Take Action: Support DC Homeschoolers

The DC Council is taking action quickly on the proposed DC Promise Establishment Act and your support is urgently needed! Please do two things in support of the equitable treatment of families who choose to educate their children in ways other than through the DC public schools.

1) Sign the Petition: DCHEA is partnering with several other advocacy groups in a drive to get DC citizens to sign a petition calling for the equitable treatment of all DC students. Public school students should not receive privileged treatment when it comes to the awarding of tens of thousands of dollars in grants to District students attending college or professional schools. Please visit the petition site and add your name to the list, then contact your friends, especially those who are currently excluded from the DC Promise Establishment Act. Help us make sure that the DC Council gets the message that the current bill is unfair and discriminates against families who are committed to the future of their children and the future of our city. The petition can be found here:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/make-the-dc-promise-act-fair/

2) Attend the Hearing: The Committee on Education will hold a hearing on the DC Promise Establishment Act on Wednesday, November 13th at 10:00am. I suggest that you turn this into a homeschool civics lesson. There is no reason that we can’t have well-behaved children attend this meeting so they can learn more about the government processes that affect their future. Furthermore, you can ask to testify, or you can ask to have your well-spoken high school student testify. I think it would be great if the Council heard from a number of students who will be directly affected by their decisions. Here is the information about the hearing:

Education Hearing on B20-528 The DC Promise Establishment Act
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
10:00AM
Room 500

Those who wish to testify are asked to contact Mr. Jamaal Jordan with the Committee on Education at (202) 724-8061 or via email at JJordan@dccouncil.us and furnish their name, address, telephone number, and organizational affiliation, if any, by the close of business on Monday, November 11, 2013. Persons wishing to testify are encouraged, but not required, to submit 15 copies of written testimony. If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record.

If you want to familiarize yourself with the proposed law and what it says, please read our earlier website post. It contains links at the bottom to further information:

 https://dchea.org/2013/10/16/dc-promise-act-not-so-promising/

Allies

It is not just homeschoolers who will be excluded from the DC Promise Act. Students from private schools are being left behind as well. The good news is that we should have a lot of allies in the fight to make sure this new law is implemented in a fair and non-discriminatory way.

The DC Council for American Private Education (DC CAPE) is one such ally. They are beginning to spread the word about this bill and are gathering private school students, parents, teachers, and administrators to join us in making our voices heard before the DC Council. You can see their post on the DC Promise Act here.

DC Promise Grant Qualifications and Amounts

*  12/9/2013 – This information has been superseded by changes in the DC Promise bill. Updated information will be posted soon.

In case you are curious about how much money is at stake in this debate about the DC Promise Establishment Act, here are the amounts of the grants that would be awarded to each student. These figures are based on a child who has been a resident in the District for the 6th-12th grades. Amounts are lower for students who were not in the District in the middle school grades. The income guidelines in the bill are based on percentages of the “federal poverty level.” The figures here come from the poverty guidelines for 2013 posted on the HHS website. All grants are renewable for up to five years.

Income qualifications for a maximum grant of $20,000 per year.

Household size

Maximum Income

2

31,020

3

39,060

4

47,100

5

55,140

6

63,180

Income qualifications for a grant of $15,000 per year.

Household size

Maximum Income

2

62,040

3

78,120

4

94,200

5

110,280

6

126,360

Income qualifications for a grant of $10,000 per year.

Household size

Maximum Income

2

93,060

3

117,180

4

141,300

5

165,420

6

189,540

Those with incomes higher than the third tier but lower than $250,000 would receive $5,000 per year.

Legislative Schedule for DC Promise Act

Thanks to the Georgetown Hoya we have a better idea of the legislative schedule for the DC Promise bill: “The D.C. Council will officially hear the bill Nov. 13, and Young said he hoped the voting process would be completed by early 2014.”

http://www.thehoya.com/news/mayoral-candidate-pushes-for-college-aid-program-1.3100415#.Umpvv3eDl8E

Please keep spreading the word about this bill that would help many lower and middle income families in the District afford college, unless, of course, you have decided to homeschool your children or send them to private schools. Please contact your Council members and ask them to care for all citizens of the District equally, not just those who attend publicly funded schools.

DC Promise Act – Not So Promising

On Tuesday, DC Councilmember At-Large, David Catania, introduced a new bill to provide significant college grants for DC students. The bill is called the “D.C. Promise Establishment Act of 2013.” Considering that DC doesn’t have a state-funded university system that is on par with other states, this sounds like a reasonable proposal. Councilmember Catania’s stated purpose for the Act says that, “The ‘D.C. Promise Establishment Act of 2013’ seeks to guarantee that every District student can pursue a college or technical education after high school.” The program is focused on providing the greatest funding for the most needy students. D.C. Promise grants would provide the most generous funding to students in families living at 200% of the poverty level or below. Significant grants would continue to be offered on a sliding scale to students from middle and upper-middle income families, including families earning up to $250,000 per year.

Sadly there is a gap between Catania’s stated purpose and reality. Rather than being a “guarantee” for “every District student,” this newly proposed bill specifically excludes any student who has not been in a DC public or charter school at least through their high school years. The largest grants are reserved for students who have attended public or charter schools from the 6th grade through the 12th grade.  As DC homeschoolers we are being excluded from equal access to these grants, but homeschoolers are not the only ones excluded. Catania appears to think that the Council is justified in excluding students who have attended private schools, because anyone who has attended a private school must not be among the low-income students he is trying to help. Admittedly, private school students are often well-off. However, should that fact mean that low-income DC students who are able to attend private schools on scholarship should be denied grants that are extended to other DC citizens?

This comes down to a simple matter of fairness. We are all DC citizens. We shop in DC, we contribute to our neighborhoods, and we all pay DC taxes. Some of us have chosen a different educational route for our children. We have a variety of reasons, but all of us are parents who desire the best for our children. Why should our educational choices deny us access to grants aimed at making college affordable for “every District student”? Why would we be penalized for trying to do what our hearts told us was in the best interest of our children? Why would the District want to ease a burden for some of its citizens, yet leave another group burdened with college debt just as they are becoming productive adults, entering the workforce, and wanting to move back home?

This proposal has a lot of support on the Council. It was introduced with 10 out of the 13 members of the Council as co-signers. At this point it seems likely to become law.  We have a brief period while it is working its way through the Council to fix the inequity inherent in this proposal. Here’s how you can help:

1) Contact Councilmember Catania’s office. He is the author of this legislation and the Chair of the Education Committee. He is also an at-large member, so he is your representative on the Council.

2) Contact your ward Council member. Because ward Council members have a smaller constituency, they are often easier to reach. Do send e-mails and make phone calls, but please do go beyond that and try to set up meetings with them individually.

3) Contact the other three at-large members. Anita Bonds, David Grosso, and Vincent Orange are also your representatives on the Council. Please contact them.

4) Contact friends in private schools. If you have any friends who are DC citizens who have students who are in private middle schools or high schools, contact them and let them know that they are going to be excluded from this plan unless they help us convince the Council to change their plans.

5) Contact private school administrators. If you have any friends or acquaintances who work for private middle schools or high schools that have a decent number of students from the District, please contact them to let them know that there students will be excluded from significant amounts of funding for college. Please encourage them to contact us here at dchea@dchea.org. It would be great to know that we have other advocates working with us to achieve a change in this law.

Thanks so much for your concern for the future of homeschooling in the District. Together we have changed laws in the past and we can do so again.

Resources:

Success!

On Friday, March 15th, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education released an updated version of the proposed regulation on attendance that had caused us significant concern. I am happy to say that it removed all of the language about homeschooling that caused us concern. In fact, it goes one step further and specifically excludes homeschooling from the definition of “educational institutions.” Because the rest of the regulation applies to “educational institutions” it is very clear that this law is not meant to include homeschoolers. If you would like to read the new text, you may find it here.

The only reason this regulation changed is because the DC homeschool community came together and made our voices heard. Thank you all for your help, especially those of you who sent e-mails and who testified at the Board meeting. You stood up and demonstrated to your children how to participate as a citizen in this republic that has been entrusted to us!

Report on SBOE Meeting

Thank you so much to all of you who sent e-mails about the proposed attendance requirements. Our voices were clearly heard, and hopefully will have made a difference. We were told by the Board of Education that they had received many e-mails from concerned citizens.

Homeschoolers were well represented at the meeting. Five homeschool parents provided testimony. By the end it did seem like we were beating a dead horse, but I think that is exactly what was needed. The Board heard the same thing from all five of us: “Please remove homeschools from this regulation.”

After the meeting I had an opportunity to speak with a couple of the Board members. One told me that it should be a simple matter to clean that language out of the regulation, and that of course they should do that. Another member, Patrick Mara, has been responsive to several of my questions and offered to help if there was any way he could. Finally I spoke with Jose Alvarez, the OSSE Chief of Staff. He said that he believes we will be happy with the rewritten regulation. He took my contact information and said he would allow me a chance to comment on it before they finalized it.

Thanks again to all of you who wrote e-mails. It certainly helped. And thank you to Tom Carpenter, Farrar Williams, Audri Beugelsdijk, and Emily Bradley for coming to testify.

I will continue to provide updates as I am given more information.