and diploma provisions in the Budget Bill.

Fortunately, the Governor vetoed a key part of the provision on sports and extracurricular activities. The veto means that WIAA rules preventing homeschoolers from participating in public school sports will remain in effect. This means:

(1) There won’t be resentment and a backlash against all homeschoolers because a few homeschoolers took team positions away from public school students, which could have led to further regulation of homeschooling.

(2) Our homeschooling freedoms won’t be threatened by a law that would have required that some homeschoolers meet public school standards. (Homeschoolers can’t participate in an activity governed by public schools without risking control by public schools, even if parents can attest that their children comply with public school standards.) There won’t be requirements placed on homeschoolers participating in public school sports that then are applied to all homeschoolers. (Remember that before they allowed homeschoolers to participate in public school sports, almost all states that allow such participation already had in place one or more of the following state requirements: state-mandated tests, review and approval of curriculum by public school officials, progress reports, etc. Therefore, those states did not need to increase state regulation of homeschooling to ensure that homeschool athletes met public school standards. Wisconsin does not have such requirements, and homeschoolers don’t want them.)

To read the veto language, see #6 Participation in Athletics and Extracurricular Activities on pages 27-28 here: http://media.jrn.com/documents/2015-17+Veto+Message.pdf

The diplomas provision is not included in the line item vetoes, and, therefore, is now part of Wisconsin statutes. WPA will work to minimize that damage this addition to the statutes does to the credibility of homeschool diplomas and keep you informed.

One final note: We have not yet seen the final language of the new statutes. If the details change any of the information in this email, we will let you know.

Update July 10, 2015  URGENT: Another Phone Call Needed Today on Sports and Diplomas

Possibly good news. We have heard that the homeschool sports and diploma provisions in the Budget Bill may be on the Governor’s list for possible line item vetoes.

Act on this possibility by calling Cindy Polzin, the Governor’s Senior Director of Legislative and Local Affairs. Call today even if you called yesterday. This is especially important because another Wisconsin homeschool organization has asked people to call the Governor’s office to ask him not to veto the sports provision. We need to enough calls to make it clear that the vast majority of homeschoolers are opposed to the sports provision (and the diploma provision).

Call 608-266-1212.

Because this is the main number for the Governor’s Office, you need to ask the person answering the phone to give your message to Cindy Polzin.

You can simply say something like, “I am one of the many homeschoolers who are opposed to the provisions on homeschool sports (Section 3245t) and diplomas (Section 3355r) in the Budget Bill. Please ask the Governor to line item veto these provisions.”

If you can’t get through by phone, you can email Cindy Polzin at cindy.polzin@wi.gov.

Update July 9, 2015   Call Governor Today — Last Chance to Remove Homeschool Provisions from Budget Bill

Unfortunately, but as expected, the Wisconsin Assembly passed the version of the Budget Bill that was passed by the Senate on July 8. The bill has been sent to the Governor. He is expected to sign it very soon.

Our last chance to have the provisions on homeschool sports and diplomas removed from the bill is ask the Governor to line item veto these two provisions.

Act today. Call the Governor’s Senior Policy Advisor for Education, Waylon Hurlburt.         608-266-9709

You can simply say something like, “I am one of the many homeschoolers who are opposed to the provisions on homeschool sports (Section 3245t) and diplomas (Section 3355r) in the Budget Bill. Please ask the Governor to line item veto these provisions.”

If you cannot get through to leave a message directly with Waylon Hurlburt, call the Governor’s office main number

608-266-1212

and ask that your message be delivered to Waylon Hurlburt.

If you cannot get through because the mailboxes are full, you can send an email to Waylon Hurlburt at

waylon.hurlburt@wisconsin.gov

Be sure to include your name and street address. However, please try calling first since calls are more effective than emails.

Update  July 8, 2015   Unfortunately Senate Did Not Remove Provisions on Homeschool Sports and Diplomas

Thank you to all of you who made calls (especially those who had to make repeat calls or send an email when the legislators’ mailboxes were full), in addition to the work you had already done in signing petitions, making earlier phone calls, and networking to try to remove these provisions. Your response is encouraging and shows that homeschoolers continue to be strong and will take action.

Unfortunately, the Senate did not remove either the homeschool sports or diploma provision. The only changes the Senate made to the Budget Bill had to do with the Open Records Law and prevailing wages. (WPA has used the Open Records Law many times, and we are relieved that it has been retained despite efforts to remove it. See the WPA handbook, pages 150-151 and 211-212.)

The Budget Bill now goes to the Assembly, which is expected to pass it without any changes. (If the Assembly does makes any change, the bill will have to go back to the Senate for another vote.)

Then the Budget Bill will go to the Governor for his signature. WPA will let you know when and how you can contact the Governor’s office to request that he use a line item veto to remove the homeschool sports and diploma provisions.

In our newsletter later this month, WPA will explain its perspective on how wrong the process of adding these provisions to the Budget Bill has been and why it should not have happened.

July 7, 2015  10:30 am    Don’t give up calling, but send emails if you can’t get through.

Two things are very important to do now:

(1) Contact Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
At the moment, people calling Fitzgerald and Vos are hearing a voicemail message saying the mailboxes are full.
Because calls are more effective than emails, please try to call these offices now, even if you tried earlier and did not get through:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald at 608-266-5660
and
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos at 888-534-0063 or 608-266-9171.

You can simply say: “I am one of the many homeschoolers who oppose the provisions in the Budget Bill on homeschool sports (Section 3245t) and diplomas (Section 3355r). Please remove them.” Then give your name, street address, and city.

If you are unable to leave a message, send an email to Senator Fitzgerald, Representative Vos, and all their staff members to make sure the message gets through in a timely manner. The email can be a short statement asking them to remove the homeschool sports and diploma provisions from the Budget Bill. Be sure to include your name and street address.

Email addresses for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald:
Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov
Cindy.Block@legis.wisconsin.gov
Adam.Foltz@legis.wisconsin.gov
Tad.Ottman@legis.wisconsin.gov
Dan.Romportl@legis.wisconsin.gov
Myranda.Tanck@legis.wisconsin.gov
Lucas.Vebber@legis.wisconsin.gov

Email addresses for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos:
Rep.Vos@legis.wisconsin.gov
Kit.Beyer@legis.wisconsin.gov
Abbey.Fabick@legis.wisconsin.gov
Janine.Hale@legis.wisconsin.gov
Andrew.Hanus@legis.wisconsin.gov
Michael.Jacques@legis.wisconsin.gov
Mark.Morgan@legis.wisconsin.gov
Elizabeth.Smasal@legis.wisconsin.gov
Jennifer.Toftness@legis.wisconsin.gov

(2) Also call and give the same message to your Assembly Representative and Senator. Their contact information is here. Type in your address.

Thank you.

July 6, 2015   The Budget Bill is now moving very quickly, and your calls are needed immediately.

Tonight or Tuesday, it is very important that you call 2 offices
1. Senator Scott Fitzgerald at 608-266-5660. He is the Majority Leader of the Wisconsin Senate
and
2. Representative Robin Vos at 888-534-0063 or 608-266-9171. He is the Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly.

If you call tonight, leave a voicemail.
Call these 2 legislators even if you don’t live in their districts.

You can simply say: “I am one of the many homeschoolers who oppose the provisions on homeschool sports and diplomas in the Budget Bill. Please remove them.” Then give your name, street address, and city.

Share this email by forwarding to other homeschoolers or sharing the information on social media and ask others to call. Getting as many calls to these offices as possible is the only way to insure that these provisions be removed.

Reasons  you need to to call now:
• Because of misinformation given to key legislators, these provisions were not removed. In fact, the provision on sports has gotten worse. See Update July 3, 2015 immediately below.
• If enough people call tonight or Tuesday, there is a chance the provisions will be removed. If not enough people call, they won’t be. Your calls matter. Call even if you already signed WPA’s petitions on sports and diplomas and/or called your legislators.
• If these provisions are not removed this year, people will undoubtedly use the Budget Bill in future years to take away more of our freedoms.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  Your calls make a difference.

July 3, 2015   Final Action by Committee on Joint Finance

Things have gone from bad to worse for homeschooling freedoms. The sports provision was amended on July 2, 2015 by the Joint Committee on Finance so that it will now apply only to homeschoolers (and not other private school students, charter school students, or virtual charter school students) and so that homeschooling parents will decide whether a homeschooler meets the public school board’s requirements for participation in sports. This means that homeschoolers will still have to comply with public school standards but their parents will decide whether they comply. This will be seen as giving homeschoolers a huge advantage and make it even more likely that homeschoolers participating in public school sports will generate a backlash against homeschooling that will include calls for increased regulation of homeschooling.

The current informal language of the original sports provision and the amendment will be changed to formal statutory language by the Legislative Reference Bureau probably by next Tuesday or Wednesday. Once the statutory language is available so we know more specifically what we are dealing with, WPA will put together a strategy for how to respond and email it to WPA members and other homeschoolers, probably sometime next week.

Once the statutory language has been written, the bill will go to the full Assembly for a vote and then to the full Wisconsin Senate for a vote, after which it will be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Since the provision on homeschool diplomas was not changed by Motion 999, unfortunately it remains in the Budget Bill.
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Texts
• The original sports provision—Public Education, K-12 Omnibus Motion #457, Item #29, pages 11-12.
• Amendment to original sports provision, Budget Bill Modifications Motion 999, Provision #5, passed by the Joint Committee on Finance on July 2, 2015.
“5. Participation in Athletics and Extra-Curricular Activities. Modify prior Joint Finance action to: (a) specify that it would only apply to pupils who are enrolled in a home-based private educational program; and (b) require that the home-based educational program provide the school board with a written statement that the pupil meets the school board’s requirements for participation in interscholastic athletics based on age and academic disciplinary records, rather than the public school making the determination as under Joint Finance. With regard to the statement under (b), specify that no person could provide a false statement, and the school board could not question the accuracy or validity of the statement or request additional information.”
• The complete text of the Motion 999 is here: Budget Bill Modifications Motion 999

June 29, 2015   Work Continues to Remove Sports and Homeschool Diploma Provisions from Budget Bill

The Joint Committee on Finance has not yet finalized the version of the Budget Bill that it will send to the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly for a vote. The target is to finish by the end of June.

To strengthen our case for removing the sports and diploma provisions, counter some recent developments and inaccurate information, and keep our concerns before legislators, this morning WPA sent the following email to all legislators:

To: All Wisconsin State Legislators

Homeschoolers are asking to be heard. Listen to the 1,139 of us who signed a petition, the hundreds of us who made phone calls and visited your offices and talked with your aides. Listen to WPA, the homeschooling organization that fought to get the excellent Wisconsin homeschool law and has been opposing government favors for homeschoolers, including public school sports, for over 30 years.

Remove from the Budget Bill the provisions that would allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports and that would undermine the credibility of homeschool diplomas. (Motion #457, Public Instruction, K-12 Omnibus Motion, #17 and #29)

We will be extremely disappointed if instead you listen to the only 2 representatives who want the sports provision and who had to put it in the Budget Bill because they couldn’t get co-sponsors for a bill. It is misleading to say the homeschooling community is split without explaining that the split is something like 90 / 10. (For example, in Minnesota, it is reported that only 3% to 5% of homeschoolers participate in public school sports.)

Reasons to remove the provision to allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports
• The vast majority of homeschoolers oppose this provision, as documented by the 1,139 signatures on WPA’s petition, the hundreds of calls to legislative offices, and the meetings with legislative aides.
• The other state-wide, much smaller Wisconsin homeschool association is not supporting it.
• The Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (WCRIS) is not supporting it.
• Ten public school organizations and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) oppose it.
• By contrast, only 2 Assembly Representatives (Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt and Rep. Bob Kulp) have visibly identified themselves as wanting the sports provision. In 2013, Rep. Thiesfeldt failed to find more than 2 co-sponsors for a proposed bill very similar to this provision.
• Since 1984, homeschoolers have been saying that we don’t want so-called favors from the government, including tax credits and permission to play public school sports, because sooner or later favors have strings attached.
• Homeschoolers playing public school sports would create resentment and a backlash against homeschoolers as a result of their holding positions on sports teams.

Reasons to listen to WPA
• WPA petitions plus the many phone calls document the strength of homeschoolers’ opposition.
• WPA has a long history of working with legislators to protect homeschooling freedoms. Over the past 30 years, virtually all Republican legislators have listened to homeschoolers’ requests to be left alone, to not be given so-called favors. That’s why in 2013 Rep. Thiesfeldt failed to find co-sponsors for this sports provision.
• WPA has been a strong, statewide, inclusive, grassroots homeschooling organization since 1984. We are frequently contacted by legislators, local and national media, and others. We publish a 288-page handbook, “Homeschooling In Wisconsin,” and a quarterly newsletter.

Corrections to information you may have heard from others
• Although a few vocal homeschoolers want to participate in public school sports, it is misleading to say the homeschooling community is split without explaining that the split is something like 90 / 10.
• We want the sports provision removed entirely. We don’t want it amended. Amendments will not solve public resentment that leads to regulation.
• The sports provision will affect all homeschoolers, not just those who choose to participate in public school sports. Homeschoolers can’t participate in an activity governed by public schools without risking control by public schools. What affects a few homeschoolers is likely to spread to the whole population. States that allow homeschoolers to play public school sports also require one or more of the following: state-mandated tests, review and approval of curriculum by public school officials, progress reports, etc. Wisconsin does not have such requirements, and homeschoolers don’t want them.

Reasons to remove the provision on homeschool diplomas
• This provision is based on one case involving a homeschool diploma, is a response to a request from one organization from outside Wisconsin, and is a major change in the way homeschool diplomas have been successfully dealt with in Wisconsin since 1984.
• The vast majority of homeschoolers oppose this provision, as documented by the 1,044 signatures on WPA’s petition,  the hundreds of calls to legislative offices, and the meetings with legislative aides.
• Since 1984, homeschoolers have very effectively established acceptance of Wisconsin homeschool diplomas. We strongly oppose having the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) now define and regulate them, which is precisely what #17 of the Omnibus Education Motion would allow them do. This is because the DPI has rule making authority for the program into which the homeschool diploma language would be inserted. Rule making authority gives the DPI the authority to define and regulate any type of diploma inserted into 119.23 including 119.23(7)(b)3.

Summary
Homeschoolers don’t want legislators to inject government into homeschools in Wisconsin against the expressed opposition of the vast majority of Wisconsin homeschoolers, basically in response to 2 Assembly Representatives and a small group of homeschoolers who are willing to surrender homeschooling freedoms in order to play public school sports. Also, homeschoolers want to maintain the strength of homeschool diplomas and overall retain the homeschooling law that has served the homeschooling community (and the state) well for over 30 years.

Thank you.

Larry Kaseman
Executive Director
Wisconsin Parents Association
Post Office Box 2502
Madison WI 53701-2502
Voice Mail 608.283.3131

http://homeschooling-wpa.org/

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June 9, 2015   Calls to Legislators Still Needed; Petitions on Sports and Diplomas Were Delivered

Thank you to those who signed the petitions on sports and diplomas.

On Monday, June 8, 2015, an impressive 1,139 signatures on the sports petition and 1,044 on the diploma petition were delivered by WPA’s Executive Director and a Member of the WPA Board to key leaders in the Wisconsin State Assembly and Wisconsin State Senate. Overall, the reception was positive. Legislative aides were impressed that so many people signed the petitions in just 10 days.

Please call your Wisconsin legislators if you have not already done so. They still need to hear from you because final decisions have not been made. Call legislators in your district as well as key Republican leaders.

WPA will continue working on these issues and posting updates here. When action is needed, emails will be sent to people on the WPA email list. You can join the list at the bottom of this page.

Collect Signatures on WPA Petitions

June 9, 2015 — Petitions on Sports and Diplomas Delivered to Leaders of Wisconsin Legislature

Thank you to those who signed the petitions on sports and diplomas.

On Monday, June 8, 2015, an impressive 1,139 signatures on the sports petition and 1,044 on the diploma petition were delivered by WPA’s Executive Director and a Member of the WPA Board to key leaders in the Wisconsin State Assembly and Wisconsin State Senate. Overall, the reception was positive. Legislative aides were impressed that so many people signed the petitions in just 10 days.

For the record: Text of  sports petition:  “We the undersigned petition the Wisconsin Legislature to remove from the Budget Bill the language that would allow homeschoolers (and other school district residents who are not enrolled in public schools in the district) to participate in public school sports. Among the reasons: School sports teams are expected to be made up of students enrolled in the school. Also, the vast majority of homeschoolers don’t want to risk losing their independence of public schools by authorizing public schools to determine whether homeschoolers’ academic performance is adequate for them to participate in public school sports, an action which would open the door to increased state regulation of all homeschoolers.”

For the record: Text of  diploma petition: “We the undersigned petition the Wisconsin Legislature to remove from the Budget Bill the language that would allow people with homeschool diplomas to be employed as teacher’s aides in private schools participating in choice programs. Among the reasons: This provision implies that a homeschool diploma is invalid unless recognized by Wisconsin statutes. It ignores the long-standing acceptance of homeschool diplomas by colleges and universities, employers, the military, and others.”

May 28, 2015 — Why Sign Sports Petition and Diploma Petition
Legislation that would allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports would undermine our homeschooling freedoms. Click here for the reasons.

The Wisconsin Legislature is currently working on the Budget Bill. In a surprise, sneaky move on May 20, 2015, a provision was added to this 1,000 page bill that would allow homeschoolers (and other students not enrolled public schools in a school district) to participate in public school sports.

Another provision in the Budget Bill would undermine homeschool diplomas by singling out only one use for which they are acceptable, namely, as a credential for teacher’s aides in private schools participating in a private school choice program. (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion, #17 page 6) Click here for more information.

Our best chance of getting changes made to the legislation will be when Assembly and Senate Republican and Democratic Caucuses meet to make changes to the Budget Bill. The more Assembly Representative and State Senators who can say, “I heard from a lot of people on these issues, and I’m in favor of removing them,” the better the chances that the caucus will vote to remove it.

How

Note: Signers must be 18 years of age or older and residents of Wisconsin. Please submit a separate signature page for each individual; do not submit “John and Maria Smith” on one form.

  • Sign both petitions online here and here. All you need to do is complete the online petition form. You do not need to mail or email it to WPA.
  • Share these links with other homeschoolers, members of your homeschool support group, supporters of public schools, people involved in sports activities such soccer and volleyball leagues, friends, relative, other concerned citizens, etc.

When

  • By June 7, 2015. (WPA will present the signatures to the Legislature June 8, 2015.

Privacy

  • WPA will present the names and addresses of people who sign the petitions to the Legislature. WPA will not share, lease, sell, or in any other way release the names, land addresses, email addresses, or other information of people who sign the petitions.

Oppose Legislation That Undermines Homeschool Diplomas

Act now! Sign WPA’s petition. Contact legislators. Tell others.

Ask legislators to remove from the Budget Bill the provision that states “Specify that a private school participating in a private school choice program can employ a teacher’s aide who has been granted a high school diploma by the administrator of a home-based private educational program.” (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion #457, Item #17)

This provision
• is based on one case involving a homeschool diploma,
• is a response to a request from one organization from outside Wisconsin, and
• is a major change from the way homeschool diplomas have been successfully dealt with in Wisconsin since 1984.

Background: For many years, homeschool diplomas have been accepted by colleges and universities, Wisconsin technical colleges, federal grants for education, federal student loan programs, employers, the military, Wisconsin’s Attorney General’s office, etc. However, occasionally a new or uninformed public official, employer, or admissions officer does not initially accept a homeschool diploma. In these cases, WPA helps homeschoolers educate the official and ensure that the diploma is accepted.

According to an organization from outside Wisconsin, recently a private school in Wisconsin participating in a Private School Choice (PSC) program did not renew the contract of a teacher’s aide who had submitted her homeschool diploma to confirm that she met the requirement that aides be high school graduates. The DPI reportedly had told the school that they could lose their PSC funding if they continued to employ her (unless she got her GED). The outside organization is trying to solve this problem through legislation. As a result, this provision on diplomas was inserted in the Budget Bill and did not receive a hearing or discussion.

Note: The paragraph above is brief because WPA has not been contacted by the parties involved in this particular case. However, since 1984, we have dealt successfully with a number of similar cases in which a program, a government agency, an employer, or an institution refused to accept a homeschool diploma. These cases were resolved by our educating the parties involved and convincing them to accept the homeschool diploma.

This provision
• is unnecessary,
• would set a precedent of using statutes to gain acceptance of homeschool diplomas in specific situations,
• could undermine the current system,
• could raise questions about the validity of homeschool diplomas, and
• could open the door for state regulation of homeschool diplomas.

A statute such as this that mandates acceptance of homeschool diplomas will give the government the authority to define such a diploma and decide what requirements homeschooolers must meet to earn a diploma. Homeschoolers do not want their diplomas regulated by the government.

If the Legislature passes this for one person in one situation, acting as the state certifying a homeschool diploma, it will create a bureaucratic nightmare.

Additional Information for Homeschoolers
Although homeschool diplomas are widely accepted, homeschool graduates are sometimes told by new or uninformed officials from various institutions that their homeschool diploma does not meet requirements. When people contact WPA today for assistance getting their homeschool diploma accepted, WPA helps them do what has worked so well in the past: (1) Read and interpret the statute or regulation in question yourself. (2) Adapt the letter below about diplomas for your purposes and send to the person or institution you are dealing with. (3) Let WPA know if you need additional help.

WPA Letter on Diplomas

WPA Oppose Diploma Leg and Letter

Contact State Legislators

Why?
Legislation that would allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports would undermine our homeschooling freedoms. Click here for the reasons.

This sports language was put together principally by just two legislators, Representatives Jeremy Thiesfeldt (see “Homeschool to Sports” in the attached Rep. Thiesfeldt’s email) and Bob Kulp (a homeschooler who wanted [On May 30, 2015, WPA corrected a typo by changing “wants” to “wanted.”] his sons to be able to play public school sports). It was stuck into the Budget Bill without discussion at 1:30 am on May 20, 2015. (Here’s what happened when Rep. Thiesfeldt tried to introduce this sports language through the normal legislative process in 2013.)

Legislators need to hear from you. If we allow this language to pass without a fight, we can expect more efforts to trade homeschooling independence and freedom for so-called favors from the government.

Another provision in the Budget Bill would undermine homeschool diplomas by singling out only one use for which they are acceptable, namely, as a credential for teacher’s aides in private schools participating in a private school choice program. (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion, #17 page 6) 

Our best chance of getting changes made to the legislation will be when Assembly and Senate Republican and Democratic Caucuses meet to make changes to the Budget Bill.** The more Assembly Representative and State Senators who can say, “I heard from a lot of constituents on this issue and I’m in favor of removing it,” the better the chances that the caucus will vote to remove it.

Who to Contact
• Your Wisconsin Assembly Representative and State Senator. Ask to speak to an aide for education. Their contact information is here.
• Key leaders in the Republican caucuses, even if you don’t live in their districts.

Senator Scott L. Fitzgerald
Majority Leader, Republican
Senate District 13 (R – Juneau)
Madison  (608) 266-5660
Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov

Senator Sheila Harsdorf
Majority Caucus Chair, Republican
Senate District 10 (R – River Falls)
Madison  (608) 266-7745
Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov

Representative Robin Vos
Speaker
Republican  Rochester, WI
Assembly District 63
Madison (608) 266-9171
Madison (888) 534-0063
District: (262) 514-2597
Rep.Vos@legis.wisconsin.gov

Representative John Murtha
Republican  Baldwin, WI
Majority Caucus Chair
Assembly District 29
Madison  (608) 266-7683
Madison  (888) 529-0029
Rep.Murtha@legis.wisconsin.gov

When to contact them
Between now and June 7, 2015.

What to say:
(1) About the provision to allow homeschoolers (and others) to participate in public school sports. (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion #457, Item #29, pages 11-12)
Say to the legislator or their aide: When your caucus meets to vote on the Budget Bill, please vote to remove the provision that would allow homeschoolers (and other school district residents who are not enrolled in public schools in the district) to participate in public school sports for the following reasons:
• School sports teams are expected to be made up of students who are enrolled in the school.
• As a homeschooler, I don’t want this sports legislation since it allows public school officials to make decisions about homeschools in Wisconsin. Neither public schools nor the Department of Public Instruction has ever had this authority and they should not have it now.
• I and the vast majority of homeschoolers I know don’t want any so-called favors from the government, including permission to participate in public school sports. Homeschoolers realize accepting tax dollars or other favors from the government consistently leads to increased government regulation. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
• Allowing homeschool students to participate in public school sports will lead to ill will toward homeschoolers and calls by the public and the educational interest groups for homeschools to be subject to the same curriculum and testing requirements as public schools.
• Once the government allows public schools to assess the quality of homeschooling curriculums and grading for sports, it will be a short step to allowing public schools to regulate homeschools in areas such as homeschooling curriculum, testing, transcripts, diplomas, etc.
• In a sneaky surprise move, this provision was added to the Budget Bill at 1:30 am on May 20 with no discussion. Two Assembly Representative, Jeremy Thiesfeldt and Bob Kulp, want homeschoolers to be allowed to participate in public school sports, partly for personal reasons. ( According to Rep. Kulp, his homeschooled sons wanted to participate in public school sports.) Although they both know that the vast majority of homeschoolers oppose this, they have persisted. When Rep. Thiesfeldt failed to find enough co-sponsors for such a bill in 2013, he and Rep. Kulp evidently devised this tactic. This is not how representative government is supposed to work.

(2) What to say about the provision that undermines homeschool diplomas.
Say to the legislator or their aide: Also, please vote to remove the provision that would undermine the validity of homeschool diplomas by singling out only one use for which they are acceptable, namely, as a credential for teacher’s aides in a private school participating in a Private School Choice program. (Public Instruction—K-12 Omnibus Motion #457, Item #17, page 6).
• This provision implies that a homeschool diploma is invalid unless recognized by Wisconsin statutes for a specific purpose, in this case, employment as a teacher’s aide.
• This provision is unnecessary. Homeschool diplomas have been widely accepted for many years by colleges and universities, federal student loans and scholarships, employers, the military, and others. This provision weakens the acceptance of homeschool diplomas by ignoring the fact that they are already so widely accepted.

More details are here.

Alternative Actions for People Who Would Rather Not Talk With Legislators
Calls are the most effective, but the following are definitely worth doing:
• Call legislators’ offices outside regular office hours and leave a voicemail message.
• Send an email. A short one is fine. When contacting your own legislators, be sure to include your land address so they know you are a constituent.
For more information and suggestions, see and the WPA handbook, Homeschooling in Wisconsin: At Home With Learning Chapter 30, “Working with the Legislature.”

** Other ways to have these provisions removed are much less promising:
(1) The Joint Finance Committee (composed of 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats from the Senate and Assembly) is scheduled to vote on May 29 on the version of the Budget Bill to send to the caucuses. It is very unlikely that this Committee would, at that time, consider changes such as we are requesting, especially since they voted on May 20 to adopt these provisions.
(2) The full Assembly and Senate will vote on the final version of the Budget Bill. However, they will almost certainly vote the whole 1,000 page bill either up or down rather than considering any amendments to such a large bill at that point.
(3) The Governor could use a line item veto to remove provisions from the Budget Bill before he signs it. However, it is unlikely that he could be persuaded to remove these provisions.

Thiesfeldt Email re Homeschool to Sports

How Homeschoolers’ Participation in Public School Sports Would Undermine Homeschooling Freedoms

  • Increased regulation of homeschools. Accepting tax dollars or other favors from the government consistently leads to increased government regulation. Specifically, this proposal allows a public school or school board to determine whether homeschoolers’ academic performance is adequate. This provision is unavoidable because public school students must meet academic standards, and to avoid discrimination, similar standards would need to be applied to homeschoolers. Also, without such standards, public school athletes who were failing to meet academic standards could drop out of public school, homeschool, and still participate in sports.
  • A dangerous new precedent and a serious loss of homeschooling freedom. For the first time in Wisconsin history, this provision would allow public schools to determine whether homeschools meet public school standards. If this provision becomes law, people could no longer say, “Sports legislation might or might not reduce homeschooling freedoms.” People would have to say, “Sports legislation has reduced homeschooling freedoms.”
  • Increased state regulation for ALL homeschoolers. Supporters of sports legislation claim that increased regulation of homeschoolers would apply only to those who participate in public school sports. However, many examples show that regulations that initially applied to only a small subset of a larger group before long were applied to the whole group. This is particularly true for a group like homeschoolers. Many critics and opponents have thought for years that greater state regulation of all homeschoolers was needed.
  • Loss of unity among homeschoolers. Sports legislation destroys one of the key foundations of homeschooling freedoms in Wisconsin. From the day WPA was founded, January 6, 1984, WPA members have worked together to protect everyone’s homeschooling freedoms. People who would have liked access to free standardized testing through the public schools have not requested it. People who would have appreciated having a trained educator review their curriculum have not asked for this. Parents with college degrees have not asked for special favors because of their education. What each homeschooling family does affects the freedom of all of us. Setting the precedent of sneaking in legislation that benefits the special interests of a small group of homeschoolers would open the doors to increased state regulation.

As Benjamin Franklin said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

  • Backlash against homeschoolers. People are reporting to WPA that homeschoolers are being criticized on social media, in informal conversations, and in other places for wanting favors from the government, especially at the expense of public schools and in such desperate economic times. We need to make it clear to individuals, legislators, the media, and the general public that the vast majority of homeschoolers are NOT in favor of this legislation.

Responses to Homeschoolers Who Want to Participate in Public School Sports

  • Some people claim that allowing homeschoolers to participate in public school sports in other states has not led to increased state regulation in other states, so Wisconsin homeschoolers do not need to worry. WPA strongly disagrees.

First, states that allow homeschoolers to play public school sports already had in place greater state regulation of homeschooling than Wisconsin has, and there was no need to increase state regulation in those states. In other words, homeschoolers in other states had already lost important homeschooling freedoms that Wisconsin homeschoolers have. Wisconsin homeschoolers have a lot to lose!

Second, the fact that regulation hasn’t been increased in the past doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be in the future. Since it is much easier to increase state regulation of homeschooling than to decrease it, if regulation were increased, it would no doubt be a burden to homeschoolers for a long time, possibly indefinitely.

  • Some people claim that “Some families really want their children to participate in public school sports.” WPA’s response is that each family must make choices. Families can explore other sports opportunities, encourage individual sports, or enroll their children in a public school and count school attendance as part of the cost of playing public school sports.

Act Now to Oppose Legislation to Allow Homeschoolers to Participate in Public School Sports

Legislation that would undermine our homeschooling freedoms is now included in the Budget Bill that is before the Wisconsin Legislature.

One provision would allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports. This would, for the first time in Wisconsin history, allow public schools to determine whether homeschools meet public school standards. Here are reasons WPA opposes this legislation.

Another provision would undermine the validity of homeschool diplomas.

Actions:
• Sign WPA’s petitions that (1) oppose legislation to allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports and (2) WPA’s petition on diplomas.
• Ask others to sign the petitions.
Contact several Wisconsin legislators and ask them to remove these provisions from the Budget Bill.